Thursday, July 7

Money Doesn't Have To Be A Deterent

One of the main reasons a lot of writers can't go to conferences is because of finances. We're poor, starving artists, don't you know?

I have found a way around that. Volunteer.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and one of the biggest writing conferences around here is the Willamette Writer's Conference held in Portland, Oregon. I'm lucky enough to live a mere ten minutes away (over the river and through the streets) from where it's held each August. I maintain my Willamette Writer's membership ($35 a year) just so I'm eligible to volunteer when the conference comes around.

This year it cost me less than a hundred dollars for three days of workshops. In addition to the cost of the food, I have to pay for each consult, which I'm going to do tomorrow after payday.

So, you ask, "Margie, what are your volunteer duties?"

Well, with Willamette, they have several areas, from help desk (boring!) to ushering people in to the consultants. Last year, I helped set up the silent auction Thursday night, ran help desk one afternoon, and was a Jack-of-all-trades the final day in which I ran copies for a presenter, helped clean out the presenter's lounge, and general clean up.

This year I'm returning to be a room monitor. Which means that I make sure the presenter has everything they need from a glass of water to extra copies of handouts. I also pass out and collect the comment cards that WW collects for each workshop. I really enjoy being a room monitor as I get to talk to the presenter (and if it's an agent or editor, so much the better--think of that on your query) plus I get to listen to their presentation.

WW has you volunteer for half the day for each day you attend. But, when you're a room monitor it's like you're getting to attend the entire conference. Sure, I don't always get into
the workshop I may have wanted for that time frame, but sometimes going to a workshop I didn't consider (or out of my comfort zone) is just as educational as one I would have chosen.

Two years ago, I was bummed because I was going to be working during both of Eric Witchey's workshops--which I was really looking forward to attending--so the volunteer coordinator made me the room monitor for one of those. And now I've wised up, I ask to volunteer in the morning as some of the best speakers are after lunch.

So, my advice, look into volunteering. It's worth the extra effort and it may afford the opportunity you didn't know you could have.


  1. Good idea, Margie! I'll have to look volunterring.

  2. I just may look into volunteering...thanks for the tip. :)

  3. I couldn't afford it if I didn't volunteer. Plua, you get to be a psuedo-insider.

  4. That's great advice. I got to go to COuntry Jam two times, when I didn't have the money, as a ticket taker.

    If only there were conferences close by....maybe I could get over my fear...

  5. I volunteer every year - easy way to meet lots of people! Also, there are scholarships available for Nationals. There is always a way!!!!

  6. Good idea, Margie, especially if they're close. I'm like D'Ann, a minimum of four hours away, but could do the travel if the money weren't an issue!