After such a splendid time last year I decided to return to the Vermont College of Fine Arts for the 15th Postgraduate Writers Conference (PWC) in Montpelier, Vermont. The Postgraduate Writers Conference targets graduate students as participants, thought it is not a requirement for entry. Something that I do enjoy about this conference is that entrance is not based on writing samples, but on interest. Montpelier is a great location, quiet, serene, and away from major urban areas, so you can utilize the atmosphere for being creative and focusing. Just as I did last year I ended up holing myself in my dorm room with my laptop and flash drive and just worked away.
Of course, I wasn't the only one. The population for this conference is an older crowd, retirees, parents, full-time workers, and so on who utilize this time away from home and responsibilities to really focus on writing and revision. Revision of course being one of the most daunting parts of writing.
After speaking with several people on their graduate school and writing conference experience it stood out even more that PWC is one of the tops from the participant perspective.
Many conferences pack your day with events so that you may have to pick and choose what you want to attend and what you want to forgo. And when you're a first time participant you may not want to forgo anything unless you feel yourself nodding off or the strong, strong need to write compels you to type away on the keyboard or scribble on a notepad. This year the conference director, Ellen Lesser, did some finagling of the schedule to make sure no events overlapped. So you could go to a lecture at 1:30 on writing in the real word and then one of film editing as it may relate to editing a poetry compilation at 2:45. You want to do some freewriting before workshop on Wednesday? Sure! We'll have a "yard sale"! Want to do a quick hike before going to workshop to work off all those pancakes with Vermont's own maple syrup? Done! Oh, did you want to visit the Montpelier Farmer's Market this morning, then workshop, then go swimming this afternoon? Bam, at your leisure!
I found it very pleasant to have the option of not having to pick and choose, though like I said, I was writing most of the time and missed many events but those on the final days.
While there are always hiccups when organizing something where people come in from places all over the country and need to organize room & board, daily activities, food, and so on and so forth. But the fact that it's easy to get in touch with either Ellen or conference coordinator, Anne, who are the most pleasant women you'll ever meet and no matter how frazzled they are never shut your needs down is something I highly appreciate.
Sometimes good experiences can make you ignorant to the bad ones out there as well. One of my workshop mates and another woman working on her novel had both just come from horrific experiences at the Wesleyan Writer's Conference weeks prior. They both had the same instructor who barely acknowledged or viewed their work, felt that faculty and students were segregated at all turns (in particularly during meals), and that the conference coordinator who seemed so kind and informative via e-mail was cold and dismissive in person. Since the Wesleyan conference has no workshops, mainly lectures and a one-on-one conference with a published instructor/writer on your submission it was devastating to learn that not only did they feel unwanted, but their work itself was not even read--more than likely skimmed--is a great blow to someone who may not have shown their work to anyone before then and is trying to grasp at any positive reinforcement you can get because you have no one else to help you can cause one increasing self-doubt if not all together dash their dreams.
I was glad that the two women I spoke with came to PWC after such a bad experience and got to experience how a conference should be. That your workshop leader is more than happy to sit with you during breakfast, lunch, or dinner and discuss their obsession with Facebook. That they are willing and wanting to extend class discussions during lunch while interrupting discussion to get a piece of peach cobbler real quick. That they hold extraneous lectures or writing sessions to get the mind, blood, and hands flowing before a 2+ hour workshop. That these published writers we may look on in awe (or perhaps skepticism) are truly invested in your work, sitting proudly and listening to your piece at the participant readings and giving you a standing ovation when you're done.
So, that's my second plug for the Postgraduate Writers Conference. While I don't know if I'll attend again next year due to finances or pursuing other opportunities to write and critique during the summer, I do know it will be at the top of my list to return to for it's affordability and comfort. And I always get so much writing done when I'm there, major bonus!