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Your Florida Writers Conference Volunteers

October 21, 2012

The conference is over and many writers are relaxing tonight, trying to squeeze a weekend’s full of rest into the few hours between now and work tomorrow. As productive and fun as the conference is, it’s also a lot of work for all the behind-the-scenes people who put the conference together.

They’re pictured below, before exhaustion drove them home to a nap or hot bath. (And I will do my best to name everyone, but I know I’m going to miss several. Please accept my apology for that, and our appreciation for a job well done!)

At each year’s conference, we try to improve upon the last conference to serve you, the people who pay good money to attend. This year, our conference staff volunteered in the following areas:

  • Faculty — Mary Lois Sanders recruited and arranged transportation for all the faculty, agents, and publishers for this year’s conference. This is Mary Lois’s third and final year as faculty chair, and she went out in style with this year’s mix of new blood and returning favorites. It was Mary Lois’s idea to bind the conference handouts so you’d have them before the sessions and gain the time it would have taken to hand them out. Ronnie Hart will take over the faculty chair next year.
  • Registration — From March, before the opening of the conference registration, Susan Berry is preparing for the influx of eager writers, and coordinating with the interviews team to get your interviews tracked and placed on the back of your name badges. Her team of Elaine Senecal, June Singer, and Ann Suarez worked hard to make sure everyone got in on a timely basis, answered questions, and handled change requests for interviews. They also looked stunning in their little hats.
  • Bookstore — This year’s bookstore looked amazing. To accommodate the need for larger rooms for sessions, co-chairs AJ and Jo Ann Robinson, along with Jill Yamnitz, restructured the bookstore, adding bookshelves that made the store visually appealing and allowed us to do more with less room. Sharyn Germ was responsible for coordinating interviews, which is less stable than you might think, considering the need to bring off FWA collection and RPLA signings. AJ and Jo Ann will be stepping down this year, after several years as c0-chairs, and Jill will take over next year.
  • RPLA — Speaking of the RPLA, we had 319 entries this year, tied with last year’s number of entries. Jim Thompson advanced the work of last year’s co-chair, Eugene Orlando, in taking the RPLA online. All the entries were submitted electronically this year, and the judging and return of the judges’ rubrics were also done electronically. Jim will be back next year.
  • Interviews — Bitten Twice (yes, that’s her name) handled the move to the far end of the hotel flawlessly. The new set-up allowed interviewees the opportunity to get away from the rest of the conference and clear their heads before sitting down with their agent, publisher, or faculty member. Mark Newhouse, Louis Emond, and Faye Henderson all helped the process go smoothly, with a great assist from Frank Ridge, who ran out to get new timers when we misplaced last year’s. (Oops!). B, as we call her, will be back next year.
  • Photographer — Karen Lieb is the official conference photographer, and also doubled as Florida Writers Foundation president. She is everywhere with her camera, and even managed to take some pictures that make me look good. She was assisted by Su Gerheim, who also coordinated this year’s FWA Collection.
  • Volunteers — To manage an army of volunteers, you need a guy who spent time in the Army. Sgt. Francis Xavier Ridge (ret) brings just the right touch to make the conference enjoyable, but also make sure the necessary work gets done. Frank coordinated with all the conference areas to make sure they had the volunteers they needed.
  • Silent Auction — Susan Boyd stepped in late in the process for last year’s silent auction, and did a magnificent job coordinating this year’s auction. It’s big work, soliciting and tracking donations, coordinating with marketing, and making sure the silent auction website gets the information it needs. She also gathered and created all the silent auction displays and bid sheets. Glenn Gardiner, Marisette Burgess, and Serena whose last name I can’t remember (bad on me) kept things running very well. Serena also did a fabulous job selling 50-50 tickets. Susan will be back next year, as well. And Serena has a rocking car.
  • Workshop Monitors — Every workshop includes volunteers to introduce the faculty, pass out evaluations, and generally handle whatever’s necessary in the room. This year, Bobbie McLay, Rich McClure, Gene McKay, and Plattsburgh’s own Melody Dimick were there to handle whatever came up.
  • Floater — I joked with Joanne Lewis that she was a jack of all trades and master of none. In reality, she blended in seamlessly wherever she was needed–the bookstore, silent auction, registration, interviews, and just handling things. She was part of many teams to make the conference experience better for everyone involved.
  • Marketing — Marketing is the place where things go when they don’t really have a home. That includes all signage; writing the copy for the e-mail blasts, blog posts, and everything else that marketed the conference; getting sponsors and exhibitors; soliciting door prizes and exhibitors; and drafting all the publications (conference program and fliers and everything else). Chris Coward did all the and she also got the centerpieces for the RPLA banquet, as well as finding time to write a winning RPLA entry. Chris is amazing and she’ll be amazing next year, as well.
  • Conference Chair — Everything that marketing doesn’t assume ownership of is done by our conference chair, Chrissy Jackson. That includes interface with the hotel, meal planning, and generally overseeing everything that happens. Given Chrissy’s other FWA job as President, we’re tempted to wonder if she’s really twins.

It might seem a little self-serving to feature our volunteers so prominently, but we want to bring you the best conference experience possible for your money. In order to do that, we need top-flight volunteers. Given the dedication, hard work, and care they put into their work, we thought it appropriate to take a second to give them their thanks publicly, online, as well as at the conference.

We’re also consistently working to make your conference experience better, and that work for next year’s conference started before this year’s conference’s opening. As we worked, we talked among ourselves, making mental notes of things we can improve to improve the experience. Soon, you’ll receive an online evaluation for the entire conference. We ask that you take the time to complete it, noting what was good, and even what we need to improve. We aren’t looking for a pat on the back–though they’re nice to get–but an idea of what works, and where we can improve your experience.

Thanks, and we’ll see you next year!

  1. jaimiequick permalink
    October 21, 2012 6:14 pm

    Chris–Thanks so much for naming names! These folks (and YOU!) make the most complex process look pretty much effortless. The conference went beautifully, and the kindness and generosity of these brilliant volunteers IS THE REASON!


  2. October 21, 2012 7:42 pm

    My brain and my heart are overflowing. Thank you for this amazing conference. I appreciate the thousands of hours of volunteer effort that underpin this great success. This was my thrid FWA Conference and I am more impressed by the dedication of the volunteers and the way they embody FWA’s motto. Congratulations on a job done exceptionally well.

  3. October 21, 2012 8:26 pm

    Dear Chris,

    It was almost like being there at the FWA. LOL Thanks for your wonderful posts. I missed the event – sciatica. I’m on the mend. Next year. Keep blogging for the FWA. Great work.

    • Chris Hamilton permalink
      October 21, 2012 8:31 pm

      Thanks Karen and Gayle. Hope you get better soon and that we’ll see you next year, Karen.

  4. October 21, 2012 9:30 pm

    Chris, I know you strive to be thorough but you left out a very important volunteer that needs to be thanked – you! Thanks for making my job at the conference easier and for making me laugh. But above all, thanks for the photo shoot that transcended time and space; from the 15th C Italy to today in Florida.

    • Chris Hamilton permalink
      October 22, 2012 5:00 am

      Thanks, Joanne. I appreciate the kind words.

  5. October 22, 2012 11:31 am

    As a first time FWA conference attendee I don’t have others to compare it to. But I have been to other writer conferences and this is by far one of the top on my list, even though I didn’t (yet) win a RPLA. I moped when I knew I had to leave this ‘energizing bubble’ of the writing life behind and get on with ‘reality.’ The conference had an energy that I hope will help sustain my batteries until the next one, and I have SO much to process from the workshops. I even made the ‘mistake’ (ha ha) of saying I wanted to volunteer for something and have a new ‘job’! Part of the reason I wanted to volunteer was to have some continuing contact with these lovely and dedicated folks throughout the next year. Thanks for this post and for all that they and you do for us. The volunteers this year truly embodied the motto “Writer’s Helping Writers.”

  6. Susan Berry permalink
    October 22, 2012 9:19 pm

    Chris, on behalf of Registration, thank you for the post, though to be fair, what registration accomplished would not have been possible without the support of FWA’s board, director, project manager, and cadre of chairpersons and volunteers.

    To Elaine, Ann, and June, thank you so much for all your hard work in making this year’s conference registration process process top notch and one to be rivaled by other conferences. I take my itty bitty (and my larger purple top – thank you Chrissy) hat off to the each of you.

    I am excited about the prospects of increasing FWA and the conference’s on-line presence and use of electronic, as opposed to paper, resources.

    …the itty bitty hats of registration coming to a conference near you…

  7. October 22, 2012 9:22 pm

    The registration gals are the best! Even without their hats.

  8. October 23, 2012 7:51 am

    And YOU, Chris! You worked tirelessly all weekend, seeming to be anywhere and everywhere people needed you. Thank you!

    It was a fantastic conference, and thanks to all the volunteers who work all year long to make it happen. We’re all very lucky to be Florida writers. 🙂

    • Chris Hamilton permalink
      October 23, 2012 9:14 am

      Thanks, Julie!

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