Sunday, October 21, 2012

I went to Washington: The conference

So, the whole purpose of this trip to D.C. was a worthy one: I was invited to attend a journalism conference, all expenses paid. And not only that, it was a conference for Christian journalists to meet other Christian journalists and editors and hear from some big shots (or semi-big-shots) about what it’s like for them to be a Christian in this oh-so-secular profession.

Yep, all expenses paid. And I could never have attended otherwise, with accommodations such as these:

That was the DuPont Circle Hotel that I stayed in, just about three metro stops from all things Washington (including the Mall, the Archives, and the Smithsonian). Pretty sure the room I had, with a king-size bed and window looking down into the (incredibly quiet) courtyard area, was going for like $270 a night. They even gave me a little shower cap and four (4!) different small bottles (bottlettes?) of HBA items. (HBA meaning “health and beauty accessories.” Pretty sure my dad invented the term. It’s a lot shorter than, say, “cosmetic products.”)

I didn’t spend much conscious time in that posh room. The conference schedule was pretty full, what with several two-hour sessions of informal storytime and Q&A with some fairly well-known journalists. (I can name-drop now, but I don’t really care.)

Pretty sure that as a result of that conference – maybe because the speakers included no fewer than two former presidential speechwriters – my vocabulary and syntax jumped into the postdoctoral range, only less obtuse. I talked my cousin’s ear off on the way home from the airport that Sunday night without so much as an “um.”

Unfortunately (in hindsight), I don’t have any pictures of the conference speakers, the other attendees, or of myself at the conference, partly because I was too interested in asking everybody there what they thought about different things. One guy there, now editor of an arts magazine in the SanFran area, had once spent a week on assignment with one of the self-appointed border militia groups along California’s border with Mexico. They weren’t nearly as kooky as they appear in news stories, he said; he compared them to local VFW or Kiwanis, except that their hobby is guns. They collect them, like farm guys collect Chevys or Fords, but they hardly use them.

And one writer there (an attendee like me, not a speaker) was from Nova Scotia. I didn’t get around to asking him if he knew anything about a mine disaster in Springhill. (Cue the ballad….)

This was undoubtedly the most enjoyable and most edifying conference I’ve attended in my life. The speakers were admirable, frank and generous with their time. And we all, being fearless journalists, took full advantage of the hour-long Q&A opportunities with each one. I decided that Claudia Anderson, managing editor of the Weekly Standard conservative newsmagazine, is going to be the principal role model for my writing persona. (By which I mean, she was both down-to-earth and had a brilliant way with words.)

It probably helped that my first exposure to Anderson’s writing was a) a book review b) about a book called “The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After” which c) revealed her intimate familiarity with every bit of Austen’s work as well as d) her approbation of the more traditional modes of male-female relationships.

I’ve been a little more cognizant of how my writing could improve after returning from the conference. Mainly from advice I received from two current journalists during a couple editorial appointments. Not that I’ve applied any of that here, on the blog. (Perhaps I don’t take the blogging seriously enough. I just tell myself it’s more like a batting cage than an at-bat. I can whack at and miss as many balls as I please so long as it helps me get better in the writing I’m actually paid to do.)

OK, enough about the conference. I’ll regale you next with stories from my sightseeing adventures!

2 comments:

Guitarlady said...

What a fantastic opportunity! So glad you went. Sounds like you had a great time, and it was highly profitable. BTW there's lots of info online about the Springhill mining disaster (and additional lyrics to the song we know).

Sarah said...

Yeah, it was an awesome conference. I might have to look up those add'l lyrics!