Writers need different sorts of stimulation at various points in their careers, but one conference that never tires is the Garden Writers of America, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary. While there’s always some griping to be heard, those of us who have been involved in putting together any big event really appreciate the efforts of the volunteer committees who manage to pull together a four day whirlwind of seminars and garden tours, complete with meals and side trips, that have us up by 6:00am but not even close to a bed before 10:00pm.
There’s always an after-tour on the fifth day. By that time, one needs a vacation from the vacation. Which is what we’ve learned to do. The conference moves around the country so that folks in all eight regions have the opportunity to attend one in their neck of the woods. Dan and I tack on a few days vacation, veg out, play tourist, then go home and dig some holes.
Vendors at the trade exhibit don’t just give away refrigerator magnets and keyrings; these folks know a captive, plant-hungry audience when they see one and give away hundreds of seed packets, seedlings, plugs, full-sized plants, books, and tools. We shipped it all, including 30 pounds of literature, via UPS. There are opportunities to sign up for field trials too, the main reason my rose garden has grown beyond its original two plants.
With more than 600 attendees, all competing for a microscopic writing market, you might think there would be lots of sniping and competition. Thankfully, that small number of immature (or insecure) writers is easily avoided in the crowd. Garden writers are, for the most part, also gardeners, a group renowned for their willingness to share – plants, knowledge, ideas, and technology.
I’ve made life-long friends of people across the country. Even though I only see them at this conference and correspond occasionally via e-mail, it’s great fun to hear what they’ve been up to in the intervening year and to share hopes and dreams for the future. These writers are some of the most inventive, imaginative, and creative people I’ve ever met and I come home invigorated by having spent time in their company.
While few conferences offer this level of satisfaction, those that renew us and re-boot our creative juices are a gift that all writers deserve to give themselves.