While I was in San Antonio for a conference last week, one of my readers asked, “But why this conference?” Why the National Federation of Press Women? Why not any of the other wonderful organizations that promote the profession of writing or mass communications in one form or another?
It was good for me to think about it. I guess I’ve just sort of taken it for granted, I’ve been part of NFPW for so long. But it’s not the only organization with which I’m affiliated. I’ve also been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for many years, and even earlier on, in college, was involved in the Society of Professional Journalists. But NFPW has been with me since just after college, when my first career boss encouraged me to join. Falling under the national group is the local affiliate, North Dakota Professional Communicators, and citywide, the Fargo Moorhead Professional Communicators. Both of the local groups are strong. The state group offers several conferences of its own, in the fall and spring. The city group meets monthly and features a speaker or panel of speakers who are in some way involved in the communications profession. We meet for lunch (of course, food is the sure way to lure people) and I’ve rarely been bored by the talks that take place. Even when I’m not sure I’ll benefit, inevitably, something spoken sparks an idea, and that idea leads to another, etc. I come away energized and connected to my profession, despite my freelancer status. Additionally, the organization hosts its annual communications contest and I’ve enjoyed sending in my entries the years I have something worthy to see how they will be judged by others in the profession.
I’ve won first-place awards at the state level before, but I believe this is the first year I’ve garnered a first at the national level. It was the most appropriate year, then, to attend the national convention. I was able to pick up my award in person along with other winners from all over the United States. North Dakota represented its state well, and I’m honored to have played a small part in that overall achievement.
It’s exciting enough to earn a national communications award, but reading the judge’s remarks was just as thrilling. It wasn’t until the awards ceremony on the final night of the conference that I had a chance to view them, as well as to discover the judge’s identity. What I learned helped me feel even more grateful for the win.
The category in which I took first place was special articles, religion, and the judge of my pieces turned out to be someone described by the commentator that evening as a standout in the field. In the brochure that lists her and the other judges, Dr. Grace Adolphsen Brame is named as a teacher of integration of theology and spirituality in the graduate division of LaSalle University. She’s the author of three books, editor of two, contributor to three, and widely published in various journals and magazines with a spiritual/religious lean. “She is known internationally as a speaker, retreat leader and as a professional mezzo soprano, having officially represented United States in the former Soviet Union and in France on many occasions,” according to the brochure. I’m impressed. Obviously she’s someone with some experience behind her.
The comments themselves were based on two articles, submitted as one entry as required: “A Sacred Sculpture in the Making” and “Family to Serve God’s Children,” an article that describes a family’s mission trip to Guatemala and thoughts upon returning to America. I won’t write out everything she said, but will include at least some of her hand-written remarks.
Regarding the sculpture piece, Dr. Brame said, “Light touch combined with touching on an important, tragic circumstance, fine information on process and very real and well-spoken appreciation at the end.”
And on the second, she said: “Excellent beginning – invites reader to participate in subject’s though, emotions and value judgments…The process is uniquely imaginative…Even though this is not written in the first person, the beginning makes one feel Mary Schwab wrote it.” [Though I don’t know who that is, I’m going to assume it’s someone who is much more seasoned than I.]
Then she added, “Both these articles were a pleasure to read.”
How neat to not only receive the award, but also to read the judge’s thoughts about them. This was the personal treat that awaited me in the last hours of my San Antonio trip. I waffled over whether I should share them here. It felt very personal to read those comments, like a gift waiting to be opened. But I also felt it was interesting information that would only get tucked away, never to been read again until, perhaps, my death. Which would have been okay, too. But, having promised more details of the trip, I figured this might fit into that.
More will come in time regarding the presentations themselves, so check back during future Writing Wednesdays for that.
If you’ve ever attended a writing, communications or other professional conference, do you feel they are worth the expense and time away from routine? Are conferences essential, or simply just helpful, in your mind?