Last month I attended my first ever PWAC get-together. The Professional Writer’s Association of Canada is the largest freelance writing organization in the country, and although I had been aware of its existence for quite some time I had never seriously considered joining until this past year. My change of heart was due in part to a desire to meet other freelancers, as well as an interest in learning about new writing markets and a simple curiosity regarding what benefits the Association had to offer me.
It also helped that the PWAC National Conference – think annual meeting – was being held in Montreal, a city so close to my home that there was no reasonable way I could talk myself out of attending. I thought that the PWAC Conference would give me a chance to meet a broad spectrum of members, as well as get a feel for how the Association presents itself to the world. I signed up for the introductory reception, one seminar and a potluck dinner being held at the home of one of the Montreal organizers and approached the event with an open mind.
I came away with mixed impressions of the National Conference. I enjoyed connecting with other writers, and in particular the chance to finally meet Angela West in person after years of email correspondence. I also made some new friends in Melanie Epp, Giancarlo La Giorgia and Lauren Stewart, along with many others. It is rare that I am able to converse in-depth with those in the writing profession, and it was most interesting to hear the sometimes very different perspectives that other professionals have towards their careers.
The seminar I attended was unfortunately not up to the same level as the quality of the interpersonal interaction that came with the weekend. It was focused on entrepreneurship for freelance writers, but the three panel members – while all interesting to listen to – came from a very different business perspective than that of a freelancer. I came in expect to hear an experienced, freelance writer / entrepreneur say “here are some of the challenges I faced while running my business, here are some of the solutions I came up with, and here are some of the things I tried that did not work.” Instead, entrepreneurship was discussed in very broad strokes by panel members who were running organizations, tech companies or publishing houses. Interesting, but not nearly as applicable as I would have liked it to be.
I was also surprised by how low attendance was. Roughly 100 members attended the National Conference, and although I am uncertain as to the total number of PWAC members in Canada, this seems like a small turnout to me.
That being said, I continue to be intrigued by the possibilities offered by PWAC membership. I have been told that Quebec chapter activities slow down during the summer, but that the fall is projected to be a busier time. I am happy to have met the writers who took the time to speak with me, and the experience was definitely worth the effort of attending. I often get to meet and interview interesting people from all walks of life, but it is unusual to get in touch with other writers in person and just spend some time talking about the issues that affect us professionally. I appreciate PWAC giving me this opportunity at the National Conference.