PWAC Toronto AGM, June 3-June 6, 2009

Report by Joanne Carnegie

Forget the Camino de Santiago. Next June, I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to the PWAC National Conference, to be held for the second year in a row in Toronto.

As it was this year, in 2010 our Conference and Annual General Meeting will be synchronized with MagNet, the annual conference put on by Magazines Canada. It’s a grand gathering of movers and shakers in the magazine and publishing biz: everyone from editors and artists to business people, branding experts, and more. And of course, plenty of writers: us.

Here’s where I stand up and say: My name is Joanne, and I’m a NatCon/AGM junkie. In eleven years I’ve missed only one (and that was because my house was being gutted). Each one has been special in its own way, but MagNet offered professional development and networking opportunities unmatched by any purely-PWAC gathering. At first I was a bit intimidated by the calibre of many of the speakers, but I quickly got over my adolescent angst and into the fascinating and thought-provoking presentations, and in no time at all I was hooked.

One of the big advantages of partnering with Magazines Canada was that there was professional development for writers of all levels, including the most accomplished. This has not been the case at most of our PWAC-only conferences. But at MagNet, I heard several of our most seasoned writers comment that they were walking away with fresh ideas, new techniques, and renewed enthusiasm for the craft.

Which session was my favourite? Hard to say. From the smorgasbord of gourmet ideas on offer, I chose: At the Table with Six-figure Freelancers (six top writers, all PWAC members earning $100K and up); Going Global: Taking your Freelance Career to International Clients (with PWAC’s Nathalie Kleinschmit); Finding a Literary Agent (a panel of the country’s top agents); and Pitchcraft: How to Pitch Like a Pro (with the dynamic Katharine Sands). All of these were excellent, meaty sessions.

The low point of the conference was the unforgettable presentation Memoirs & Personal Essays, in which an editor from the Globe and Mail revealed, half-way through the session (and only upon the prompting of a member of the audience — me), that while they pay professional actors to record the podcasts of their Facts & Arguments essays, they do not pay the writers of the essays one red cent. Regret was expressed by the editor, but we were still somehow expected to feel motivated to send our work to her, knowing that the only party to make a dime off the transaction would be the newspaper.

Still, experience is all. Thanks to the Globe and Mail, I now have an idea what it must feel like to be a prostitute being solicited by a pimp.

With one key difference: prostitutes get to keep some portion of the take.

Aside from that one sour note, MagNet was a wonderful experience, a professional development and networking opportunity par excellence. I can hardly wait to return. MagNet 2010, here I come!

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