Confessions of a Writers’ Conference Director

Posted on 05/21/2012


“You’re gonna cry.”

That’s what one of my friends who runs conferences told me. She said I would cry after the conference was over. As in, such a relief of the build up and the tension and the COMPLETION all rolled into one. You hold it together for over a year, and then…then, there’s nothing to do. You’ve done it all. The game has been left on the field and the weekend is over. And yet you still feel like there is something left to be done. Like there is one more thing you have to do…but there’s not. The conference is over.

As many of you know, I was the director of the 2012 DFW Writers’ Conference. It’s an international conference that draws people from all over the world.

It’s also a lot of work. No, I’m not kidding. It’s like herding cats.

We started having meetings for the conference many, many months ago. What you see at the actual conference is the end results. I have to be honest, it’s a team effort. Everyone contributes and we argue over a lot of things. The odd thing is, we argue over the smaller things more than the bigger ones.

It’s not only a huge time investment, it’s also an emotional one. Anyone who thinks otherwise, is wrong.

But enough of that.

So I am near the end of the conference. I am sitting there in the final Gong Show on Sunday. We have a packed house. This was amazing to me, because typically, on a conference your attendance falls off dramatically on Sunday, but ours didn’t this year.

I am sitting in the dark room, listening to George read the pages for the Gong Show and I start to nod off.

Now, understand, probably about 50-75 people have stopped me in the hall over the weekend to tell me what a great conference they were having.

I didn’t know. How could I? While the attendees where enjoying the conference, I was running around, putting out fires, left and right. It’s a mental and a physical marathon. And you don’t get to rest at night, you get to entertain! (which is actually very fun!)

As part of the conference volunteers, we don’t get to see how well the conference is going. We just see the ugly warts. The seedy underbelly that others never see. So it was good to get that feedback.

Anyway. I almost fell asleep during the last Gong Show. No offense to George, I was just drained in every way you could be.  And for some reason, my emotions started going up and down, dramatically.

I just happened to be sitting next to the person who told me I would cry when it was all over, because I would feel such a sense of relief/accomplishment that I couldn’t help myself. She reiterated it to me, and I exclaimed, “I’m not gonna cry!” she just smiled, because she’s cool like that.

So when the Gong Show is over, I go up to give the final remarks.

George turns to the audience and says, “And now with our closing remarks is this year’s Conference Chairman!”

And the applause started.

And then the first person stood up to my left.

I thought, “oh no. don’t stand up. just let me say a few things.”

And then another stood up.

And then they started standing up in groups.

And finally the entire place was giving me a standing ovation.

I almost lost it. Almost. I managed to control myself. It was an emotionally overwhelming event.  They applauded me for a while, and then sat down, and I said a few chopped words. If I said any more, I would have broken down in front of them all.

Afterward, we cleaned up our stuff from the Hurst conference center, I went to dinner with James Rollins, then had him as a guest at my house. Then, took him to the airport.

I was still fine.

I got home and my wife asked me for a run down. She knew I was tired.

I gave her the rundown, and when I got the to the standing ovation part, I couldn’t continue and the tears came.

So she was right. I cried.