On Saturday, March 5, 2022, I had the honor and pleasure of attending this annual writers’ conference for the first time. In fact, it was the first writers conference I’ve ever attended. Sponsored by the Eastern Shore Writers Association (ESWA), the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference (BTO) brings together writers spanning the Delmarva region, at all levels of experience, from novice to professional, and from a broad spectrum of genres, from fiction to nonfiction, poetry, essays, and specialty writing, for a day of learning, networking, and inspiration.
For this 25th anniversary Conference, 34 sessions were offered, covering 7 “tracks”: Fiction; Poetry; Publishing and Editing; Marketing; Craft; and Specialty Writing. Attendees had the option of following a single track of four 90-minute sessions (two in the morning, two in the afternoon), or mixing tracks according to their interests. For each track, a designated classroom or other space was assigned, and each of those spaces had an assigned “Room Host” tasked with introducing the presenter, assisting the presenter in handing out materials and ensuring their comfort and any other needs, and generating audience interest and enthusiasm. Each 90-minute session was led by a different presenter, who shared their unique expertise on the session topics. Between sessions, there was ample time to talk with other writers, exchange business cards, and browse the Bookstore, which featured books by the presenters. To break up this full day of sessions, a delicious box lunch was provided, followed by a series of readings from selected authors and a Keynote Speech for all the attendees to enjoy.
I had been invited by ESWA President and BTO Co-Chair, Tara O’Brien Elliott, to serve as Room Host for the Publishing and Editing Sessions. As this was an opportunity I did not want to miss, I accepted with no hesitation, but, privately, I was filled with doubts! Not about the assignment, itself, but about the logistics of getting there from Baltimore on my own. Days before the event, I booked myself a hotel room in Easton, MD, for that Friday, rather than risk a long and impossibly early drive to Wye Mills, MD, that Saturday morning.
I had visited Easton, before, when I was a copy editor for Waverly Press, but that had been with coworkers. The last time I’d driven to the Eastern Shore was in 1980(!) for a weekend girlfriends’ getaway in Ocean City! Back then, I was driving my first car—a white Chevy Chevette with red pleather interior. This time, I’d be driving my nearly 11-year-old needs-service Honda Civic (my third Civic and probably last car) alone. But this time, instead of an unwieldy paper map, I had Google to talk me through the travel route, from start to finish.
So, on Friday, March 4th, around 1:15pm, I set out for Easton. It was a beautiful, sunny, but chilly day, and I was surprised that I still remembered different landmarks along the way—country stores, silos, and the like, as I drove down Route 50 and crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. What a magnificent view! The sky above and the water below and around me, so blue!
Ninety minutes later, I’d arrived at my hotel and checked in. Since I couldn’t photograph the Bay, I snapped nature photos around the grounds. Then, I settled into my room, ate a Lean Cuisine™ dinner and snacks, watched TV, and went to bed—waking up every hour—until 7:30am: time to get ready for the Conference. As I checked out of the hotel, I could smell the wonderful complimentary breakfast I was missing, and the lobby was filled with diners—all the other guests I hadn’t seen the day before.
Like the drive to Easton, the drive to Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD, was uneventful. I found the building where the Conference was held by following other cars around the curving campus road and reading the helpful signs pointing the way. As I joined the throngs of writers walking toward the building, I felt overdressed—most of the attendees wore jeans and slouchy sweaters. But no matter; I’d arrived! Now, it was time to get to work.
In the lobby of the Kent Humanities Building, I registered for the event and picked up my “Room Host” bag, containing the program book, an ID badge, and an assortment of pens and pencils to hand out to anyone who needed one. I quickly found my assigned room for the Publishing & Editing sessions (my own area of expertise, but in medical and scientific editing), parked my belongings, and explored the Bookstore, buying Haint, the first poetry book written by the Keynote Speaker, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, and making small talk with mystery author Austin S. Camacho, who was presenting an afternoon session on marketing. Then, back to “my” room, to meet the first presenter I was to introduce. As it turned out, the first presenter had to cancel, and the second presenters, Elle I. Ire & Jose Iriarte, were already setting up for their session. The three of us, joined by Austin Camacho, spent the free hour having an impromptu session of our own, chatting and sharing our general backgrounds and experience in writing.
For more details about the BTO sessions, see 25th Annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference – Part II.