"Congratulations! The WBC Scholarship Committee has awarded you a full or partial scholarship for the Wine Bloggers Conference as outlined below."
Could another wine-related email have set my heart so aflutter as that one? Perhaps, but the excitement and anxiousness I immediately felt would be hard to describe. How would I measure up? What if I got drunk and made a fool of myself? What if no one liked me?
My fears were groundless, except for maybe being thought a fool, though not a drunk one. Except for some obviously shy people, everyone attending the conference was as nice as could be, introducing themselves and making room at their table when I approached. I'm sure that some people stuck with others they knew, but for me, this was an opportunity to meet and mingle, to network in a way I simply can't at home, so I tried to sit with different people as much as possible.
With an airport shuttle snafu making it too late to head to Thursday night's opening reception, I missed out on a good opportunity to meet the other scholarship recipients and our generous donors (I donated, but it definitely wasn't generous, but I had to "Make Tom Wark Pay!" and then Amy the Wine Sleuth matched Tom's generous matching donation). Thus, over the course of the conference, I looked out for folks bearing the 'Scholarship Recipient' and 'Donors' badges and introduced myself as I could. If I missed somebody besides Tom (sorry Tom, but we'll be meeting in the future for sure!), please don't take it personally. As a first-time attendee, I was pretty much in over my head most of the time, and meeting a couple hundred people was somewhat blurry at times.
Beyond the obvious benefit of meeting all these great people and sessions on being a better blogger, drinking the amazing BC wines, and being surrounded by natural beauty that was, at times, unbelievable, it was the passion that will most stick with me. Sure, people were there to have a good time, but, ultimately, people were there to immerse themselves in the experience, to drink good wine and eat good food, to educate themselves on the area and the culture, not for themselves, but for their readers.
I came home with mixed emotions. I never expected to make friends or have such a strong desire to go back, to make plans for WBC14 -- I'm working hard on convincing Laima that next year's conference simply must be in our travel budget. I know she would be positively overwhelmed in much the same way I was. There have been criticisms leveled at the Wine Bloggers Conference and wine bloggers as well, calling the whole shebang irrelevant and perhaps unprofessional (both pejoratively and in the sense of not being paid professionals), but I'd be surprised that someone could attend a conference such as this and not feel a desire to improve one's writing and be more engaged. That kind of bitterness doesn't have a place at events like this, so it's good those naysayers stayed home.
This trip simply would not have been possible without the generous support of the Scholarship donors and the Committee itself, so thank you again. The application process starts January 1st, so I have some time to ponder whether Laima and I will need to apply for Scholarships or if we can find room in the budget. Whether you plan on applying for a scholarship or not, please consider being a donor -- I'm a big believer of the need for the Wine Bloggers Conference and a huge fan of the Scholarship.
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