I'm quite upset. And I know I'll feel better after writing about it. Whether you stick around for the rant or not really doesn't matter, but I hope you do. If you'd rather not, scroll on down to the photos.
I've been a member of the Garden Writers Association for five years, and will probably continue as one for many years to come (the yearly membership fee is $85, sound steep? I agree. More such figures to come). Lately though, I've been asking myself if I'm really getting anything out of it. That is, has it brought me any new writing and/or photography opportunities? Here's the real question: Has it contributed in any way to the cash flow in my checking account? Unfortunately, my answer is no. If it has, I've yet to receive the deposit slip.
Some might say, "You can't be sure because you have no way of knowing what the future holds and you could develop a connection via GWA that could provide a financial gain." I admire those who might be content waiting for a dollar to come their way in the year 2525. I don't have that much time. If I had concrete evidence of something the GWA has supplied that has brought me income, I wouldn't be voicing my frustrations as I am now.
I love writing about gardening, all aspects, all levels, everything and anything about it is a topic of interest to me as a garden communicator. And I try most ardently with what I write to transfer a smidgen of my knowledge to anyone willing to use it. I also know that I'm not perfect and will mess up from time to time, and you have every right to let me know when that happens. (Even if I'm apt to get cross about it, like most writers I know, I don't take criticism very well.)
Another thing I love about my profession is the networking opportunities, and the chance to meet a lot of like-minded folks who do what I do. And the regional GWA meetings are a great way to network and meet new friends. This is a good thing, and probably the only reason I can justify why I will continue to pay my yearly dues.
I don't have to remind anyone about the economic situation we're seeing all over the country. Layoffs, workers taking time off without pay so they can keep the job they have, folks working from home, some working for less pay, hiring freezes, company closings and layoffs, the news is bleak (unemployment in my county of residence is over 10% right now). Add to that the housing crisis with a lot of folks losing their homes, and it's enough to make even a stoic feel some degree of apprehension.
But $85 is quite expensive for a phone book (i.e., the GWA Membership Directory), and I still have to pay to attend regional meetings. The cost, usually around $35, for those meetings isn't bad, and my wife and I are attending a Region II gathering at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks. So, although I do feel a smidgen of pride being a GWA member, it's the cost of their annual symposiums that are baffling me right now.
This year's Annual Symposium is being held in Raleigh, North Carolina. And at 5 days in length it has a tremendous amount to offer. But for someone like me who's struggling financially, the cost of attending the gala seems to be astronomical. For me to attend the entire event, the cost would be $986.96, and that's not including transportation or the cost of an optional Social Media Workshop ($95), or one of either two garden tours ($60 for one, $40 for the other). Should I decide to "rob Peter to pay Paul" (stop tempting me Satan!) the cost of attendance for the five days would be well over $1,000, probably closer to $1,500.
You might be wondering if they have cheaper options. Yes, you can attend one day's worth for $175, but with so much going on the other four days, one day's worth of activities for that price would feel like a rip off, plus for me, driving (or catching a flight) that far for only one day would be silly. (Wouldn't it? Stop tempting me Satan!)
I network on Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn, and via blogging, with other GWA members. Most of them seem unaffected by the high cost, but I have no way of knowing. I can say I've not seen but one other witty remark regarding the cost. One twitterer, cityslipper, said "I CAN afford GWA! I'll just help a dude at the International Credit Bank make a $5.5 mil funds transfer (I get 40%)!"
I hope cityslipper gets the chance to attend, it sure looks like I'll not be going. But here's a contrasting thought: If I had a full time job, and made a decent salary, I'm pretty sure I'd already be registered without giving much thought to what it cost. Does that make everything I said before irrelevant? Or does it just add to the complications of life, and both the joy and sadness of trying to figure out what it all means?
I promised pictures for those wanting to skip my lengthy rant, I hope they're a little more worthy of your attention.