Hospitality: Yeah, We’ve Got That!

#NSNC2016 – Los Angeles

By Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski

Michele ‘Wojo’ Wojciechowski holds an empty Berger Cookie box in the Hospitality Suite of the 2014 Conference in Washington, D.C.

Michele ‘Wojo’ Wojciechowski holds an empty Berger Cookie box in the Hospitality Suite of the 2014 Conference in Washington, D.C.

By now, you’ve read a lot about this year’s NSNC Conference: the big names in the writing business who are speaking, the opportunities to pitch and the places you’ll go.

But have you really thought about how much fun you’ll have? Well, let me tell you. …

Whether it’s in the halls, during breaks or throughout meals, NSNC members have fun at the conference. Don’t get me wrong — you’ll learn a lot, too. [Sign-up details below.] One place, though, you don’t want to miss is the Hospitality Suite. We have a ton of fun, and, occasionally, we get thrown out. (Wah, wah, you’re being too loud!)

I remember hanging out at the Hospitality Suite at the 2014 NSNC Conference held in Washington, D.C. Since I live nearby in the lovely state of Maryland, I brought a special treat to share — Berger Cookies.

If you don’t know what a Berger Cookie is, it’s basically a cake-like cookie with about a pound of chocolate icing on it. Seriously. A whole pound. Would I lie to you? Don’t answer that.

Once members got their mitts on them, the Bergers went so fast that I’m surprised someone didn’t bite my hand off in pursuit.

“Where are those cookies?” folks asked over and over again. Alas, they were gone.

Not sure how well they went with liquor, but people chowed them down just the same. They also polished off Annie Barr’s Tim Tams, cookies that are a mouthful of chocolatey goodness straight from her homeland of Australia.

Annie also shared Vegemite, which I watched Mike Morin try. He didn’t gag on it, but I did. In fact, I thought it tasted like butane — if I had ever tasted that, which I haven’t. I think the only reason we all wanted to take a taste is because we had sung about it with Men at Work in their hit “Down Under.” I don’t think Vegemite goes well with liquor because I don’t think it goes well with, well, anything.

We bond around more than just food, though. We also become close by laughing hysterically. At what, you may ask?

Bill Tammeus recalls that during the 1994 conference in Longboat Key, Florida, members discovered while in the Hospitality Suite that the O.J. Simpson slow Bronco chase was happening on TV.

“Naturally, we got up a $1-a-head pool — not on whether O.J. would survive (we’re not that ghoulish), but simply on what time it would end,” he recalls. Molly Ivins, that year’s lifetime achievement winner and speaker, threw a buck in. “And she won it, getting within about three minutes of the truth,” says Bill.

“At the Snowbird resort north of Salt Lake City in 1996, we encountered a conference of English professors, challenged them to a spelling bee (this is one of those things that earned Diane Ketcham the title of Lifetime Director of Fun), and prevailed in a sweaty, adrenaline-crazed atmosphere more closely resembling a cockfight,” says Mike Leonard.

“The professors could not fathom losing to a group of journalists and didn’t handle their loss well. They began backtracking and challenging the rules. It was rather pitiful, and we ran into many English profs over the rest of the weekend who apologized that they’d heard their colleagues behaved badly.”

Bob Haught recalls when Diane Ketcham arranged a karate match in 1999 between Bob Hill, a conference co-chair, and a 45-pound, 9-year-old girl who was in town for a national competition. “She put ‘Big Bob’ down in record time in a contest in the Hospitality Suite.”

In 2008 in New Orleans, Bob Haught says that many members formed a kazoo band and “paraded to the zoo where we had the opportunity to pet a penguin that survived Hurricane Katrina.”

Over the years, members have held cartwheel contests, had talent shows and even photobombed each other (um, at least I have). Through all these crazy activities and conversations, we’ve come away with friendships and connections that last.

So be sure to stop by the Hospitality Suite during the conference or join in the contests, parades and photobombing.

Trust me — the fun is an important part of what keeps members coming back for more!

• • •

You’ll want to register right away — at tinyurl.com/nsnc16la — for the conference because this event will be limited to the first 100 signed up for this year’s meeting. It’ll be based at the Hotel Angeleno. Make room reservations at tinyurl.com/NatlSocietyNewspaperColumnists. There’s a limited number of rooms at our special nightly rate of $169 so prompt registration is advised.

• • •

Baltimore-based Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski writes the humor column “Wojo’s World” and is on the faculty of the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. She is a featured contributor to Parade.com, the online edition of Parade Magazine, for which she profiles the nation’s top humorists. She performs stand-up comedy and is the author of the book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.

 

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