By Chandra Bozelko
NSNC Vice President
I found NSNC’s website when I was searching for information about syndication, back in early 2016. I noticed they had a contest going on and I was interested to see how I would do. I joined and entered without expectation.
Then I received an email from Cathy Turney saying that I had placed and the awards would be handed out in June in Los Angeles. You don’t need to ask me twice to go to LA, so I planned the trip, expecting to spend most of my time with friends and colleagues out there. I was a little scared of a conference full of people who were doing what I wanted to do but who I didn’t know.
The night before the conference started, as I was heading out of the hotel for a dinner, board member Rick Horowitz was handing out the name tags. He handed me mine which read “Chandra Bozelko/Prison Diaries” and I worried if he would ask what “Prison Diaries” was. It’s a blog that was started as a column when I was in – you guessed it – prison. I am generally pretty open about my experience but I will never be fully comfortable revealing that to total strangers because I don’t know what their reaction will be.
Rick never asked, I think, because he didn’t notice as he was too busy showing me inclusion and hospitality. “Are you coming to the dinner?” he asked, speaking of the informal pre-conference dinner we plan each year.
“No, I have plans.”
“You should come. It’s always fun. Next year!” he said and pointed at me to promise I would go the next year. I obliged.
The next morning when I was in the elevator heading to the conference, Dave Lieber stepped in. I didn’t know I was riding along with columnist royalty and I didn’t know I’d met more the day before.
“Hi. How are you?” he asked me.
“I’m fine, thanks. How are you?”
“Hi. Who are you?” he asked. He saw that name tag Rick had given me the night before but I was still hiding the “Prison Diaries” part. I introduced myself and told him why I was there, that “Prison Diaries” was winning an award.
The rest of that day was spent taking copious notes of the conference sessions and being actively introduced by Rick and Dave to various members. It was an unusual sensation for me, to have people trying to include and fold me into a group. I had been excluded in so many ways for so long. I vowed then to come to future conferences. Feeling comfortable like that is worth any cost and mileage to me.
A work obligation prevented me from attending the Thursday-night event at the 2017 Manchester, New Hampshire, conference, but I joined the planning committee there, this time for Cincinnati – where I was present for the 2018 pre-conference dinner. I wouldn’t have missed the chance to spend more time with the members with whom I’d become friends so quickly. There’s no need to hide “Prison Diaries” anymore – they know and accept me. They even elected me Vice President. That should show you how open and inclusive NSNC members are.
This summer, I was offered a nationally syndicated column with Creators Syndicate. I can’t separate my NSNC membership and the welcome I was shown by members with securing that platform, not just because my interest in syndication brought me to the website. Only because NSNC boosted my confidence did I have the gumption to submit my writing for consideration. I owe a lot to NSNC.