by Chris Hunt
As outdoor bloggers, our efforts aren’t always taken seriously. The Outdoor Blogger Network and its creators, Rebecca Garlock and Joe Wolf, have done much to legitimize the work we do, and many of us have them to thank for some of the rewards our blogging earned us over the OBN’s two short years of existence. We’re gaining legitimacy.
I, for one, am very grateful, not just for the “clearing house” OBN provides, but for the friendships I’ve acquired through being able to connect with my fellow bloggers, both online and in person. These are relationships that I believe have the staying power to last a lifetime, and being able to share my work with them has proven invaluable. I’m a better blogger because of it.
I’m fortunate, too, to be a member of another amazing community of outd00rspeople who share my passion for communicating the outdoors to others–the Outdoor Writers Association of America. You see, I came late to blogging–I’m a former newspaper writer turned PR flak for one of the country’s better-known conservation organizations. My affiliation with OWAA started eight years ago, and it continues today because I truly love the organization, what it’s done for me personally and professionally and because of the friendships I’ve made along the way.
So it’s with great pleasure that I let my friends in the outdoor blogging world know that OWAA now has a full membership category for those of us who blog. This is the same organization to which outdoor legends like Ted Trueblood and Tony Dean once belonged. Over the years, through OWAA, I’ve had the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the icons of the craft–I got to fish for three days with Joel Vance in the wilds of northern Saskatchewan, and I’ve listened to Babe Winkelman serenade a room of fellow outdoor communicators with Jimmy Buffett music. I enjoyed a bottle of good port wine with Tony Dean at a quiet bar in Roanoke, Va., just about a year before he tragically died. These experiences are priceless to me–and I’m a better communicator, writer and, yes, blogger, because of the wisdom these people have bestowed upon me.
For me, OWAA membership is a no-brainer. It’s put me in touch with some of today’s most respected outdoor communicators, and it keeps me apprised of outdoor writing opportunities that arise frequently–thanks to this organization, I’ve managed to sell enough of my work to pay for my annual dues of $150 dozens of times over. But, much like being a part of OBN, being a part of OWAA is rewarding above and beyond the work it helps me do, and the legitimacy it lends my efforts.
It’s about the people. The friendships I’ve made through OWAA are lasting relationships that are more special to me than any paycheck I might garner
from writing about the outdoors. These friendships are irreplaceable. They’re forged with people who love and appreciate the outdoors just as I do.
Every year, I make it a point to attend the OWAA annual conference. Since I joined OWAA, I’ve attended conferences in Roanoke, Lake Charles, La., Grand Rapids, Mich., Bismark, N.D., Rochester, Minn., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Chena Hot Springs, Alaska, just outside of Fairbanks. Each conference offers unique educational opportunities for craft improvement, and each conference is situated near unique outdoor opportunities–from Bismark, I hopped a plane with Vance and was fishing for pike in Saskatchewan the day after the conference concluded, and in Lake Charles, I got to chase redfish in the Atchafalaya marshes. This past summer, I walked from my room at Chena Hot Springs and cast dry flies to rising grayling. Thankfully, because of my friends at OWAA, I get to experience these things with great people at my side who get just as excited as I do at the prospect of trying something new, outside under wild skies.
In September 2013, the OWAA annual conference is in Lake Placid, N.Y., and I’ll be there along with dozens of great friends who’ll invest time improving their outdoor communicating careers while catching up with friends and perhaps doing something new in the outdoors.
But wait… there’s more. OWAA celebrates excellence in outdoor communicating every year through it’s Excellence in Crafts awards, which are announced every year at conference. And, here’ the kicker–bloggers are now eligible to win these awards through our own blogging category. There are literally thousands of dollars up for grabs every year through sponsored contests that can, in reality, pay for your trip to conference and leave you with enough left over to buy your pals a beer after the banquet. And, if you join OWAA this month, you’re eligible to enter your blogs in the various EIC contests, and could be announced as a winner this September in Lake Placid–the deadline for entries in Feb. 1, 2013.
If you’re interested in OWAA, I hope you’ll let me know. If your blog gets 500 unique visitors a month, or you make a profit from it in some fashion or another, you’re eligible to become a full-fledged member of a very prestigious–yet wonderfully down-to-earth–organization that will only make you a better blogger. I will happily be your sponsor, or I’ll recommend a sponsor who lives near you, so you can begin to create your own network within OWAA. You’ll learn how to expand your own outdoor communication empire and grow your audience in the process. Who knows… you might be the next Tony Dean.
Let me know if you’re interested in OWAA–I’ll help you make the most of your membership.