Duluth—The writers are coming, the writers are coming. And videographers, photographers, artists, radio and TV personalities…get the idea?
The Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) will hold its 90th annual conference in Duluth, June 24-26. Duluth is the only city to host this event three times. the previous two held in 1969 and 1996. OWAA is the oldest and largest group for professional outdoor communicators, having formed in 1927 by writers attending an Izaak Walton League of America national convention in Milwaukee.
The annual OWAA Conference is an opportunity for individuals, organizations, businesses and agencies that are involved in the world of outdoor communication to learn and connect with others in the industry. It gives attendees a chance to network with other professionals, allow them to build crucial business outlets, and help improve their skills.
Sessions, which will all be held at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC), are geared toward general business and craft improvement, and also includes newsmaker sessions which focus on conservation and natural resource topics, giving members the opportunity to interview these newsmakers and generate stories (and income) while attending the conference.
The keynote speaker will be acclaimed outdoor writer and TV personality Steven Rinella who kicks off the conference with a keynote address about finding common grounds for conservation between hunters, anglers and non-consumptive users of America’s public lands. Rinella is author of The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, and most recently, Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter.
Just a few of the topics covered in sessions include the process of writing and publishing guide books, pursuing profits in podcasting, communicating from remote locations, ethics in outdoors television, outdoor writing and politics, photography copyrights and protections, making initial contact with editors and publishers, and the economics of outdoor recreation. An always popular attraction is an event where communicators can sit down one-on-one with editors from a wide range of publications. New this year is a similar venue with publishers and literary agents.
There are several sessions of regional and local interest, such as the future of Conservation Reserve Program lands in the upcoming Farm Bill, the debate about sulfide mining on the periphery of the Boundary Waters, and the success story of the remarkable, but still in progress, recovery of the St. Louis River.
Our region has produced some of the greatest masters of outdoor and environmental communication, and a promising session will connect the works of Sigurd Olson, Gordon MacQuarrie and Aldo Leopold with today’s environmental journalism and outdoor writing.
A second keynote speech will be given at breakfast on Monday by David Sibley, the well-known author and artist of Sibley’s Guide to Birds. In Sibley’s talk, “The Art of Identification,” he will share how nature study, such as birdwatching, is really more than just attaching names to the things we see. It’s about searching for order, meaning and a connection to the natural patterns and rhythms in the world around us.
The group will take a break from the indoors for a half day event called “Breakout.” Members of OWAA will be bused to the United Northern Sportsman’s facility outside Duluth on beautiful Island Lake. There, participants will be able to test firearms from leading manufacturers, sample watercraft and fishing gear on the lake, and handle a wide range of outdoor gear and meet their vendors.
While all of the above is available only to those registered for the conference (most participants are members of OWAA, but non-members may also register for an additional fee) OWAA offers a free event open to all who want to learn more about outdoor communication, but have neither the time or inclination to attend the full conference.
“Becoming an Outdoor Communicator” will be held on Friday, June 23, from 3-6 p.m. at the DECC. Experts from all fields will give the curious the low down on entering the profession. Topics include breaking into radio and television, outdoor photography, writing and publishing outdoor books, industry communication careers, working with and for non-profits, opportunities with outdoor magazines, working with and for government wildlife agencies, and outdoor and environmental prospects within the newspaper industry. Everyone is welcome to attend, but OWAA does ask that you register in advance online at: owaa.org/2017conference/agenda/boc-
workshop. There you can also view the impressive list of speakers.
Prior to, or after this intense, three-day conference, members will spread out across our region to sample our natural wonders. Many will paddle the canoe country. Others will fish some of our myriad lakes. The North Shore will see its share of outdoor communicators, sampling our parks, trails and towns. Isle Royale, Voyageurs National Park and the Apostle Islands will also see their share of outdoor communicators.
It’s not too late to register for the full conference, attend the free BOC workshop, or become involved as a host to show off your business to touring communicators.
For more information, visit: owaa.org/2017conference.