Women and gender non-conforming writers all over the world are attracted to BinderCon, drawn in by the community, the professional development, and the craft workshops. Thanks to the Harnisch Foundation, even those who are unable to travel to New York City or Los Angeles to attend the bicoastal conference in person can access keynotes and select panels via the free livestream. This is one of the ways BinderCon boasts of helping writers like Charli Mills from Idaho to build writing communities around and beyond the conference through shared remote access.
Charli attended the 2015 BinderCon LA conference with a scholarship. “I was thrilled, especially as a rural writer. Nothing ever happens for writers in my area.” She was excited about the emphasis on professional development rather than craft-only sessions.
“BinderCon really takes seriously the woman who wants to be a career writer.” As we all know, the path does not seem to be getting easier, but more complicated, so BinderCon is becoming increasingly valuable.
It could be unnerving, being at conference with so many writers, and feeling like your own work doesn’t matter. Charli remembers being shy about telling people she writes and loves flash fiction. By the end of the conference, she found herself standing around with a group of women, long after the last session had ended. She felt fortunate to share the space with other people so much like her, but so different from her.
“We stayed because we were talking, connecting, bonding, and there was a woman with us who was in a wheelchair and most of the women standing in our group were women of color. It wasn’t that we were all different, but that we were connected by the passion that drives us to write. I walked away feeling so much more a writer than I had arrived.”
The sessions are BinderCon are enriching, motivating, and practical. There is something for everyone to take away, even from panels around themes that don’t necessarily fit your specific beat. Charli recalls sitting in a session with panelists who write for television, and taking away tips for pitching. “Who better to learn from than people who have to do it everyday?”
“To have guides along the way who are women in the industry who have more experience and exposure, and to learn from those women, is invaluable.”
In 2015, Charli decided to bring BinderCon to the women and gender non-conforming writers who could not get to New York City. Her area in Idaho only had satellite internet, so she hunted for venues that had better service and had no luck. After troubleshooting with Leigh, she decided to show DVDs of two panels – Owning a Complex Beat and Writers Who Mom and Moms Who Write. In January 2016, she hosted a repeat event for the “closet writers” as they are known by the local library. Both events were small, and Charli felt there was potential to get more people out. Leigh worked her magic again, reaching out to other writers in the area, connecting them with Charli.
“What’s going on in Montana is amazing, and that’s why we’re having this event in Missoula.” Teaming up with New York Times bestselling author Laura Munson from Whitefish, Stephanie Land, Rachel Mindell, Chelsia Rice, and Molly Priddy, Charli has organized a livestream of BinderCon at Shakespeare and Company, a local independent bookstore. Student writers from University of Montana are expected to attend, and writers will drive from three hours away in every direction this weekend to meet in Missoula and share the experience.
BinderCon LA will be streaming all day on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10am PST and ending at 5pm PST. On Saturday, Charli will lead the group in a flash fiction exercise. During a break between panels on Sunday, Laura Munson will talk to writers.
“Her passion is to help other writers, and help other people connect with their own voice. She’ll talk about the myth of failure and success, and there’ll be a book signing.”
At the end of the day, all writers are welcome to attend an optional dinner at The Iron House where there will be readings.
The planning has been almost as much fun as Charli expects to have on BinderCon LA weekend. The group of women have been communicating for weeks, often multiple times in one day. The growth of the livestream idea from the small group in rural Idaho has grown beyond initial plans. Charli credits Leigh with giving phenomenal support and making coonnections with others in the area.
“Throw a couple of Binders in the mix, and you’ve got something dynamic. It gives me great hope for building something in Northern Idaho, and how well it’s working in Montana, and what a robust, diverse writing community looks like.”
Charli’s dream is to build a network of rural writers, all owning their voices. “I want them to know that they don’t have to sit at home. Even if there is not a writers community where you are, look for the closest community to you. Come on, and be a writer out loud.”