CAMP 2016: Why CAMP matters

jessica_langloisBy Jessica Langlois, JAWS Southern California Co-Captain

I just registered for the 2016 JAWS Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP), which will be held in Roanoke, Va., Oct. 28 to 30 – and I hope you will do the same! You can check out the schedule and register here.

Here’s why CAMP matters.

My first JAWS CAMP was in 2012 in Albuquerque, N.M., and I can trace so many milestones in my career back to that weekend.

As I was tweeting about the panels, I caught the eye of an editor acquaintance and that led to a regular gig contributing music features for my local alt weekly.

That’s also where I met JAWS members Erica Phillips and Lauren Whaley (I walked up to Erica during happy hour because she was wearing awesome glasses) and they quickly became dear friends. When my partner decided to attend grad school in L.A., I reached out to Lauren and Erica, the only people I knew in the area. They took me to coffee at Bricks and Scones and gave me tons of leads on hacking it in the Southern California journo scene. Since then, I’ve snagged all kinds of new bylines, most of which I can trace back to those tips.

That’s also where I met member Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn (we struck up a conversation about interracial dating after I bid on her book “Swirling” during the silent auction), who has since been a source of boundless support! She tipped me to a teaching gig at Loyola Marymount University, where I am now a visiting assistant professor; she helped me find sources and she talked me through the stress of getting the runaround by agents and studio execs for my first Hollywood story; and she has introduced me to so many people who have become colleagues and friends.

All that from one weekend of JAWS CAMP.

I know it is not financially feasible for all, so maybe this isn’t your year… but maybe it is. Who knows who’s waiting to meet you and change your life.

There are ways to make it cheaper with sharing a room and it is certainly a worthwhile investment to learn new skills, make great connections, and, most importantly, meet brilliant colleagues and lifelong friends. (Plus, it truly does feel like a spa weekend – JAWS folks know how to work hard and then relax!)

That’s what my mentor, Sarah Pollock, always said was so great about JAWS – you can have a glass of wine with someone who’s just published her first story and then another glass of wine with someone who has a Pulitzer and 30 years of experience. At CAMP, hierarchies evaporate and sisterhood prevails.

I hope to see you in Roanoke and then hear all the stories about what that one weekend leads to for you.