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Advice for Newbies at WoodCon

Dan McMinn is a graduate of Clarion (2012) and the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing (2020). His work has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Saws, Sliver, and the collection Top Trivets 2014. His current project, "Hotsprawl," set in a Victorian alcove, has been described as "like a Barcalounger meets an Inglenook."

I remember being a novice woodworker, nervous about my very first WoodCon. So that you "woodies" don't make the same mistakes I did, here's a list of etiquette and craft advice for attending the Sequoia of the lumber-related cons:
1. Don't shove your work at everyone: This is by far the biggest mistake newbies make. Furnishers love to meet new woodies, but that doesn't mean the Crate & Barrel rep wants to see your Lazy Susan right in the hall or at the pool (or in the bathroom!). And skip the gimmicks--pulling up to the bar in your handmade stool won't impress reps.
2. Dress professionally: If you've come just to have fun, by all means, cosplay Home Improvement Girl and fook The Carpenters. But don't do it if you've come to sell. (Ask any veteran about "Paul Bunyan guy.")
3. Do you need an MFA in woodworking?: No! But it does help.
4. Do your homework first: Don't pitch your birdhouse to More Woodturning magazine, or your Shaker Grandfather clock to Ikea. While you're at it, do your work first. An agent I know once put out a call for unfinished furniture and a guy gave her a two-legged table. Don't be that guy!
5. Come to be with peers, not pros: The likelihood you can hang with Norm Abram or St. Roy with all their retinue around them is infinitesimal, but there are friends to be made whether you're making coatracks or 18th Century Tallboys
6. Remember that everyone carpents in their own way: I had a newbie say at one presentation the wood-smith told her to use bespoke bracing patterns and personally tapped tonewood, then another said to crank out work in cheap pine using CNC templates, and another told her to wander the forests for fungus-stained maples that acquiesce to their felling. Only you can say if one or none (or all!) of those is the right method for your particular napkin holder.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

Author Comments

This piece was written during my last Stonecoast residency. (Thanks, Stonecoast!)

- Dan McMinn
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