It’s that time of year again: NetRoots Nation is one month away, and yet again, the lefty political-activism conference is going to give scholarships to some lucky LGBT bloggers.
Last year, you may recall, The New Gay’s Zack Rosen ignited some controversy during the online voting portion of the scholarship. His technique for attracting votes was simple: If he won, he wrote to Fleshbot, “I will send in a picture of myself without that pesky sign in front of my crotch. And I’ll have a boner.” Of course, he won. (NSFW) And he was a man of his word.
So, with applications now closed on this year’s scholarship, we asked Zack what tips & tricks he’d recommend for applicants. Would he advise they pose nude? Surprisingly, no. Check out his words of wisdom for bloggers who might follow in his footsteps:
1) Keep Your Clothes On
I desperately needed to get to NetRoots last year and make more people aware of The New Gay, and I took a rather unorthodox route to winning that Scholarship. Its kind of a miracle that I not only made it last year based on a cock pick, and that I am still allowed in any professional queer atmosphere. I knew what I was getting into and had good reasons for what I did, but I don’t think its the kind of thing that would work more than once.
2) Play Up Your Minorities
I hate to see this, but scholarship application is much like applying to college in that the people deciding are very, very fond of diversity. Activism conferences reflect other parts of the queer world in that they are still largely the province of the cisgendered, male and white. (Hey, like me!) Stress the ways that you can add a different perspective to the conference and how can give historically overlooked factions of the population a voice at NetRoots. YOU will be the future of a conference like NetRoots nation, and the change you provide to it can be the basis for big shifts in the future.
3.) Give Something Back
A prerequisite for this year’s scholarship is that recipients must blog a certain number of times about the event. There is also an option on the application to volunteer time at the conference. There truly is no such thing as a free lunch (even when its in a cardboard box, and consumed in an overly-air-conditioned conference room) and you should consider yourself an investment. What will you return? Stress the ways that you will cover the conference and the channels you have to do it through. Do you have 500 daily readers, 10,000 twitter followers, a loyal youtube fan base? Make it clear in your application. These are the people that will be reading what you have to say about NetRoots and the more you can reach, the more attractive you will be as an applicant.
4) Don’t Rock The Boat… Yet
Do some research on the organizations offering the scholarship. See what they like and what they stand for. Pretend that you’re looking for a date. You wouldn’t send someone on Grindr a pic of your ass if they asked for your cock, right? Play nice in the application process. Praise NetRoots and the work they have done. Present yourself as nothing less than the best thing that has ever happened to activism, and be a veritable John Hinkley Jr to NetRoots’ Ronald Reagan. Shower them with praise and affections and save any bullets of criticism for after you have gotten your money.
5) Do Something
If you do win the scholarship, remember that (free hotel and airfare notwithstanding) NetRoots is not a vacation. Yes, you’ll have a week to bum around in a new city. But you also are there to learn and learning is not always easy. You will be challenged, argued with and possibly even berated, but it is only because everyone around you will care about the issues at hand as much as you do. Conferences — especially when they gather disparate queer populations — can be frustrating and discouraging as much as uplifting and unifying, but you will come out with some new perspectives and over time they can grow into something great. I had many complaints after last year’s conference, but after a year of reflection I can’t wait to go back.