Received this opinion years ago from someone who used to live in SoCal and now lives elsewhere in the country:
You're right, it's not a level playing field, and you don't get points for just being there. You've actually got to do something well. Writing well would be a start. I DO remember your chapbook. I still have it, in the piles of several hundred that I dutifully carried with me cross-country when I moved. Terry, it was dull. Very dull. Not bad, but there was little of interest going on there. I don't recall if I had read it yet when I saw you in Redondo, but even if I had, I doubt I would have said much. What was I supposed to say? "Sorry, it bored me to tears." But as I recall, it took me awhile to get around to it, because, even now, I get a ton of chapbooks very month. I've not thrown one away, and I try to read them all, but no, I can't review them, and I really had nothing consequential to say about it, for good or bad. As to my "wisdom would be something of value," Whatever. I don't recall volunteering to be your mentor, and while I've taught poetry in high schools and colleges, I don't recall you being in any of my classes. The sad fact is, Terry, I thought you were a nice guy,and always tried to be friendly to you, but no, I didn't care much for your writing. Would you have preferred that I said that? I can't see what good that would have done. It's not like I walked out of the room when you were on the microphone. Maybe you've gotten better, I don't know.
The happy ending to the story above: a poem of mine made it into a literary journal recently--along with a poem by the writer above (plus his talented spouse).
Since I've been outspoken about the writer in the past (more than once--though with occasional positive words), I'm not expecting any response.
Just happy that I kept writing and learning about writing without being wounded enough by his opinionating to give up poetry altogether.