At the beginning of every May, Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Inc. organizes a conference open to any and all writers. There are sessions on writing—defining your narrative voice, how to construct a mystery, the finer points of military science fiction—as well as sessions on self-publishing, marketing, and creating an author platform online. This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending this year’s conference.
If you’re a writer, blogger, book lover, or just want to find a group of folks to join your writer circle, OWFI’s conference is for you. While I’ve heard time and again that you should only go if you have a completed manuscript and need an agent to represent you, I think this conference is for everyone. Here’s why:
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned creative writing class? This year, Mel Odom, Oklahoma writer and instructor at OU’s professional writing department headed up multiple sessions on military science fiction and publishing online. Dan Gordon, a playwright, spoke about the process of creating a play from conception to production, as well as turning that play into a movie. Nathan Brown, Oklahoma’s poet laureate, did some readings and was available to sign copies of his books. This year’s keynote speaker was New York Times bestselling romance author, Eloisa James. Her speech about writing and finding the emotion to put into your work was both inspiring and entertaining.
Shakespeare gotta get paid, y’all. I think all writers can agree. Though it may seem that the big publishing houses are consolidating to a point where a contract is an impossibility, Jerry Simmons, a veteran of the publishing industry discussed ways to market yourself, where the opportunities are in the future, and what you can do to tap into markets that the big publishing houses won’t even touch. And I didn’t stop learning to eat! For an extra fee at signup, you can go to the box lunch sessions. Heather Davis, of Minivan-momma.com, gave talks on blogging and how her online presence led to her book. On Friday, the session was a networking session set up like a speed date. You sat at a table with editors or agents or writers, and after ten minutes, you moved to the next one. I gave out tons of business cards and met a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise. Saturday’s box lunch allowed us to sit and listen to Eloisa James discuss building an online author platform by using social media. I have never listened to a more business savvy woman.
Well, I have to say, that for me, the best part of the conference isn’t actually the conference. Getting to spend time with like-minded people who want to talk about writing, their favorite books, and creating the best critique group ever was amazing. Friday’s banquet dinner included a costume contest where attendees dressed like their favorite authors or characters. There was Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes, Zoro, Pinkalicious, Arthur Dent, Miss Marple, and the winner—Poe’s Raven. Though, admittedly, my favorite was Eloisa James dressed as Professor MacGonagall.