OWFI Writers' Conference Report
I attended the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Inc. conference held each year in Oklahoma City the first weekend in May.
There were 399 registered attendees. J.A. Jance was the keynote speaker. She was absolutely fantastic on Friday night. I also got her to sign my copy of Justice Denied. She is one of my favorite authors and I have read most of her books.
I think this conference is one of the best deals in the country at $125.00(early registration). That includes all the regular sessions and two banquets. The conference began Thursday evening with a special session ( $30.00 ) followed by two full days of regular sessions, banquets, social time, book signings, lunch workshop, etc. You can also take a speaker to lunch, if you like. I threatened one literary agent with hotdogs and chips, but she declined and opted to go to lunch with three women offering Italian cuisine. My feelings were hurt until I remembered that agent had already rejected me last year, twice. I sometimes rename my novels and try a second time around. Those last three sentences are a joke, Kristen.
Authors are allowed to place copies of their published books in the book store where they are sold. I tracked down the authors between sessions and asked them to sign my copies so I wouldn’t have to wait in line during the book signing sessions. Not a single one of them complained about it, and I got to talk to them one on one for a few minutes. Published writers come in all sizes, shapes, ages, and temperaments. Some even older than me, but every one of them I talked to was happier than a kid in a candy store to visit with me. At least it seemed that way to me. I learned a lot from talking to them. They all struggled in the beginning. It appears that some overnight successes take a few years in many cases. J.A. Jance has a web site. You may wish to read her story. She flew in on her own personal Lear Jet for the conference. She is one of those overnight successes which took a few years.
They also have pitch sessions with literary agents and editors which you must sign up for about a month ahead of time. Some pitch sessions are five minute sessions and some are ten minute sessions. The literary agents are well known in the publishing industry and were top notch. There are many sessions the attendees can chose from. There was also a book doctor there who would critique your first ten pages for free. I thought she was extremely good, because she told me my writing was different from what she normally read. I asked, “Is it really that good?” I am not going to tell you what she wrote in red ink on the first page of my manuscript.
On Saturday the last two sessions were both fun and educational. The first is a panel which read query letters and critiqued them. The queries were submitted ( dropped in a box ) at the conference. You learn a lot from hearing the literary agents’ comments. What I learned in this session. Don’t beat around the brush in your query letter. Less is more. Cut to the chase. A literary agent has read so many queries they can smell good writing from just a few sentences. Never send more than a one page query. They are not going to read it. If it takes a writer more than one page to tell the agent what the novel is about, they assume the writer is not ready for prime time.
The last session is similar except the panel of literary agents and editors critiqued the first page or so of submitted manuscripts ( Dropped in a box). The panel is larger and each member of the panel told what they like and don’t like. Sometimes they would stop the reader after the first sentence. The submissions are anonymous The book doctor did the reading, and she was great at reading with heart and energy. What I learned from this session is don’t waste time getting to the good stuff. The good stuff better begin in the first sentence of the first paragraph of your manuscript or the next sentence might not get read at all. There were a few good ones, but most manuscripts would be tossed by the agents and editors on the panel. That’s life. One manuscript got the following response from Meredith Bernstein, “I have read that opening paragraph a hundred times. I am looking for something I haven't read a hundred times.”
I did not submit any of my work for two panels of agents and editors for those two sessions, but next year I will submit my queries that I have posted under worse queries. I want to see what kind of response I get from those. I may submit a manuscript page or two as well for the other panel to critique. Well, it would be fun for me anyway to see how they handle those kind of queries. I bet they haven't read those paragraphs a hundred times.
You can find all of the detailed information online by searching OWFI writers’ conference or www.owfi.org/
I plan to attend again next year. Marcia Preston will be the president for next year’s event and she is a well known successful author of several novels. I thought all of her sessions were great. She held a session on Thursday evening that I thought was great until we all had to leave the theater room and go to the storm shelter. It seems five tornadoes were spotted in Oklahoma City that evening. That is the only hotel I have ever been in that has its own storm shelter. I spoke with Ms. Preston for a few minutes between sessions the following day. I believe she will put together a great conference for next year.
One thing I noticed was that everyone attending the conference seemed to be having a good time, especially between 5:00-7:00 ( Wine Time ). I have never seen so many happy people in my life. It was all smiles in the hallways, session rooms, elevator, etc. Not one unhappy person did I see the whole time I was there. Everything is indoors. You never have to leave the hotel if you don’t want to. I did to get some sunshine and wind in my face. I give this conference a top notch rating. * * * * *
Does anyone want to go with me next year? Sign up now for a seat in my Lear Jet.
Lear Jet is the name of my old Ford Truck.