OCW Conference: Eureka!

Posted: October 16, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The biggest Eureka at the Ozark Creative Writers’ Conference may have been the town in which it was located: Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  That’s right.  Eureka Springs, population 2,073 (in 2010).  It may be small, but the town has a lot to offer, not least it’s stunning natural setting and charming Victorian houses, hotels, and shopping district.  Then there is the Crescent Hotel, a haunted historical landmark that’s still in operation (just celebrated its 125th anniversary last year), and Mud Street Cafe with its tasty food and eclectic decor (one of my favorites among many quality eateries).  Lest this become another travel post, however, let’s get back to the conference.

This year’s OCW Conference highlights included excellent presenters in the persons of diminutive-in-size-only firecracker agent Cherry Weiner and St. Martin’s Press editor Daniela Rapp, possessor of a hypnotic, hint-of-an-accent voice and, more importantly, a wealth of experience and information.  I love getting the straight scoop from people in the industry who know what they are talking about.  I also learned a new term, “gentle marketing,” from presenter Dianna Graveman who shared her expertise, with a little help from the techno-savvy contingent from Tulsa (you know who you are).  Speaking of attendees who travelled, Arkansas and Oklahoma were not the only states represented.  I met people from as near as Missouri and as far away as New Hampshire.  I’m looking forward to next year, when I can catch up with everyone from the teen-aged first-timer, Lexi, to the ever-charming and personable veteran and Arkansas Poet Laureate, Peggy Vining.

I’ve only been to a few writers’ conferences, and while they have differed in size and content, they have all offered opportunities to:

  • gain new knowledge.  Attending a conference is a great opportunity to get out from behind the computer or legal pad and talk to people who have experience in publishing that we may be lacking.  Whether in the area of business or technique, we can access other people’s knowledge in sessions, between them, or at gatherings and banquets in the evening.
  • become aware of changes and current trends in publishing.  How much of this we get depends on the conference sessions we attend, especially at larger conferences where we may choose to spend most or all of our time on genre-specific speakers, technique-focused classes, or even critique sessions.  I was impressed by the variety of business-focused offerings at OCW which covered everything from what an agent or editor is looking for to the process of publication from beginning to end to the variety of marketing options available to modern authors who must realize the necessity of getting involved in this part of the job.
  • interact with other writers, renewing or strengthening ties to people I already know, and making new contacts or, even better, friends.  I am not a social butterfly, nor are many of the literary folks I know.  We do like to discuss what we love, however, especially with someone who shares our passion.  At this year’s OCW conference, I enjoyed getting to know my roommates better and spending time in impromptu critique and writing sessions.  I also got to catch up with some people I met last year at the conference.  I didn’t do as well interacting with the presenters as I have in the past, and I felt the loss.  It’s worth it to make the effort, leave your discomfort behind, and approach them appropriately.
  • renew my focus on personal writing goals.  Writing is a solitary pursuit for me.  I don’t really have anyone to hold me accountable but myself, and sometimes I’m not a very good boss.  Conferences give me time to completely immerse myself in the subject and I always come away invigorated and ready to get to work.
  • pitch, if you are into that kind of thing.  My first pitch session was at the OCW conference last year.  It was a great experience and I was relieved to get past that first time.  If you are going to do this, make sure you research the people to whom you’ll be pitching to make sure they are a good fit for your project.

There are several resources online, and in print, about how to make the most of a writing conference.  Chuck Sambuchino, Writer’s Digest, has a two-part series on the topic posted on Chip MacGregor’s blog that is very worthwhile reading.  (Part I   Part II)   Michelle Rafter offers 8 tips, the majority of which focus on the all-important networking aspect.  WD’s Zachary Petit adds some fresh ideas to the standard “choose the right conference for you,” “plan ahead,” “don’t be shy,” and “turn your cell phone off before the session starts.”  My favorite from his list is “Worship not heroes.”  Scott Hoffman gives a sampling of conference etiquette from an agent’s perspective along with a couple of controversial suggestions.

Conference season is coming to an end, but now is a great time to start researching and planning for next year.  If you’ve never attended before, maybe this will be your time to go.  Chances are you’ll be glad you did.

What are your favorite parts of writing conferences?  I’d love to hear any particularly good experiences or favorite conferences.

  1. […] Kelli Wright’s Open-Faced Sandwich Share this:LinkedInTwitterFacebookRedditDiggEmailStumbleUponTumblrPrintPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Posted in Readers & Writers | Tagged book pitches, book publishing, literary agents, pitching to agents, writing conferences […]

  2. […] OCW Conference: Eureka! (keliwright.wordpress.com) […]

  3. Keli, great analysis of conferencing benefits! Wish I’d read it before I hit Eureka Springs. I always enjoy the learning opportunities but feel like I could have gained more if I was not a tad timid in groups. And then applying everything I learned is a huge challenge. I like your idea of being more of a sponge, just soaking it in and not worrying about quantifiable benefits. I guess learning to live a writer’s life is like adapting to a new language and culture. It just takes time. See you at the next conference!

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