What to Expect at OWFI
By Natalie Bright
The Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Inc. hosts an annual conference in the spring. If you’ve never been to a conference for writers, I highly recommend this one held in Oklahoma City. My head’s still buzzing from this years, and while it’s fresh on my mind, I thought I’d share what you can expect from the experience:
1) Buzz Sessions: After a full day of learning followed by a banquet with a keynote speaker, OWFI organizes late night discussions. Usually the current faculty along with several other published authors lead discussions on specific topics either in the lobby area or in their rooms. Beginning right after the banquet around 9:00, these talks can go well past midnight. This year I attended one led by Christine Taylor-Butler. I used up my cell phone battery taking notes because I forgot my notepad. She talked about the Highlights Foundation workshop which she attended as a newbie, her experiences with agents and editors, submitting work, breaking into nonfiction for children, how she organizes her research, plus some. This is where you gain insider information about the business from people who’ve been in the trenches writing and launching careers. Buzz sessions have become one of my favorite parts of OWFI.
2) Bookstore: Books by the speakers and OWFI members were available for purchase at a bookstore located right across from the meeting classrooms. It’s a good place to catch faculty when they’re not doing presentations to ask specific questions. Conference bookstores may not be the best place to sell your books unless you are a keynote speaker so don’t expect huge sales, but it’s still good exposure so bring bookmarks and business cards too. This year authors were limited to only five copies, which is understandable due to space issues. Be sure to follow the rules of the conference carefully so that it’s fair for everyone. For me personally, it’s a weekend for learning (it’s nice to have a few days out of book seller mode). In the bookstore, I asked Jerry Simmons about the NYC submission process, and visited with David Morrell while he autographed copies of FIRST BLOOD for my teen boys.
3) Breakfast: The best way to start the day is with hot coffee, a huge breakfast buffet, and writers everywhere! Go early, grab a big table, invite people to sit down, and ask them what they write, where they’re published, how their critique group works…you get the idea.
4) Diversity: The most surprising thing to me when I attended my first OWFI conference many, many years ago was the diversity of the speakers and of the attendees. I didn’t know there were so many people working is so many different genres. Writing is not just for novels of fiction. It was definitely overwhelming at first, but I came away from that first conference inspired to work realizing that there are so many opportunities. The organizers do a super job at lining up speakers who represent a wide range topics for every level.
5) Friendly and Helpful: I had been told by more than one person that the Oklahoma Writers bunch is one of the friendliest conferences around, and that is definitely the case. I’ve been to other conferences in several different states and OWFI continues to be the one I look forward to every year. People are more than willing to help you. Ask about their first publishing experience, how to with an agent, writing a query letter, places to send a query, writing for a magazine; you’ll discover people are more than willing to share. Ask, learn, and leave inspired.
Put back $10 bucks each week for 52 weeks and by then it’ll be time to register for OWFI May 2015. Make an investment in your writing career and get another step closer to reaching your writing goals.