Wednesday, May 9, 2018

OWFI 2018 & A Big Win!

The Oklahoma Writers' Federation annual conference was in Oklahoma City from May 3-5, and I came home with pages and pages of notes and ideas--along with a trophy for Best Juvenile Book of 2018 for Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess.

Percy and Sammy are so proud of Bianca!

I love that it lists my affiliate critique group, Ozark Mountain Guild (OMG),
because they had their hands on every page of this book. 

It was certainly an exciting way to end my first OWFI conference! I also took home a 4th Place certificate for a poem that will hopefully be a picture book one day: Kimba's Day.

A lot of times I wouldn't get excited about 4th Place, but there were 44 entries so it's amazing. I'm slowly getting feedback from other category submissions, and the competition was fierce. Some of my entries earned 95/100 or in the high 90s and still didn't even place. OWFI is a group of talented writers.

Besides the award ceremony at the end, the speakers were fantastic and at the top of their game. I'd never heard of Michael Dahl before, but if you enjoy scary kidlit, be sure to look him up. If his books are half as much fun as he is, you won't be disappointed. Sadly, the bookshop sold out of his middle grade books before I got there. I'll have to order them on my own. I did come home with a book by Mark Alpert--autographed for Scott because the subject matter is more his style--and the second book in the Moonlight Mississippi series, Avalee's Gift, by my friend Linda Apple.

But mostly I came home with piles of new ideas and notes. One work-in-progress I had brought with me to pitch to an agent has ideas written up and down the sides of every page. Pitching an agent or editor at a conference is rather like speed-date job interviewing. You get anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes to sell yourself and the book you hope they will represent/want to publish. It is a nerve-racking few minutes. While we were waiting for our chance at our selected agent/editor, the woman next to me joke that if she passed out cold I should just step over her. I assured her I would if I could manage to pick up my feet that high. My heart was going like I'd run a marathon.

The agent I had chosen to pitch to was lovely and kind, but she wasn't interested in that particular YA fantasy book I had in mind for her. But she did want to see one of my picture books. Very exciting! The reality is that it could be everything--or nothing. I've had agents/editors want to see things in the past and some never even respond afterward. That's the game. That's why you just keep pitching and writing. And always have a "something else" in case they are not interested in the first option.

My biggest piece of advice to new writers (or really all writers) is to attend conferences. Lots of conferences. Beside meeting excellent writers at the top of their game and getting a chance to pitch your work, you will learn so much.

And let's face it, writers are a weird breed of human. Sometimes it's just nice to be around other people who understand how your brain works. In one session, the power went out for about 30 seconds. When it came back on, we all looked around. Was anyone murdered? Did anyone vanish? I'm guessing that's not how normal people would react, but we writers were already typing out the scene in our heads.

Entering contests can be as daunting as submission letters, especially at a good conference, but still do it as often as you can. Your chances of winning are slim, but you should get feedback from the judges that can help make your entry better in the future. I received some great notes on a couple of entries that are headed for life as a book, and one serious skewering that let me know that project should just be set aside for a while. So one entry got a C+ and another won 1st Place. That's life as a writer!

Now it's back to normal life and work, work, work. I head out in a few hours for a school visit at lovely Eureka Springs Elementary. I substituted there for several years while we lived in town, and it will be nice to see old friends and students I know. Then it's time to buckle down for the summer and get the hardcover edition of Why Kimba Saved The World done and out to libraries. Never a dull moment!

I don't do events during the summer, but I'll let you know if anything worthy of note happens. Enjoy the warm weather (finally!!) and read dozens of good books.

Miss Fatty Cat is totally ready for summer break and for her mama to COME HOME!
I pick Callista up from U of A this evening, so she will be one happy cat. 

Have a delightful summer!

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