Monday, May 9, 2011

Debriefing - 2011 OWFI Writing Conference

       Plans began immediately after the 2010 OWFI Writing Conference, plans for this year's conference. As chair of BasketWars, the silent auction that raises funds for scholarships and to help provide speakers, I asked affiliates (writing groups associated with OWFI) and individuals to donate baskets (or other types of containers) with "goodies" such as books, items writers could/would enjoy, candy, and other creative ideas for the auction.

       Eleven were promised before the date of of this year's conference; although individuals and groups brought a total of 20. More about that in a bit.

       In December of 2010, I was asked to do a workshop and to take pitches from writers who wanted to see if 4RV would welcome a submission. Over the next months, I prepared my presentation and handouts for the session. I didn't know until the week of the conference that I would also participate in a panel, where the audience would have questions and the editor/publishers on the panel would answer them. Of course anyone who knows me realizes I have no problems talking -- about almost any subject.

       Two 4RV Publishing authors (Wayne Harris-Wyrick and Horton Deakins) registered for the conference, too, and wanted their books to be in the book room, the onsite book store. As the publisher, I consigned copies of their books and three of mine to the bookstore that runs the book room. Before Wednesday the week of the conference I had every packed and ready to go.

       Thursday May 5, Jacque Graham and I drove the 20 some miles to the Airport Embassy Suites hotel and checked in. As soon as we unloaded everything in our room, we took the baskets we brought to the hotel atrium and began to arrange them and other baskets waiting and arriving on the four tables furnished. Before breakfast Friday morning, we had 20 donated containers covering every spot available. One large basket had a lovely quilt. A suitcase was filled with a mug and tea bags, books and a broach. Several small purses contained books and other items. They arranged in size from huge to quite small. The silent auction began. I can't believe I never took any pictures of the tables covered with colorful "baskets."

       I did manage to take a few photos of the dinner given the speakers and their shepherds that evening. Since Jacque was my shepherd, we both ate very well.

       OWFI President Dan Case introduced the speakers after the meal.

       Friday for me began at 2:30 AM when a migraine tried to dig its way through my skull. Finally I crawled out of bed at 3:30 to try to find relief. By six the pain had eased enough I could face breakfast. A side note: that hotel has the best breakfast around. We had about an hour after breakfast before we could take the books to the book room and before the opening meeting, so I collapsed on my bed and zonked out for about an hour.

        After my nap, Jacque and I loaded the four plastic boxes of books and lugged them around the hotel (the book room was down some steps, and a walker does not do steps gracefully or well) to an outside door on the level of the book room. After checking the books in with the manager and the owner, we went our different ways -- Jacque to listen to the opening meeting and me to our room to visit with an author who said she had some questions. I hoped to be able to rest after our "short" visit before the panel. I barely had time to change from very casual to more professional dress and get myself to the panel discussion. No rest for the weary or wicked or whatever I am.

       The panel discussion went well, from what others told me afterwards. I thought the time flew by and that the questions were quite good ones. I had to sit in a chair below the other two publishers because I couldn't climb the steps to the platform.

        On the platform were Dan Case of publishing and Rhonda Penders of The Wild Rose Press. I, of course, represented 4RV Publishing.

         Several people visited and asked more questions after we dismissed and one woman asked to take me to lunch. Thank you again, Janet, for inviting me. We, plus several others including Sally Jadlow, Carolyn Leonard, Jacque, and Patrick O'Campo, enjoyed visiting and eating.

         After lunch, the pitch sessions began. Apparently people really wanted to visit with me about their manuscripts because I didn't get a break all afternoon, and, although we were scheduled to be finished before 5:00, I was able to leave at 5:10. I enjoyed meeting and visiting with so many writers. Some, well, most were nervous and had never pitched a project before. I tried to make they comfortable enough that they lost some of their fear. Some of the manuscripts sound very interesting. According to my notes, 25 writers pitched to me that afternoon.

         Author Steve Berry was the keynote speaker at the Friday Famous Authors Banquet. For some reason, my camera wouldn't take shots very far away, and the pictures I took made Steve and Bill Burnhardt, who introduced his friend, appear as demons or something. Needless to say, I deleted those shots. However, I did get a couple good ones of the people close to me, such as Jen Nipps and Sally Jadlow.

             Later that evening, several people held "buzz" sessions, where authors and speakers held discussion groups in their suites or in other locations in the hotel. I went to bed.

             Saturday morning began with another delicious breakfast and then another round of taking pitches. I needed to help finalize the silent auction, so I only took pitches until nearly 11:00 AM, but I had 16 writers speak with me.

             Jacque and I picked up the bidding sheets for each "basket" at exactly 11:00, the posted deadline. We took the sheets to our room in order to have quiet while we figured who had the highest bids and to add up the total bids. Then we returned to the atrium to wait for people to come pay for their purchase or purchases. We had a deadline for people to pay. If they hadn't paid by 12:15, the basket could be bought by anyone for the amount bid. In years past, maybe one or two were left. This year we had 10 baskets not claimed by the deadline. We waited a few more minutes. Jacque went to the hotel restaurant and announced we were going to sell the remaining baskets, if anyone had bid, they needed to check and claim quickly. To make a long story short, we did sell all 10, but we were running short of time. I had to be in my session by 1:30. I'm delighted to say BasketWars brought in $930 for scholarships and to help bring us speakers for next year.

             Those who know me know I would rather be early than just on time or late. My session Submission Etiquette 101 was to begin at 1:30. I rushed into the room at most five minutes before I would start speaking. Whew. No pictures were taken of the session. Jacque and I were so rushed and flustered we neither one thought of my camera in my walker basket, and none of the "photographers" for the conference found their way to the workshop. Ohhh, my shining moment not caught on film, uh, in pixels. *laugh*

             From my session I went the room to rest a few minutes before the board and then general meetings. Our new slate of officers were elected: Linda Apple took office in December as president and has already begun work on next year's conference. The full slate of officers can be found on the OWFI website,

             The autograph party (a huge book signing with over 40 authors) began after the meetings. I had reserved space, and although few books were sold, I enjoyed visiting with people.

             After the "party," Jacque and I rushed to dress for the Saturday banquet, the BIG night. Winners of the competition's 33 categories would be announced.

              I did get some pictures of some of the people sitting at our table and a few others at the Saturday Awards Banquet. First, Linda Apple behind Dusty Richards and his wife. Then Mary and Mike Hinkle and Mary's sister Sarah. The next photo shows Horton Deakins and his wife, Claudia. After that is Horton and Bill VanOsdol.


     The photo to the right shows me with author Lenora Worth, Mary and Mike Hinkle

           Then, the highlight of my evening, Nita Bershears announced the 2nd place in the un-rhymed poetry category: "The Job" by Vivian Zabel. Jacque took the picture of Dusty Richards presenting me with the certificate and award check.

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