My critique group attended a lot of writing conferences over the years. There were mediocre ones, good ones (which stopped unfortunately), and every possible point along the spectrum. We became masters at what to look for, how to evaluate in advance whether a conference would be right for us. In spite of that we still got it wrong on occasion. The one time we got it right, completely, was when we decided to attend Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc.’s conference the first time.
It was the first conference where complete strangers spoke to us and made a point of making us feel welcome. Most writers are introverts or at least reluctant in large crowds so being relieved of the burden of putting ourselves out there that first time made that first conference more relaxing. We had gone in full-bore and entered the writing contests and we all came away with wins of some kind and all of us in multiple categories. The funny thing was even without the contest the conference and that weekend felt like a win. We knew that we were going to make OWFI’s conference a yearly thing.
Selecting a conference requires a lot of research. How much does it cost? How far is it? Is it a genre or a general writing conference? Which do you need at this point in your career? Who are the speakers? What agents/editors will be there? The goal for writers, because we do not make a lot of money, is we want to get as much bang for the buck as possible. Weigh everything before making that decision.
We wanted a conference we could drive to and OWFI was in driving distance. (It didn’t hurt that it was held in the city where my boys live and I could see my oldest for his birthday) We traveled together so we shared expenses and hotel costs which are also discounted as conference attendees. OWFI had a history of national keynote speakers and that was more difficult to find in the Midwest.
Our sessions that first year were top-notch and the hotel was fabulous and friendly. The experience left us with little doubt that OWFI was our new home away from home the first weekend of May each year. There are a lot of conferences out there and always check out everything they have to offer. The big conferences may be our dream, but they aren’t always on our budget. Sometimes, looking closer to home brings us a new writing family.
OWFI is May 1-3, 2014 at the Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City. Eloisa James is the keynote and there are lots of dynamite speakers joining her. Definitely check it out. I am confident you won’t regret it. We didn’t. If you can’t make it this year, I KNOW you’ll want to come see next year’s! Just trust me. 😉