The “Other” Things I Learned

Every year I attend OWFI, I learn something new. This year was no different. In each workshop I attended, I learned something. However, I don’t think I can re-cap those workshop tidbits any better than Theresa Hupp did in her blog post titled, “30 Gold Nuggets from a Writing Conference.”

So, this year, I thought I’d make a list of a few “other” things I learned — things that weren’t necessarily taught in the workshops:

Grace under pressure: OWFI President Past OWFI President, Christine Jarmola, began the conference by announcing the word for the conference was “flexible.” She exemplified “show, don’t tell” and “actions speak louder than words,” with her easy-going, take-it-as-it-comes-and-laugh-about-it style and it trickled down. This was a challenging year for Christine and her board and she handled it with grace and humor–at least in public. 🙂

photo 4That’s what friends are for: I presented three workshops during this conference, and Linda Apple, the Queen of Public Speaking and my very dear friend, was there by my side to encourage, introduce, pass out goodies, critique — whatever I needed help with. All this without my asking. Okay, I did ask for the critique and as usual, she gave me lots of helpful advice. Also, though this was Steve’s first major writing conference, he was there for every workshop, making copies as needed, “googling” for information on request, and general moral support. His help with a variety of things–critique, lugging heavy stuff around, running out to buy needed supplies–was invaluable.

NOTE: If you attended one of my workshops and didn’t get a handout, please use the contact form below, and I’ll be happy to send one to you. Just let me know which workshop you attended!

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It’s fun to have fun. I think one of the best things about this year’s conference was the costume party, where attendees were invited to dress as their favorite characters or authors. We had great participation and some wonderful costumes. I can’t tell you the last time I went to a costume party, and though it might have been a little vain to call Sachiko Kimura of The Red Kimono my favorite character, that’s who I dressed as. And though I’m 50 years older than Sachi was in The Red Kimono, I had the fun of a child that night.

To teach is to learn twice: I gave two workshops on methods I’ve used to develop characters, as well as one on the importance of historical fiction. My goal in presenting these workshops is not only to help attendees develop characters, but also to overcome writer’s block. I have to admit, as I presented my exercises, I thought, “Hmmm…I need to try this again.” This morning, I woke at 6:00 and worked on my sequel for an hour before I left for work. In trying to motivate others, I motivated myself. 🙂

Who needs a trophy? At the awards banquet, I think I saw the slide come up that announced The Red Kimono was the winner of the Best Fiction Book award before I heard Tony LoPresti announce it. The whole thing seemed dream-like, mostly because I’d tried to put it out of my head what contests I’d entered, although, how could I forget that I entered The Red Kimono in THAT contest? Still, when Steve asked me what I’d entered, I told him I’d entered a few contests, but I couldn’t remember which ones. Admittedly, this was so I wouldn’t be embarrassed if I didn’t win anything. 🙂

Jan with trophy (2)

Photo courtesy Jen Nipps

A minor snafu with the trophies meant Tony didn’t have one to present to me. But you know what? It didn’t matter. Heather Davis graciously lent me her Best Non-Fiction Book trophy for pictures. But best of all, as we scrambled around, figuring out what to do about no trophy, many people stopped me to congratulate me, and told me they loved my book. Each one of those praises was like a little trophy, and with each comment, I thought, “You don’t even know me, and you read my book? And you liked it?” I mean, I know my family and friends read The Red Kimono, and of course, they’re going to tell me they liked it. But to have people I don’t know come up to me to pay a compliment  about my book is priceless. And though Tony assures me I’ll get my trophy, I can be sustained by the kind words I heard that night.

Grace under pressure, Part Deux: Almost anyone who has to fulfill a big responsibility in public feels a lot of pressure to get it done right. Tony LoPresti and Jim Martin were in charge of the contests this year. To say there were over 900 entries that had to be distributed to dozens of category chairs and judges via either snail mail or electronic mail is only part of the responsibility. Don’t forget about all the names they have to pronounce in front of a crowd of hundreds. So, when the big night arrived with a few minor problems, it could have been a catastrophe. Me? I think my voice would have started quivering, my knees shaking behind the podium. But Tony? He was a pro, and kept the audience entertained with his quick wit. I told him he’s a natural and should become a comedian. Thanks, Tony, for a fun night.

That’s what friends are for, Part Deux: The writers of OWFI are a family. We make mistakes. We fall down. We get up. It never ceases to amaze me how, though we all want to win, we support each other and cheer each other on. Every year, we welcome new people into our family and rejoice in seeing old friends again. It’s always sad when OWFI weekend is over–well, maybe Christine wasn’t too sad. 🙂

I already look forward to seeing you next year!

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LInda Apple, Rhonda Pender of The Wild Rose Press and me!

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7 Responses to The “Other” Things I Learned

  1. Jan Morrill says:

    Reblogged this on THE RED KIMONO and commented:

    The Red Kimono won the Best Fiction Book Award at this year’s Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference!


  2. Congratulations Jan. The book and the author well deserved this award. See you next time you’re in town.


  3. Andi Hansen says:

    I’m so proud of you, Mom! The Red Kimono definitely deserves every ounce of praise, and so do you! xoxo


  4. Linda Apple says:

    You are a natural Jan! I loved your sessions. I learn something new each time I hear your presentations on character development and breaking out of writer’s block. Your new presentation on Historical Fiction session was so interesting. I recommend all of your to anyone who needs a speaker!


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