More than once she told me that I really needed to go to the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. Even after we both attended Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference (which I love), she told me how wonderful the Oregon one was and how she was sure I’d like it.
As it happened, another couple friends, agent Sally Apokedak and author Jill Williamson also raved about what a good conference OCW is. Well, I finally got my chance to go, and they were all right. The carrot on the top, though, is that I attended as a presenter, not as a conferee.
From start to finish, the conference was wonderful. Several weeks before the event I received a handwritten note from the prayer team with a beautiful, detailed prayer for this newbie. I suspect there’s a standard template they use from year to year, but that doesn’t minimize the effort, thought, and prayer that went into that note.
I had a very disruptive email glitch right about the time that Things Were Due for the conference. Except, I didn’t know that these things were due, nor that the things I was sending hadn’t gotten through. In spite of this, the organizers of the conference, in particular director Lindy Jacobs, were kind, professional, and unruffled.
We worked around the problem while I discovered what was happening with my heretofore exceptionally reliable email provider which I’d long recommended for its attack on spam without disrupting legitimate communication. (Needless to say, my faith in my email provider has taken a hit).
The overall feeling I have of this conference is calm. Yes, there was an air of excitement among the writers as they registered that first day. You could tell they were anticipating the conference with joy and expectation, but there wasn’t a frantic rush to get the attention of the top agents (there were more agents in attendance than I’ve found at any time at Mount Hermon).
There was a variety of “Coaching Classes”—morning instruction by a single writing professional centered on a particular topic. Sally Apokedak taught “Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels That Sell,” for instance, while Karen Ball taught “Taming the Most Common Fiction Dragons” for beginning writers, Jane Kirkpatrick taught “Weaving Story Threads in Fiction” for intermediate writers, Nancy Ellen Dodd taught “The Language of Screenwriting” for screenwriters, and Randy Ingermanson taught “How to Be an Insanely Great Indie Author.” There were others, some fiction, some nonfiction, some on marketing. The point is, there really was something for everyone.
On top of these great Coaching Classes, the afternoon included a wide variety of workshops (including “Blogging And Blog Tours—The Whys And Wherefores” by yours truly). There were also a couple panels—an editors’ panel the first day, then an agents’ panel on day two.
The evenings included excellent talks by our keynote speaker, Pastor Ed Underwood (Church of the Open Door in LA), followed by Night Owls—a pitch session one night (led by Jill Williamson, teaching writers how to pitch their books to editors or agents), a critique clinic the next (led by me, giving writers the opportunity to have the first three pages of a manuscript critiqued by a small group), and an autograph party following the awards ceremony on the last night.
Meanwhile, writers could sign up to have 15 minute appointments with agents and editors to pitch their work or ask questions.
The thing that I think set OCW apart from others I’ve attended were Mentoring Appointments. These were half hour writer-to-writer meetings. I had the opportunity of serving as a mentor and realized after a few appointments how great this aspect of the conference is. The other writers weren’t pitching me something. They simply needed someone to listen, offer advice, and pray with them.
To be honest, they were similar to the parent-teacher conferences I participated in during my years as a middle grade teacher. Then I was answering questions about how a parent could help his child do better in school. In the mentoring appointments I was offering advice about how the writer could help his writing project in one way or another.
That’s a bit of an over-simplification, but the point is, people often need a neutral individual with some experience to give them guidance. These mentoring appointments offer that opportunity to conferees.
Would I recommend the Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference? Absolutely! Would I return as a presenter? In a heartbeat if I were asked. It was a wonderful experience and I met some great people, reconnected with others I’ve met throughout the years. For instance, Sally Stuart, founder of The Christian Writers Market Guide, was there, and I was able to thank her in person for endorsing my first writing book, Power Elements Of Story Structure.I was sitting with Jill Williamson during the awards when she won the 2015 Trailblazer Award. I attended Sally Apokedak’s Coaching Classes. I met Ben Wolf for the first time and was able to congratulate him for his engagement and for winning the book award in speculative fiction. I had a delightful dinner talking with Susan Maas, a long time member of the Oregon Christian Writers Association responsible for the conference. I met Sherrie Ashcraft and Christina Tarabochia who founded Ashberry Lane, the publisher whose author Angela Ruth Strong won the Young Adult/Middle Grade Book Award for The Snowball Fight Professional.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Great time hanging with writerly people. Such a wonderful conference.