Attending a Writers Conference Helps Me Grow as a Writer

The Ozarks Creative Writers Conference was wonderful! I learned a great deal from our accomplished speakers and publishers. The presentations were full of nuggets of knowledge and helpful tips that will make my characters come alive on my page. I left armed with tons of ideas to improve my stories, a clearer picture of the writing industry as a whole, and a new perspective on the publishing side of things.

The conference offered 32 contests for participants to enter. I love contests, so I entered several of them. After listening to my competition show off their talents at Open Mic Night, I didn’t anticipate placing in anything. Some of these writers have already published several books and enjoy the well deserved admiration of countless fans. I’ve published a dozen or so short pieces of prose and a smattering of poetry.

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I’m not even in the same ball park as those amazing writers. That’s why I was absolutely shocked when I placed in seven competitions. I won 1st Place in three competitions, 2nd Place in one competition, 3rd Place in one competition, and received two honorable mentions. I was elated! I had to take a sleeping pill that night because I was still dancing around my hotel room at midnight. Being recognized for my writing is the best feeling in the world.

These conferences force me to come out of my protective shell. I’m naturally shy, so I rally my strength every time I approach someone new. I would rather spend all weekend hidden away in my study with my computer than socialize with anyone. However, I spent three days introducing myself to other writers and bravely cornering those I believed had some wisdom to share. They were all gracious and visited with me for a few minutes.

One novelist, Dusty Richards, took the time to really talk to me at length. Dusty writes Westerns, and he’s published over 100 of them. I first met him last year when he came to speak to my writers’ group, the Joplin Writers’ Guild. He told us about using a clock face for plotting as opposed to using a traditional outline. The clock face technique is where you write your major plot points on a clock. The first 15 minutes on the clock is the first 50 or 75 pages of your book and so on.

I tend to be a seat of the pants writer. That means I generally sit down at my computer with a vague idea and start writing. My imagination takes over, and I’m often surprised by the outcome. I hate outlining. I feel constricted trying to write by an outline. Dusty’s clock face works very well for me. I’ve plotted my current novel in progress on the clock, and I wanted to thank him for introducing me to such a wonderful tool in person.

Dusty’s a very popular guy and was always surrounded by people vying for his attention. I noticed his wife and him returning from lunch at the same time as me one day. So, in true Ozarks Maven style, I chased him down in the parking lot to talk to him. I thanked him for sharing this wonderful tool with my group and explained how it had helped me. He shared the story of how he learned about the clock face and how he has been using it for over 20 years.

I figured the conversation would be short. He’s a busy man and very much in demand at conferences. That’s when Dusty surprised me. He asked me about the novel I’m writing. He listened as I told him that I thought it was almost finished until I let my critique group read the first two chapters. I explained how my group pointed out my beginning was slow and I needed to bring more action to the first page. He asked pointed questions and offered sage advice born of his many years of novel writing experience. We probably visited for a good 15 minutes before someone else approached him, and I thanked him one more time before taking my leave.

Everyone was friendly and generous with their knowledge. I learned much more in those three days in Arkansas than I anticipated. I’m going to make every effort to attend the OCW Conference next year. In addition to meeting other writers and learning more about the industry, I made some new friends, as well.

Friendships are precious, and knowledge is powerful. I found both at the Ozarks Creative Writers Conference. Happy writing, my friends!

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4 comments

  1. Conferences are a wonderful venue for learning new approaches. I am so happy for you Margarite! Isn’t such a wonderful feeling to give thanks to a person who has helped you more than they know? The clock approach sounds like a perfect fit for you. I am so glad he was able to provide critique for you during the weekend!

    • He didn’t critique my work. He hasn’t read it. However, he asked questions about my story arc and offered suggestions. He’s an interesting person with whom to visit. He’s the quintessential cowboy who loves to write. He gave me some great ideas to improve my story. I’m so glad I decided to go to the conference. Unfortunately, it was quite expensive between the cost of the conference and three days at the hotel. I must save my pennies if I plan to go next year.

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