Over the weekend I attended Fayetteville Public Library’s 6th Annual Ozark Writers Live Event. This event is a nice one because it highlights the talents of local authors while still helping teach budding artists the ins and outs of the craft and industry. In addition to the five speeches I attended, there was a local band who performed during lunch and a quilt display featuring the handiwork of local artisans.
The first workshop was a panel discussion entitled “Exploring the World of Children’s Publishing.” Rich Davis hosted the panel; he is a local illustrator and author. Also seated on the panel was Tammy Carter Bronson, an author/illustrator who pioneered self-publishing and advocates illustrating her own work and Dan Borengasser, a children’s book author. These creative talents spent time talking to us about their creative process and about the business side of the industry. Bronson actually began her own publishing company before self-publishing was a popular option for authors, and she discussed the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing. Borengasser discussed alternative writing opportunities for authors looking for ways to supplement their incomes. In addition to leading the panel, Davis explained his own history and encouraged us to find our own paths to becoming successful writers.
The second workshop was called “Brighten Your Leaf on the Family Tree.” Led by Marilyn Collins, local memoir writing specialist, this session began with a brief introduction to the importance of writing memoirs and what exactly memoir writing entails, and ended with an interactive, hands-on writer participation section in which we began to write our own memoirs using Collins’s techniques. We filled out index cards and timeline sheets and shared some of our own memories with the group. Everyone left with the beginnings of a book about their own life.
After lunch, the workshop returned with an interesting take on breaking into publishing. Best selling author Richard A. Knaak was there to talk about his road to fame. He was like all other authors: he had ideas that he wanted to write about. And like so many authors, no one was listening. He actually hand delivered writing samples—IN PERSON—to a publishing call. No, he isn’t advocating that. It was unheard of then, and it’s still unheard of. But the man told him if he didn’t hear from him to call in a couple of weeks. And he didn’t hear from him, so he bit the bullet and called. The man wondered if he’d have the gumption to call. Because he did, he ended up with a contract. But not for what he submitted. He was to write in the parameters of another world that was already created for him. He wrote The Legend of Huma for the Dragonlance Chronicles. He wrote novels for the games The World of Warcraft and Diablo. Because he was willing to work in worlds that other people created, his work got noticed. And because his work got noticed, he was able to write and sell his own work, too. If you think you can write within existing parameters, this is a path he is advocating.
The fourth workshop was the most crowded. It was called “Power in the Pen – Exploring Literary Influences during the West Memphis Three Case” and was headed by an author who literally wrote the book on the West Memphis Three: Mara Leveritt. Leveritt took us through the entire process of the West Memphis Three case, from the moment of the murder, through the likely coerced confession and the interest of the media in the case, past all the “evidence” that was entered in the trial leading to the conviction, all the way to the media’s influence in getting the men out of jail and the new, reliable evidence found. She hosted a lively question and answer session and ended with an impassioned plea for everyone to get involved in petitioning government officials to get media in the courtrooms and interrogation rooms.
The fifth and final session was hosted by Tracy Lenore Jackson. Called “Trial and Triumph – Addressing Sensitive Subjects in your Writing,” this workshop’s whole focus was a bittersweet testimony to Jackson’s life. Jackson has a novel coming out in October, but she told us she couldn’t write that novel until she got other things out of the way first. She ended up writing two memoirs before her novel took shape, all focusing on the domestic violence she witnessed her mother endure when she was a child and what she suffered through in her first marriage. She explains how it seems to be a cyclic thing, running in families, how it affected her brothers and how she was embroiled in it before she knew better. She’s now in a happy, healthy marriage and speaks at women’s shelters across the country. She read excerpts from her memoirs and her novel, encouraging us to deal with the issues we face in our lives, to get them on the page so we can express ourselves fully and move on with our lives.
The OWL Workshop, put on by the Fayetteville Public Library, was a successful event that I’m grateful to have attended. I met new people, I learned new perspectives, and I have new techniques to try. Most importantly, several authors had a chance to showcase their talents to people who might otherwise not have known about them. I can’t wait until next year’s event.