Hope and Dreams in Eureka Springs

You have written a book. Or you want to write a book. Or you have a (in your humble opinion) fantastic idea for a book. What do you do now? If you were in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the second weekend of October, it’s likely you found yourself at the annual Ozark Creative Writers Conference (OCW). This year was the first time I have attended this event, and I freely admit it was not what I expected. That is not to say I was disappointed though.

Let me say, I was misled by my own prejudices. In my mind Eureka Springs is a sleepy little town in the Ozarks, stumbled upon by the occasional visitor. In reality, this is far from true. Thousands of tourists find their way there year, many of them repeat visitors, and the town has been a tourist destination for over 100 years. A part of my mind was convinced I would encounter a handful of locals who wanted to attend some workshops because they have been told by well-meaning friends and family members that they are creative geniuses.

The first thing I found out is that this event is a BIG DEAL. Many more attendees than I had envisioned, many of them coming from long distances after having planned this trip for months. I quickly discovered the “Ozark” in the title refers to the setting of the conference, not the home locality of the attendees. And while I’m sure most, if not all, of the people in attendance were “creative”, not all were writers, myself included.

Looking at the conference agenda, I saw many interesting programs and authors listed. Fortunately, I was able to meet a few of the authors. Dusty Richards was there with his wife and a table full of his western novels for sale. And I had the chance to meet Johnny D. Boggs, also an author of western novels, and purchased three of his books, which he kindly signed for me. Oghma’s own Darrel Sparkman signed a copy of his novel Hallowed Ground for me as well. I love signed books (can you tell?) and have a designated area of my bookshelves for them.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any of the programs, since my boss had me chained (literally? figuratively?) to my chair in the area known as Publisher’s Row. In all fairness to Casey, since I was there as a representative of Oghma Creative Media, that is where I was supposed to be. I’m sure the speakers offered many hints and tips to the attendees, although there were no actual “workshops” that I am aware of at this event.

What is Publisher’s Row, you ask? At OCW, Publisher’s Row is an area set aside where authors (both previously published and aspiring) can meet with publishers and pitch their ideas in a comfortable setting. Publishers display a selection of books on the tables, and authors can browse the tables and see examples of books from each publisher to get an idea of who might be interested in what they have to sell. Authors can see what genres each company publishes, how the books look and feel, the attractiveness of the cover art, the overall quality of the finished products. After all, if you’re writing regency romances, you don’t want to try to sell your ideas to a company that only publishes westerns. Each publisher has sign-up sheets so writers can pick a day and time during the conference to give their pitch, and publishers can let writers know exactly what they are interested in accepting, as well as providing submission guidelines.

As one of the representatives for Oghma, I was lucky enough to hear many of the ideas pitched to our company, and to meet some wonderful people in the process. Some had finished manuscripts; some had ideas and were looking for guidance. Some had published elsewhere, some had self-published their books. They were younger, older, married, or single. Genres included children’s books, romance, mysteries, non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and westerns.

What was the one thing everyone had in common? Hopes and dreams. They came hoping someone would listen to their ideas, hoping a stranger would say their idea/book/writing was wonderful. Hoping they would find someone to believe in them. They came dreaming of holding a book in their hand, seeing their name on the cover, presenting their stories to the world.  And with any luck, I’ll be actively helping some of those dreams come true.