Writers from across the region converge on Norman

Writing is a lonely gig. Career writers are habitually isolated for hours while toiling on the computer, the only interaction being with the shadow lives unfurling in their imagination. Not all writers are complete shut-ins, however, as the Oklahoma Writers' Federation Inc. stages its annual conference at the Norman Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center.

The three-day event kicks off Thursday, bringing together hundreds of writers from writing groups across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas. Marcia Preston, president of OWFI and author of "The Wind Comes Sweeping," said the conference is a unique chance for otherwise secluded writers to get out among their peers, but also advance their career.

"The conference is educational, to help writers network and make contacts with agents and editors, to attend sessions that instruct on how to be a better writer and market their work," she said. "Speakers will talk about new trends " sessions on anything from children's stories, poetry, fiction " any aspect you can think of we, have a qualified speaker for."

Preston said that writers from all walks and stages of their careers will attend the conference. Attendees can sit down with an agent or an editor and pitch their work. The sessions are popular for authors looking to publish for the first time or move to a larger publishing house.

Successful writers already happily placed with a publisher and an agent will still come to the conference to get insight on the shifting trends in the market, she said.

"Writers have always said that publishers don't do enough to promote their work, but that's never been more true than now," Preston said. "What a writer has to do now is develop the platform " a network of readers they know, that know their name. That platform then becomes a major selling point when presenting a project to agents and editors."

Speakers and panel discussions will give writers tips on how to attract readers, which will then attract agents and larger publishing firms. Preston said the economy makes life rough on career writers, but the more industry-savvy a writer is, the better her chances of weathering the storm and then thriving once the economy turns around again.

To help inspire the troops, every conference has a keynote speaker who tells how they made it in the industry. This year's speaker is suspense author Tess Gerritsen ("The Keepsake," "The Bone Garden"), who has written novels in the crime, romance and medical genres, and sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.

The conference's ability to encourage and educate Oklahoma writers has helped bolster the community in the state, Preston said. The more successful writers come out of the region, the more seriously the industry will look into the state.

"Oklahoma is rich with authors, both novelists and nonfiction writers, and they do well," she said. "When we have editors down from New York and Los Angeles, they are always impressed by how many working writers we have in Oklahoma." "Charles Martin

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