I’m excited about today’s guest post. Christina Berry Tarabochia was one of the first writers I met when I began my publishing journey. She’s a joy! Not only do I think Christina is amazing, but so is the OCW Summer Conference. Read on…
May the 4th, be with you …
A long time ago at a conference far, far away—
Wait, it was actually not so long ago and very near to me, but Oregon Christian Writers summer conferences have truly been an epic adventure in my life.
At what other conference have all the editors and agents—even female ones—sprouted mustaches overnight? It happened at OCW! (Must have been something in the water.)
Where else has an editor honestly been in danger from an alligator attack? It happened at OCW when Andy McGuire, then with Moody Publishers, came out a side door of the lodge and unknowingly stepped into a wildlife show for foster children on campus as part of an outreach. A mere yard from a chained up alligator, he thought the kids were pranking him as they yelled their warnings until he turned around and came face to face with a scary reptile.
Where else could I have sat down at a breakfast table with Francine Rivers and been prayed over and ministered to regarding my then-husband’s unfaithfulness? God’s presence at OCW is amazing!
Where else could Angela Hunt come to keynote and actually change her planned speech after seeing the spirit of unity and encouragement that pervades the entire conference?
I could tell story after story about the fun I’ve had at OCW—a banana instrument prank, a crazy dress-up night, the year we all melted in the heat, the celebrity stalkings—but that’s not really what captures the heart of OCW, and I’d be doing a disservice to the wonderful organization not to go deeper.
My first year, back in 2004, my mother and I arrived with high expectations and lower-than-we-thought-we-had skills. The OCW community welcomed us right in. Within two years, we were both on the summer conference staff, committed to making sure every conferee and editor and agent has the best experience possible. Without OCW’s bringing in the best of the best, I would not have learned the skills to write and contract an award-winning novel.
Here are a few of the highlights and examples of what sets OCW apart from other conferences:
~small town, forested settings. In our new setting of Aldersgate in Turner, Oregon, there are rich-smelling pines, meandering trails, possible deer sightings, and even a water slide!
~coaching classes. These continuing education classes are usually capped at 12 people. Each morning, you’ll spend a few hours interacting with one of the best writing professionals in the word. I’ve had the privilege of studying under Eva Marie Everson, Bonnie Leon, Lisa Samson, Bette Nordberg, Chip MacGregor, Karen Ball (twice!), Wendy Lawton, and Alice Crider.
~a focus on fiction AND non-fiction. You can learn about poetry, screen-writing, devotionals, magazine articles, memoirs, marketing, social media, and more, as well as novel writing.
~the afternoons are spent in a few workshops—with way too many good ones to pick from, so all the sessions are recorded and available for purchase on CDs—followed by agent or editor panels or the autograph party. (I’ll be teaching All I Really Needed to Know about Writing I Learned Editing this year!)
~giveaways. After each keynote, the winner of the drawing gets either a gift certificate to the book store or a HUGE basket of how-to books or FREE TUITION for next year’s conference.
~quality. The first time I went to a large national conference, I realized I had met nearly every one of the editors and agents at OCW. Truthfully, the editors and agents were a lot more likely to remember me from the smaller conference compared to the national conference.
~tables. Since OCW is more intimate, you can develop true relationship with other writers, editors, and agents. It’s much easier to find the table of one you’d like to talk to during lunch or dinner in a smaller venue! I would count many top editors, several agents, and a few best-selling authors as true friends because of the time we’ve spent connecting at OCW.
~food. Served buffet-style, which allows for repeat visits, the food is amazing. Many conferees, myself included, went crazy over the stuffed meatloaf last year and the chef was kind enough to share the recipe in the next OCW newsletter.
~manuscript critique. Some conferences don’t let you send manuscripts ahead. Some conferences make you pay to send manuscripts ahead. Some conferences only let you send to pro-writers. OCW offers the amazing chance to submit a mini proposal to THREE editors and agents of your choice and you are guaranteed some kind of feedback. Plus, this year, one can also submit magazine articles!
~prayer team. Every single person who sets a foot on campus has been covered by prayer first by our prayer team. They are always on hand to encourage and comfort.
There are so many other amazing things, like the fantastic bookstore, the staff, the volunteers who shuttle people from the airport, and the music, but I think the best thing someone reading this blog can do is come experience it for him or herself.
Christina Berry writes about the heart and soul of life with a twist of intrigue. She holds a bachelor’s in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem as well. Captain of a winning Family Feud team, Christina is also a purple belt in tae kwondo and would love to own a de-scented skunk.
Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, was a 2010 Christy Finalist and Carol Award winner. Released from Moody, it deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. Christina is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Redeemed Writers critique group, and has served on Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference staff for the past six years. A newlywed who found her prince on eHarmony, she runs a thriving editing business and manages a household of five children and one cat.
A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently–Forgive Extravagantly!
Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, The Christian Communicator, and Daily Devotions for Writers.
And still to come…
May 11 – Karen Barnett – Mount Hermon
May 18 – Jodie Bailey – Blue Ridge
Do I need an agent?
At this point in my career, I ask this question often. After all, I don’t have any novels published. But what I do have is publishing credits, three completed manuscripts, significant contest credits and the will to take this passion from intense hobby to career.
Without an agent, the next steps become more difficult.
Writing is, for the most part, a solitary adventure. Besides those brainstorming sessions with my critique group and conferences, I feel I’m pretty much on my own out here. Don’t we all really want someone on our side? Someone who feels what we do is worthy of the time, agony and frustrations of the process? I’m not sure an agent can really provide that, but it sure would be great to know someone felt my work was good enough to invest their time.
There are thousands of literary agents out there. Narrowing them down to about twenty wasn’t too hard. But will any of them want me, and will we be a good fit?
Here’s what I’m looking for:
- Someone who believes in me and my work.
- Someone with strong connections within CBA publishing world.
- Someone who cares about people, not just money.
- Someone who brings their faith to the table.
- Someone who will push me to be my best.
I’d love to end this post with a short list of what my dream agent needs from me, but that’s a question I can’t answer. So I’ll bring what I have and hope it’s enough.
Here’s what I have:
- A willingness to work hard.
- A mind that’s open to suggestions and willing to make changes.
- A mountain of past work and enough ideas to fill a file cabinet.
- A dedication to improvement.
- Patience, though that’s a work in progress.
What do you think? When does a writer need an agent? What do you need from a literary agent?