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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Writing another chapter in career

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Authors listen to comments Friday from Ken "Fog" Gilbert.
SIKESTON - From its humble beginnings in 1990, the Heartland Writers Conference, which was held this weekend in Sikeston, has transformed itself into one of the largest writing workshops in the nation.

It began as a one-day conference featuring eight writers, one editor and one agent.

This year's conference consisted of 18 different speakers and 75 attendees from across the country. Amateur writers made the journey from as far as Texas, Montana, Michigan and Nebraska to attend the event.

Although many would never consider traveling such distances solely to attend a writer's conference, writers and agents agreed conferences like this are crucial to the success of an amateur writer.

"The conference allows writers to network with agents and professionals," said Robert Vaughan, a former Sikeston resident who founded the conference. "But it is more motivation than anything else. It keep the wheels spinning. It is like a halftime talk. The writers already know how to write. It is our job to pep them up and show them what they could do better."

Vaughan, author of over 300 books, has taught and attended conferences for many years and seen a lot talent, too.

"In one class I taught, John Grisham was in attendance," said Vaughan. "No matter how good you are, the conferences are always helpful."

To give writers useful advice, the speakers at this year's Heartland Writers Conference brought in their own expertise in specific areas.

Vaughan taught two separate classes. One focusing on more effective ways to fit factual material into stories and another discussing plot development. Authors were not the only featured speakers.

Danita Allen Wood, editor and owner of MissouriLife Magazine, lectured on the proper way to deal with editors.

"Most amateurs don't know much about a magazine's lead times or if they should send in samples. That is the area I will focus on this year," said Wood. "It helps the writers grow and we hope they will contribute their pieces to our magazine later."

To ensure that today's writers keep up with modern-day demands, the conference has also added a Web site designer.

Ruby Jung, who developed a Web site promoting her husband's nature almanac, spoke of the importance and the basics of setting up Web sites to promote works.

"It is a very effective method of publicity," said Jung. "Any good writer of today is expected to have a Web site. It is almost essential in this day and age."

Whether it be setting up a Web site or traveling to a different country, Vaughan said in order to be successful and gain new inspiration, an author must constantly put forth the effort to grow as a writer.

"If you are a writer, you need to try to build up as many experiences as you can. It is one of the most important things you can do," Vaughan said.

That is just what Judy Joyce Poe of Fayette is trying to do. This was the first conference she has attended although she has written poetry for 30 years and has already published a novel.

"The conference jump starts you into the place you should be. I was able to pitch my second manuscript to an agent and I have entered the Great Beginnings Writing Competition and hope to gain recognition through that," said Poe. "The conference has already helped me tremendously and I plan to continue to attend conferences like this one."

The conference was sponsored by the Heartland Writers Guild. Further information on the conference or the guild can be found at www.heartlandwriters.org.