I’m just back from the annual OWFI (Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.) conference. As always I ate too much, stayed up too late, and basked in the company of four hundred other people who understand the concept of creating characters on paper who somehow are braver, more handsome, kinder or even more vindictive that the real people in our lives. This is what we do, what makes the blood course through our veins, and sends ripples racing up and down our spines. Going to conferences is one of the best perks of being a writer.
I always enjoy the sessions, the rich learning environment, and the people. Now I don’t know whether it’s just me or if I’m on the lookout more than the average conference attendee, but invariably I’m overwhelmed by surprises that pop up—unexpected connections, meeting new people who become instant soul mates, or hearing a writing concept that instantly clicks and propels me into a new direction in my writing.
This year held all that and more. Tess Gerritsen gave the keynote address on Friday night. Lovely, wonderful lady who shared her writing dream, her road to success, and her wisdom for what makes a great story. After her book signing that evening, several of us had the chance to talk with her up close and personal as we waited for the elevator. Graciously, she answered our questions and seemed in no hurry to dash off to her room. .
The following morning at breakfast, Tess also “happened” to come and sit with three of four of us at breakfast. Having talked to her the night before, it was like greeting one of the girls—our new friend. We found out about her fascination with the lightning and the horrendous rain we had in the middle of the night, how she frets and worries about her own kids the way we all do, and that she likes cantaloupe for breakfast. Just a genuine, delightful time. One of the nicest surprises from the conference.
A few facts about Tess Gerritsen:
- She wanted to write from the age of 7, but was encouraged as others from her culture (Chinese) to pursue a scientific career. She became a doctor.
- She pursued her writing passion by penning her first romantic thriller while on maternity leave with her first child.
- After eight published novels in the romance genre, she had an idea for a totally different story—a medical thriller about the kidnapping and killing of innocent children whose organs were then harvested for the wealthy who skirted the conventional transplant channels. This book, Harvest, catapulted her to the NYT Bestseller List and with successive novels, has established her as one of the most beloved medical suspense novelists today.
- Her best advice for writers: Find an idea that punches you in the gut and won’t let you go until you write that book.
Wow! And amen to that.
In the next couple of weeks, I’ll share some other providential meetings I had at the conference and some of the gems I picked up in workshops. Anyone out there a fan of medical suspense? Trust me on this—Tess Gerritsen is a master storyteller.