Memo to OWR leaders
...what we're up to
I sent a letter to the 38 speakers scheduled to be presenters during the 2023 Okoboji Writers’ Retreat. Many of you are new subscribers, so you might not know the various hats I wear. OWR has become a huge undertaking, and my dear husband, Richard, is incredibly supportive. It started as an idea during Covid when the vaccine became available and has grown to a sell-out annual event. We aren’t sold out yet, so join us if you can.
To: Okoboji Writers’ Retreat Speakers
I am developing the agenda for the THIRD ANNUAL OKOBOJI WRITERS' RETREAT, or OWR III—no easy task. I am attaching the draft of what I have so far, but please know it is super rough, just a start, and I welcome your input. Most of you are not listed yet, but I want to get this to you now so you can tweak your workshop titles, etc.
As you will notice, we have over 35 speakers. No workshop producer in their right mind would have so many, but I'm doing so because I want it to be fun and supportive for everyone, especially you. Your workload during the retreat will be less than last year and the previous year. If you have handouts you’d like to have stuffed in participant bags, bring them. If you have books to sell, contact Alice Meyer of Beaverdale Books. She is copied here on this email.
We have about 20 spots remaining for full-pay participants. Thanks to paid subscribers of my Potluck column, I can include emerging journalists and some who need financial assistance to attend. Those of you who were with us for the first OWR and the second can attest to the richness of experience for all by including the scholarship recipients last year.
It is heartwarming to hear from past participants and speakers about the experience of attending this event. For many, it was transformational. We all benefit greatly from 'bathing in the woods' around Okoboji with a bunch of super-talented folks.
If I can fill those remaining 20 spots with paid participants, I will come close to breaking even. Any help you can lend in this regard is appreciated. Tweets, Facebook posts, etc., are welcome! This next 10 days are critical for getting the word out to those who might have an interest.
I will be sending a survey to participants so we can gauge interest in the various topics. This will help us all to figure out how to plan.
Heads up: The workshop sessions will be trimmed to 80 minutes from 90. This will allow more time for lunch and getting to sessions.
I want to welcome our newcomers this year!
Maura Casey - From Muckrack: Maura Casey has been an editor, writer, and public speaker for 30 years and has written editorials for four newspapers, including as a member of the editorial board of the New York Times. She has won 40 national and regional journalism awards, including a shared Pulitzer Prize, Scripps Howard's Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and the 2013 Society for Professional Journalists National Editorial Writing Award. Maura conducts workshops on writing and works on projects for various foundations and corporate clients through her business, CaseyInk, LLC. She is a member of the Hartford Courant's editorial board and contributes editorials on a part-time basis.
Courtney Crowder - The Register's award-winning Iowa columnist and storyteller.
Kim Norvell - in addition to her outstanding work as a reporter and editor, Kim honchos the popular Des Moines Register Storytellers events. Courtney and Kim were part of a team that produced a film called Shift: The RAGBRAI documentary. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/in-depth/life/living-well/ragbrai/2023/03/31/ragbrai-documentary-shift-movie-history-route-across-iowa-bike-ride/69933490007/
Grant Faulkner is a former Iowan and Grinnell College grad who is NaNoWriMo's executive director and the fiction author himself. If you need to get more familiar with NaNoWriMo, check it out. It's a fascinating and growing movement.
Chris Jones - Rather than succumb to pressure to kill the popular blog he wrote as a part of his job monitoring water quality in Iowa, the chemical engineer quit and has become a folk hero among conservationists. His book, The Swine Republic: Struggles with the Truth about Agriculture and Water Quality, is due this month. https://icecubepress.com/2023/04/10/the-swine-republic-2/. Also, Chris recently launched a column on Substack, and it promises to be a hit:
Rachel Jones - Rachel Jones is the Director of Journalism Initiatives for the National Press Foundation. Jones has worked as a journalist and media consultant for the past 30+ years in the US and Africa for companies including the Detroit Free Press, National Public Radio, Internews, the International Center for Journalists, Kenya's Nation Media Group, and Voice of America. From 2007 to 2016, Jones also trained and mentored East African journalists to produce news and analysis content on peace and reconciliation, child and reproductive health, health care policy, climate change, and sustainability.
Polly Letofsky started her own company consulting with authors after a not-so-great experience with the publishing industry. https://www.mywordpublishing.com/our-team/polly-letofsky/ She's also a motivational speaker and someone I cannot wait to meet. We will all learn a great deal from Polly.
Kathie Obradovich, editor in chief of Iowa Capital Dispatch, a nonprofit dedicated to coverage of state government. She was a Register columnist and editor from 2003 to 2019 and took the brave plunge to leave legacy media for a digital platform. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/kathie-obradovich/2019/10/24/kathie-obradovich-bids-farewell-register-thanks-her-loyal-readers/4084019002/
Mary Sharp proves that editors never fully retire; they go part-time. She's worked for the Hawk Eye, the Ottumwa Courier, The News-Gazette in Urbana-Champaign, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette since 1994. Mary teaches a workshop I suspect will be quite popular. How to Write a Sterling Obituary - and Why.
Carol Spaulding-Kruse - Carol comes to us from a strong recommendation by Jan Kaiser, events coordinator for Beaverdale Books: Carol is the catalyst behind the creation of the Drake Community Press, which has published several wonderful books. Her brainchild was to publish books collaboratively with students, other professors, community members, and local nonprofits. Their most recent effort was a beautiful book in partnership with Above+Beyond Cancer. Carol's workshops will be a hit with those attending to work on memoir projects.
There will be a speaker reception at the Oakwood Inn on Sunday evening, September 17. This is a chance for all of us to meet and get acquainted. Then, we can head to the Lakeside Labs and join the gathering participants around a campfire. Hot dogs might be involved. Monday night, an optional dinner event will be held at the Lakes Art Center. We also plan to show the RAGBRAI doc and have Courtney and Kim do a Q&A following. Tuesday night, again optional, is a barge ride around the lake. Weather permitting, of course. It's a blast. OWR III will end by noon on Wednesday. If you have something you would be willing to read to help wrap things up, please plan to do so.
REQUEST!!! Although I hope OWR III is a sell-out, as OWR I and II were, this is the prime month for folks to decide. It's more expensive this year ($795) because of the additional costs, but a partial scholarship ($200) is available for working journalists. It is still reasonable compared to other events especially considering the caliber of our extensive faculty.
Please help me fill the remaining seats. If you have a mailing list, send a blast to your followers. Mention the workshops you plan to lead, and that this event is open to all skill levels.
Details: Okoboji Writers' Retreat, September 17-20, 2023
www.okobojiwritersretreat.com Cost $795 until September 1, then $895.
I am 72 and will be 73 by September. Retirement was boring. OWR isn't a career; it's a cause.
Small anecdote: one of our speakers the first year told how her life changed when columnist Kyle Munson wrote about her pie-baking business when she lived in THE American Gothic house in Iowa. Because Kyle told her story, the trajectory of her life soared. These simple, sweet pieces change lives. In addition to hard-hitting journalism, features are meaningful. As legacy media shrinks, so does the opportunity for those stories to reach an audience. Same with commentary. We, and our very democracy, are the poorer for it.
As a presenter during the Okoboji Writers' Retreat, you can empower and help participants tell their stories. That's why you were selected to join us.
Welcome to the mission,
Panel ideas are welcome. Here’s what I’m thinking as examples:
Nonfiction, digging deep
Master Class on local reporting and storytelling
Writing with respect for cultural differences
Here are a few stories that were generated from past retreats. If you are newcomer, you can get a sense of what we’re up to:
Rekha Basu: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/rekha-basu/2021/09/25/okoboji-writers-retreat-delivers-julie-gammack-vision-journalism/5826549001/
Chuck Offenburger: https://offenburger.com/index.php/in-photos-and-a-few-words-heres-story-of-the-second-annual-okoboji-writers-retreat-which-drew-more-than-200-this-week-to-the-iowa-great-lakes/
Phoebe Wall Howard: https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2022/10/01/iowa-okoboji-classic-cars-museum-toby-shine/69529995007/ Phoebe’s story for the Detroit Free Press appeared in numerous Gannett papers
Seth Boyes: https://www.dickinsoncountynews.com/news/okoboji-writers-retreat-returning-second-chapter
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