What a Difference a Year Makes


The 2013 Ozarks Romance Authors Conference was on Saturday. I was having a horrible hair day. I thought I’d lead with that, because in every other way, my day was so fantastic, I feel obnoxious even talking about it. Not that that’s going to stop me.

My day started bright and early as I set up my portable photo studio for author headshots. I made a new friend who helped carry my equipment and set up—thanks, Quillen! Every single person was on time and an absolute pleasure to work with. I photographed twenty-three people and only had to miss one program to do it. Woohoo!

Next on the agenda: my pitch session with Foreword Literary Agent Laurie McLean. If you read my last blog post, you know how my first pitch went at ORAcon 2012. Well, this year I was ready with a carefully honed and rehearsed spiel—and I didn’t need a word of it. Laurie was one of the final judges in the ORA Weta Nichols Writing Competition, and my novel, The Amulet of Isis, was a finalist in the YA category. That meant she’d already read the first twelve pages and knew she wanted to see more. She was so easy to talk to, the pitch was actually fun. Honestly, I don’t know how it could have gone better.

After that, I had about an hour before my next round of photo sessions, so I squeezed in Shawntelle Madison and Jeannie Lin’s packed program on world building. My head was spinning, but I tried to focus on the great information being presented. All of the programs were fantastic. Our conference chair, Cecily White, did an incredible job once again rounding up amazing speakers for us. I have lots of notes to go through!


And then lunch. Yum. Seriously. My mouth is watering just thinking about that pecan pie.

For me, one of the highlights of the afternoon was the Query Letter Gong Show, where agents and editors read query letters looking for problems that would make them stop reading. It’s nerve-wracking and sometimes painful, but getting that kind of feedback can be invaluable, so of course I submitted my letter. It was the first one up. My voice shook as I read my text, but I made it to the end with no gong. Then Laurie said, “It wasn’t fair to start with this one, because it’s perfect!”


After that, my day really didn’t need to get any better. But it did. As I mentioned, my novel was a finalist in the annual writing competition. I was convinced the best I could hope for was second place, but I was wrong. First place. I teared up.


I could write pages about all the high points of the weekend—the things I learned, the great conversations with other writers, the huge turnout for the conference . . . . But I’m out of energy. And superlative adjectives.

Yes, my head is a little swollen after a day like that. But no worries, my friends, I have painfully blunt critique partners who will help shrink it back to size.


41 thoughts on “What a Difference a Year Makes

  1. Lisa Wells

    I am not surprised your day went so well. I know you’re book is going to be fought over and sold at auction. I can’t wait to see who YOU choose to represent you. AND I can’t wait to hold a copy of your book in my hands.

    1. S. D. Keeling Post author

      The head’s growing again. I can feel it. It feels soooo good. Ah, well, I’m going to enjoy it while I can. Soon I’ll enter the rejection-infested waters of queries and submissions. 🙂

  2. Tim Ritter

    Great post! I know what you mean about your head spinning. It was my first conference and I was learning so much, it was hard to keep up. Glad you had such a great time, looking forward to seeing you soon!

  3. Shaorn Kizziah-Holmes

    What a great post with great pics. Okay, about your hair…being the barber/hair dresser I am… I didn’t see a thing wrong with your hair either, so you were the only one worried. Thank you for supporting everyone so freely. You’re an inspiration.

  4. Beth Carter

    Big congrats and well done, Sharon. You are a tremendous writer and we all knew it was just a matter of time. I’m so glad your pitch went well (make that fantastic!) and Laurie requested a full ms. I agree with Lisa. I bet they’ll be fighting over you. Keep enjoying the moment. Ride it all week and beyond. You deserve it

  5. Sara Kay Jordan

    I’m going to say congratulations and good luck on the manuscript request. But, really, I know you don’t need much luck because that story is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! She’s going to love it. She’s going to want it! Thanks for taking time from your busy, successful day to give everyone else a professional photo shoot. You rock!

      1. Chris Cannon

        There’s always that moment where you check to see that other people heard what you heard. Like, they did just say I won, right?

  6. KimberlyPen-L

    Congrats to an amazingly multi-talented woman. Now sit down and rest for a while. You’re making the rest of us look bad. See you at Ozarks Writers League at Branson in November.

  7. Barbara Bettis

    Sharon, I agree it was a fantastic day. Your hair was just faking you out, giving you your “Oh, No” moment early, to get it out of the way for all the wonderful surprises you got. I’m so happy you got that request from Laurie, but then you know I love your book. This time next year…well, you’re going to be well on your way to the bookshelves. 🙂


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