OKLAHOMA CITY — The Will Rogers Writers’ Workshop began with an evening reception Thursday, March 15, 2007, at the Gaylord headquarters, aka Oklahoma Publishing Co., aka The Oklahoman newspaper. The firm is far bigger than that, reminiscent of Donrey Media but older and broader, with TV stations besides newspapers of course, but also hotels. Old man Gaylord must’ve won at Monopoly. Or he was behind the Cowpoke Monopoly version.
It’s north of town, a tall, glass-walled office building hooked to a long low brown building, likely where the paper’s put together. Our party was in the former, in a large meeting room. We numbered at least 50, sat at large round tables, and filled perhaps half the space. Next to it was a small auditorium; the rest of the tower seemed to comprise offices. Peaking in, the Human Resources office looked like the lobby of a small new bank.
We did not get a newsroom-press tour. My Beloved and I left at the beginning of the second restored Will Rogers video after I questioned one of the catering staff. He said that since he saw no one in a red jacket and it was getting late, no tour was planned. The Gaylord complex is so organized it has uniformed tour guides. Imagine how the Copy Desk must feel when a redcoat is seen, leading Japanese tourists with cameras.
The purpose of these Bricks is to capture practical and personal highlights of our four days. It’s not intended as thorough reportage. That would be impossible: More than half of the workshops were scheduled as breakouts, where six or seven were held simultaneously, two 90-minute sessions on Friday and two on Saturday. Most but not all break-outs were repeated. All I can summarize are the four I chose.
Then again, of what use is it, for example, to summarize the speech of writing coach Paula LaRocque? One or more of her books likely is to be found at most libraries, plus her top tips would be online. So, if something jumps out, I’ll mention it.
Details of the workshop for now are still on its Web site. What follows are not high points but highlights of high points, backed by direct reporting. It’s accurate but incomplete — I did not try to be everywhere at once — and deliberately subjective.
The Will Rogers is not a “first annual” but an episode of a one-every-few-years production of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, held in addition to its annual June conference, where similar themes are covered but there with an emphasis on working for newspapers. It was co-sponsored by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop of Ohio’s University of Dayton. That group meets (similarly) on a spring weekend in even-numbered years. Friends who’ve attended love it.
These Bricks will be posted according to the dates of the events they cover. Yeah, the entries were posted nearly two weeks later. I got busy, and I wanted them cleaner. What’s more ethical, an honest database or honest calendar?
Speaking of immediacy, we did escape from the bountiful reception. We were hungry for a full vegetarian meal. We had huevos at Chelino’s Tex-Mex in Bricktown, downtown’s once-cruddy outskirts renovated into an entertainment district, dressy bars and locally owned restaurants but mixed with common chains (an IHOP) and even a Bass Pro Shop.
Ok City — how my Fort Smith parents called it, pronounced “oak” — is handsome, with a downtown that’s long-established but not massive. It has a human scale with few terribly tall buildings, and it’s clean. Lots of parks and lots of public sculpture, like Kansas City. The newer buildings are striking. The older ones are well-kept, a big deal if you enjoy Art Deco, and we do. Ok City accepts the cowboy tradition it rightfully owns, like Fort Worth, and has moved past it. Bricktown just seems tacked on. -30-