I apologize for missing last week; I was in the middle of temporarily moving after a water damage issue with my now-old apartment. Long story. But here I am, back again, as usual. So, we’re approaching the San Francisco Writers Conference, held annually in February at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. This year it will be Feb 12-15. The conference, if you haven’t been before, is a great way to meet other aspiring (or already established and climbing) writers, meet agents, connect with editors (like me) and other industry professionals, and hear great talks about the publishing industry, listen in on panels of agents, publishers and editors, and attend fantastically helpful classes about the craft of writing, the industry, and landing a literary agent, which is perhaps the toughest thing in the world to do in 2014.
This will be my 4th year in a row at the SFWC. It is held by Michael Larsen and his wife Elizabeth Pomada, both very experienced and established literary agents in San Francisco (both from New York City originally). The biggest conference in the area, the event reins in roughly 300 attendees for up to 3 days of dizzying fun and informative chaos. By the end, your knees will be weak, your mouth will feel broken from talking so much, you’ll have drained your energy completely, and you’ll have walked away likely having handed over your book and/or sample chapters to at least one literary agent, if not several. In short, you’ll be emotionally, mentally, and probably spiritually spent after 3 days of hardcore connecting, talking, laughing, and taking vigilant notes (which I recommend you do).
Bring a pen, thick notepad, recorder, some extra food and water, and a good attitude. Because you’re here to play ball, meaning here to get things done, kick literary ass, and make some new friends. IF you’re paying $700 for 3 days, it better be good, right? Well, it is. Do yourself a favor if you haven’t done this already: Go out there and create professional writer cards. Make sure the cards include your name, email address, and the genre/word count/title of your book or book-in-progress. Maybe make the card look nice and professional. Hand those puppies out to as many people as you can. Get ‘er done, basically. That’s the name of the game. If you’re pitching to agents at the Pitch Session, practice your pitch for hours, ask your husband or wife to listen and critique. Bring copies of your whole ms (I handed a whole ms over at the SFWC 2013), sample chapters, and copies of your query. Come prepared. Read the whole SFWC website thoroughly for upcoming info and changes. Pay attention.
If you’re a newer writer trying to get connected, and you’re convinced you are on the path towards success, you are really fooling yourself if you don’t attend this conference. I’m not getting paid to say any of this, and I have to shell out the $700 just like everyone else. But for me, it does add up financially, because I’m a book editor. So for me, I can shell out the money a little easier because I know I’ll be picking up new clients at the conference; that’s how it works for me. For the rest of you, I would view it as a literary investment. Think of it as investing in your writing career. Many of us are too busy for extreme social media—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc—regarding our writing, and so we mostly rely on a website, blog, work shop groups, our friends, and, if you’re smart, conferences.
I try to go to at least 2-3 conferences a year at this point. As a book editor, it’s kind of essential. This past summer I went to a conference in New York City, and a conference in Surrey, Canada. Both were excellent, but in my opinion the Surrey Conference blew the former out of the water: It had better speakers, straight-up. But the point of all this pushing and banter is: go! There is also a contest you can enter into at the SFWC; they announce the winners while we’re all gathered in Peacock Court.
John Lescroart (The Keeper), Michelle Richmond (Golden State), and Judith Curr (President/founder, Atria Books), among others, will be the SFWC 2015 keynote speakers. Come on down and check out the camaraderie, fun, entertainment, and focused information that spouts like champagne at a wedding in the Mark Hopkins Hotel Feb 12-15. There is an after-party jazz celebration one night, and attendees frequently meet up after the daily classes and walk to dinner around Nob Hill, enjoying the city lights and San Francisco. Many people come out from around the country to enjoy this event. Not to mention that often people like Anne Perry, Robert DuGoni, and other big-name authors, can sometimes be seen at these events, showing up to bring more positive writerly energy to the festivities.
And if you do go, make sure to walk up and say hello. I’m hard to miss. I usually wear some kind of nice, button-up shirt, jeans, carry a SFWC bag over my shoulder (that’s a little joke; we’ll all have those bags), and I have tattoos running down my arms. I am 32 years old and you’ll realize it’s me when you see me. So come say hi! And please, come join those of us who are journeying toward the golden land, the place where books get published and deals are made; the place where editors are hired and writers flourish; the place where writers live. It can be such a solitary and lonely profession, as many of you know. This is, truly, a great way to step into the light and see for yourself what transpires when you get hundreds of separate, lonely writers together that make some noise.
It’s pretty cool. Hope to see you there. Till next week, writers.
(By the way, if you’re interested in my editing services I am now booked tight until at least mid February. If you have interest, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org)