s.f. writers conference

I spent the day at the San Francisco Writers Conference, at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental, high upon the crest of Nob Hill. The conference was worthwhile, and I got quite a lot out of it. Mostly by being in proximity to other people who are succeeding at getting words down on paper (or rather, computer) but who have generally not yet reached agents or publishers with real success.

So it’s rather validating.

The sessions this time are a bit short–about 45 minutes, which isn’t quite enough time to get more than a brief taste. Most of the presenters spend a bit too long on telling us about themselves, so there’s not much time to get into their content. Nevertheless, it’s been informative. The first session I went to was completely ad-libbed and ad hoc, but was one of the best because of the honest and straightforward way that the presenters, two middle-grade and young-adult book agents/editors, answered the audience questions.

Most if not all of what I learned I already knew–but conferences like these are like A.A. meetings: the repetition and reinforcement is as important as the content. And I met some great people. I’d like to think of it as ‘networking’ but that requires followup. Remind me to get cards printed with my web address on them and something about my writing. Giving out my Adobe business cards doesn’t help much.

I’m headed back for days Two and Three, including the Sunday morning “speed dating with agents”–in which I’ll have about 90 seconds to tell an agent what makes Califar worth reading. I’m going to concentrate on Califar since it’s finished, even though my head is stuck totally in my new book (let’s call it “HT”). I practiced on the drive home, talking to myself in increasingly rapid and animated sentences. We’ll see how it goes: maybe I’ll end up sounding like I’ve been breathing helium. Wish me luck.

Update: it went well! In addition to terrific sessions and some great speakers, I was able to speak to about 7 different editors and show them the first pages of both Califar and H.T. By making quick changes based on feedback, I was able to use the scientific method and test the results with rapid iteration. I’m much happier with those initial first pages now, particularly the first page of HT.

And pitching to agents was fun as well. I was able to see three in my allotted hour: people lined up for various agents, 3 minutes per pitch followed by a bell, and believe me there was no Pavlovian response. All three agents responded well to the pitch and agreed to read a portion of Califar. I’ll be sending the first few chapters along to them shortly, together with a synopsis. Hopefully I’ll get useful feedback from them. Either way I’ve gotten a lot from the conference, and look forward to going again.



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