Unlike Tony Bennett’s famous song, I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco. I met new friends and found renewed hope while attending the 2018 San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC). The event offers many benefits. Let me focus on the top eight advantages.
This year the conference celebrated its 15th anniversary, which occasioned the passing of the baton from Mike Larsen, long-time SFWC director to the new director, Laurie McLean, a founding partner of Fuse Literary.
Every year, up to 500 writers, editors, presenters, volunteers, literary agents, and other guests attend the event. This year, the conference was held from Feb. 15-18 in the historic Mark Hopkins Hotel. The hotel named after one of San Francisco’s richest men in the 19th century sits atop Nob Hill, offering a great view of the downtown area.
“The conference’s most enduring value for you may be the relationships you make here,” said McLean, who first attended the conference 12 years ago as an aspiring romance novelist. “Who knew I would become a literary agent and conference director?”
If you’re looking for a writers’ conference to attend, I highly recommend the SFWC for the following reasons:
1) Top-notch Speakers and Presenters: “To be a writer is to be constantly alert to human existence. This is our sacred task. This is the value we sustain even if society doesn’t value it,” said Dana Gioia, California’s poet laureate, during his keynote speech. His powerful reading of poems left me and the rest of the audience stunned in the best way possible. Other panelists included best-selling authors Anne Perry and Sheldon Siegal and acclaimed literary novelist Shanthi Sekaran. Experienced editors and literary agents conducted lively panel sessions.
2) Speed Dating with Literary Agents: Some people scoff at pitch slams and speed dating. They say, “What can you achieve in three minutes with an agent?” Plenty! For most unagented writers without publishing connections, events like this level the playing field a bit. A successful pitch will help move your submission to the top of the pile of hundreds of queries agents receive. At the SFWC, you have the option to pitch agents for an additional fee. You will get about an hour to pitch your book to as many literary agents as you can get to. Every pitch is limited to three minutes.
3) Networking Galore: The SFWC offers four days of networking opportunities with editors, publishers, agents, and fellow writers. I met a lot of interesting and like-minded people from all over the country and even overseas.
4) Two Free Consultations: As part of the conference fee, you will get two opportunities to consult with the presenters. The consultations didn’t include literary agents, so they were not meant for pitching. As for me, I sought the publishing insights of freelance editors and a publisher of a small press.
5) Open Breakout Sessions: You don’t have to decide beforehand which sessions to attend. It alleviated part of the stress of attending an event-packed conference.
6) Welcoming Community: I’ve attended six other writers’ conferences and workshops over the years. This is one of the biggest I’ve attended, and yet, it’s a close-knit and welcoming writing community. Many of the volunteers and presenters have been working together for years. The Tri-Valley Writers organized a “practice your pitch” session for free. There were many people at the conference who wanted to help in every way.
7) Master Classes and Add-on Features: For those who could afford it, there were add-on features such as master classes held after the main conference and 15-minute consultations with literary agents.
8) I ♥ San Francisco: The city by the bay is beautiful. It has great weather and offers lots of cultural and sightseeing activities. You can make a mini vacation out of the trip. Many attendees (including me) rendezvoused with their spouses or friends at some point during the conference, held from Thursday to Sunday. My husband joined me on Saturday for a weekend exploration of the city.
I have never attended the same writers’ conference twice because there are so many choices out there, but if I were to return to one, it’s likely to be the SFWC!
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(All photos by Cindy Fazzi, February 2018.)