Guest Post: Thoughts on the San Francisco Writers Conference

Attendees at a writer’s conference get access to the information they need, but it is up to them to use it to full advantage.

Forging the Circle of Access

By Kimberly A. Edwards
President of the California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch

On a recent morning in my Sacramento living room, I received word that Writer’s Digest had accepted my article following a successful pitch. I was elated, for writing for a top magazine read by fellow writers was my personal goal for the year. Thanks to the San Francisco Writers Conference for helping to make the goal possible.

Much has been written about conferences – ways to make the most of them. If I were to roll benefits into a word that describes the San Francisco Writers Conference, it would be “access,” access to content and experts.

I’ve been attending writer’s conferences for more than 30 years. Many provide very good sessions. Some are more focused on a writer’s workshop or “process.”  Some are large and unwieldy. Some present experts selling their books. The San Francisco Writers Conference is just the right size, offers no pressure to buy, and delivers a plethora of events and professionals from all over the country.

But access is only one side of the coin. We writers or attendees have a responsibility to know what to do with that access – how to maneuver our way through. I call this forging the trail. Below I have listed my observations on the role of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the role of attendees:

ACCESS – Role of the San Francisco Writers Conference

A – Availability – Writers, publishers, agents, editors, and marketers come to meet attendees – to influence their development and also as potential new clients. Many of these experts travel from the East Coast, as well as from other parts of the U.S.

C – Content – Attendees hear the latest on genres, marketing, and publishing trends. Between sessions, attendees process new learning through informal conversation. Sessions cover a wide range, yet the venue is small enough to encourage camaraderie with others.

C – Certainty – Information is delivered directly from experts, not in a book, nor edited by a third party. In other words, content flows from expert to attendee, typically with a facilitator who moderates. There is no pressure to buy books. Session times stay true to the advertised hour, the result of which is a predictable schedule – allowing time to schedule appointments.

E – Every – Every workshop and timeslot brings an opportunity to learn new things, regardless of genre. Last year, after hearing agents and editors role play a book property negotiation, I picked up new insights that gave me more confidence as a writer and as a leader in my writing community.

S – Singular – The learning absorbed is unique to each attendee, depending on one’s path. Activities abound for all levels, and the takeaway varies with the individual.

S – Synergy – Sessions, activities, and interaction with others combine into something greater than the sum of the part by burrowing into the writer’s brain, leaving enduring influences that unfold over months to come.

As mentioned, after “access,” there’s the role of the attendee. A conference can offer everything, yet not have maximum impact if the writer doesn’t do his or her part. The role of the writer is to forge the trail through the access circle.

FORGE: Role of Attendee at the San Francisco Writers Conference

F – Figure out the appropriate level for entry into the content. When an attendee is new to writing, he or she has different needs than an attendee with many published credits or one crossing genres from short story to non-fiction book. What is needed to advance to the next step? Be realistic. Often attendees revise their goals after the conference, as they learn where they “fit” in the writing world.

O – Open communication lines with experts between sessions, and be aware of the time to exit – don’t waste busy experts’ time. Make interactions just long enough, and then realize that you must say good-bye to let them speak with others.

R – Read up on presenters both before attending their sessions and after the conference before following up – who worked on what book property, advice on their website, etc. If you meet an agent and you’re not following up with a manuscript, send him/her a short thank you for a great session or a helpful chat.

G – Give the new contact something – a thank you for an informative workshop or a particularly helpful portion of a presentation or handout is always appreciated. Presenters like to know what made sense and what might be refined for next time.

E – Every new piece of information helps with progress. Take notes, review them, divide them into categories such as genre information, books to read, people to follow up with. I use different color highlighters. I go through my notes every day for two weeks after the San Francisco Writers Conference, and after that less often for a “refresh.” Learning theory suggests that this approach aids in the incorporation of new learning.

 Finally, we all know that being a writer is not easy. We do it because we have to and we love it. So, in accepting these declarations, we must give ourselves permission to attend conferences and squeeze every benefit out of every minute. This is what I do at the San Francisco Writers Conference. Whether or not I come away with new writing assignments, I always bring home have new content and contacts. See you in San Francisco.

You can contact Kimberly at
She is President of the California Writers Club Sacramento.