Do you ever wonder what it is like to attend the San Francisco Writers Conference?
We found some great stories and experiences people have shared over the years.
My Time at SFWC 2019
by Mary Pascual
On Valentine’s weekend I attended the 2019 San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC). I’ve gone to this conference three or four times now and I always come away inspired… but I have to say this last trip I just really enjoyed myself! I met great people, I liked the sessions, and it felt extremely personally productive. (Pretty funny considering I didn’t write a lick while I was there.) I had a consultation with Agent Laurie McLean that was especially helpful. (Thank you!)
I know there are writing conferences out there that are focused on the craft of writing, with writing workshops or mentorships, and I’d like to try one of those sometime. However, what I like about SFWC is that it includes business and industry view sessions, such as how to get started online, marketing ideas, or discussing trends in a particular genre. Maybe it’s just the marketer in me but I love those sessions. I’m all about learning the industry in order to succeed. In particular, I feel like I learn what I’m doing right as a writer and that’s very validating. Second, I learn what I may be doing wrong in a way that let’s me course correct in actionable ways. And third, I come away with tips, data, and inspiration. Yay! (I wish I was this type A in high school; I would have gotten better grades.)
And big win… I met a lot of other cool writers, several of whom were interested in writing groups or swapping critiques! I also approached presenters several times during the conference, either for professional advice or just to chat, and everyone was open and nice. Writing conferences can feel overwhelming, if not downright terrifying, so I think that friendly attitude goes a long way. Especially for those writers who may be more introverted. (I mean, I was a mess of nerves the first time I went and I’m not a shy person at all!)
For writers out there thinking about attending a conference, especially one with a business bent, I recommend checking out SFWC.
San Francisco Writer’s Conference 2019
by Linda Ulleseit
Over President’s Day weekend I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference. I love conferences, especially those for writers. I enlarged my circle of writer friends with authors and editors, and I pitched Aloha Spirit to agents. I attended sessions on perfecting a pitch, marketing books, and creating a brand for an author name.
My favorite panel talked about creating a million-copy bestseller and featured author Kerry Lonsdale, her agent Gordon Warnock from Fuse Literary, and Danielle Marshall from Lake Union Publishing. The three of them worked together to make Kerry’s books successful. The possibility of finding such a team for myself is inspiring. Link to Article.
I’ve been AWOL from my blog, playing hooky at the San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC). I’d been before, way back when obtaining an agent and a publisher were the primary options for being an author— the gold standard. This time, I packed my bags and headed off to the conference with that objective in mind, but I was also open to self-publishing, which is what I did with The Bush Devil Ate Sam. I bought a book by Andy Ross on how to write a book proposal and went to work. I like Andy, he fights hard for the people he represents. I also like him because he managed Cody Books in Berkeley for several years.
Read full article here.
by Cathy Turney
“Ingenuity, plus courage, plus work, equals miracles.”
—Bob Richards, Olympic pole vaulter and decathlete
Magic happens when you try to do the thing you didn’t think you could do. At any age.
It certainly did for a technophobic baby boomer who began writing in her “mature” adult years and ended up publishing three books and speaking at the San Francisco Writers Conference—about Twitter (Twitter!). Yes, that would be me. Read Full Article.
I’m a regular attendee at the San Francisco Writers Conference and have written previous “tips” posts. For your convenience, I decided to simply gather the best of them here!
Philosophical nuggets from the San Francisco Writers Conference
- Write a great book. Above everything you do, this determines your success.
- Prioritize your next book above all else. Every hour you spend marketing is an hour you’re not writing. The best marketing you can do is to write another book. (Bella Andre)
- Don’t worry about doing it all perfectly first time. Iterate and improve.
- Don’t get overwhelmed. Do only what you can do, and well.
- Get out of your own way. These days, nobody but you is blocking your path to publication.
- It never hurts to ask!
- For best results, you have to write, publish and market at the same time. You must push all three of these down the road, all the time. (Guy Kawasaki)
- Tipping points take time! You might plug away for several years before you gain traction.
- The most successful authors have crazy-busy lives and spend a ton of time on the road. You might not actually want that level of success… it’s OK to aspire to more modest sales.
By Peter Dudley, Volunteer for over a decade.
Ten years I’ve trudged up the half mile and (roughly) 73,000 vertical feet of Powell Street from BART to the Mark Hopkins hotel. I’ve introduced speakers, crawled under tables to plug in cords, set up a Whova app, got down with OPP (other people’s powerpoints), reprimanded best-selling authors for droning on too long, and made lots and lots of friends.
San Francisco Writers Conference: What to Expect
by Melissa Bowers
For two weekends in a row, I have not slept in my own bed. This is unusual for a homebody like me — who has handpicked my perfect pillow-top mattress and appreciates when all my stuff is in one ultra-organized location — but for the first half of February, I’ve been a traveling fool. We took our first-ever trip to Disneyland. And for the past four days, I was an attendee at the 2016 San Francisco Writers Conference.
I’d been wanting to go to a writing conference for years, but my teaching schedule got in the way, and then I got pregnant — twice — and then, and then, and then.
AND THEN, we moved to California, and even though I have a six-month-old, I told myself, No excuses. It’s serendipity. So I signed up. My mom flew in from Michigan to stay with P, and B came along with me. Before I went, I tried to do as much research as I could about what to expect; but to my surprise, there were very few thorough accounts of conferences past. I found a couple “What to Bring” lists, and one or two ultra-short blog posts from years ago, but nothing with the kind of specificity I wanted.
So, for any future attendees (and anyone else who might be curious about this kind of thing), I’m happy to share my experience. Read full article.
What Do You Mean “Cut Half the Book?”
By Nolan Nekirk
Ever been surrounded by a mixture of people wearing clothes worth more than your life and people whose lives depend on the temperature of the sidewalk at night as they sleep?
Welcome to San Francisco’s Financial District.
How about ever tried to sleep in a room full of sugar-high german teens singing to a guitar throughout the night?
That there is the Adelaide Hostel, tucked away in a back alley in the middle of San Francisco’s Financial District.
Or been inside a hotel so fancy, they have two restaurants that serve high-end caviar, more chandeliers than you can count and plants so gorgeous, you would swear they were fake?
The Mark Hopkins, one steep walk up Mason Street from the back alley of the Adelaide, at the top of a hill in San Francisco’s Financial District.
This was the location for the 14th annual San Francisco Writer’s Conference, a conference I had very little means to attend before being lucky enough to win a ticket through a contest that I signed up for in my bed, sick out of my mind.
After a bumpy arrival, some awkward introductions and a welcoming barrage of dad-level puns from the keynote speaker for the conference, the classes began.
Q&A’s filled the first few days of the schedule for the conference, and suddenly, my world of isolation sitting in front of a computer screen for two years was put into a radically different perspective. Writing is a business, and one that requires attention to details in social media marketing, story crafting, hooks and cliffhangers, Gender components in writing, audience identification “and more!”
It was the way the panelists and presenters cared about the attendees that created a safe and comfortable atmosphere, one that would foster a space for exponential growth for some, and perhaps a good cushion for those of us who needed to tear our stories to pieces and rebuild and maybe find a dark corner in the bottom floor to curl up and question everything we’ve been doing for years.
The keynote speakers gave some rather inspirational talks, and what I found most enjoyable and beneficial were the peripheral discussions about writers involved with the political climates, or in Gender equality, or issues based on diversity. The talks that made me think, that forced me to push against the limits of my carefree-writing life, are the ones that will stick with me for years to come.
On a more social note, I suggest to anyone going to a conference to do the following: Shake hands, look people in the eyes, and whenever possible, laugh. Have business cards ready to exchange, have a pitch in the wings to practice whenever asked about your book, and be ready to answer the same sets of usual questions like “Where are you from?” and “What do you write?”
But more importantly, connect. Read full article here.
The SFWC was amazing this year for many reasons. Most of them lead back to the exciting news that I got a publishing deal earlier this month, in a two-book deal with Kensington Publishing.
One aspect of the conference that felt like a miracle was that my fabulous editor who acquired the book, Mercedes Fernandez of the Dafina imprint, was there at the conference. I was able to meet her, hang out with her, and get to know her a little bit. I probably got to spend more time with her than I would have if I had visited her in the middle of her extremely busy editor’s life in New York. So it truly felt miraculous because, since becoming a mom in 2009, I have spent zero time in New York City. I haven’t even gotten a chance to meet my agent, Jenni Ferrari-Adler, who’s been representing me for a year. So, as I’m kicking off my debut novel project, and will be working so closely with Mercedes, it’s such a blessing to have gotten to connect with her in person.
Ispent the last four days at the San Francisco Writers Conference meeting other writers, literary agents, editors, publishers, and motivational coaches. They all share the same passion I do. Storytelling!
Jose Antonio Vargas and a Fascinating Illegal Alien Story
Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and founder/CEO of Define American, the nation’s leading nonprofit media & culture organization that fights injustice and anti-immigrant hate through the power of storytelling. He is also the author of Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.
Jose told his story of coming to the United States when 12 years old, and many of the issues he’s faced. While still not a US Citizen, the Mt. View, California school district has started construction on a new elementary school in Mt. View, California. They’ve decided to name the school, Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School.
Jose started his talk by saying, “When I came to this country all I asked for was a green card, now they’re naming an elementary school after me—go figure.”
I learned a lot from Jose’s talk and took away a couple of quotes that can apply to all walks of life. He reminded everyone, “You don’t know everything, and you never will. Keep learning more.”
When he spoke of the many obstacles he faces each day as an illegal alien, he attributed his success to the motto, “Open windows when doors are closed.”
Just got back from The San Francisco Writer’s Conference, a 4-day immersion into all things publishing. For me, a first time author with a prize-winning debut novel, the conference was nevertheless a really dense, comprehensive sharing of knowledge and lived experience of publishing and writing today. Workshops and sessions were as much as one person could soak up. There wasn’t one in which I didn’t learn something new. There were also ample opportunities to meet other writers and other professionals related to publishing – editors, marketing gurus, even Mark Coker! Someone took a pic of me n’ Mr. Smashwords, but I don’t know who it was!
The pitch practice sessions were excellent and so needed, and a real service to writers. The exhibit hall allowed us all to meet and greet professionals who have created valuable apps and programs for writers and provided a place to gather and chat. (It was noticeably absent of predatory publishing houses, another relief). When I looked back on each day’s offerings, I was super impressed at the depth of knowledge and experience; the thoughtful and thorough planning to cover almost every aspect of writing and publishing. There was an enormous amount of advice on Self Publishing and a couple of sessions on the changing landscape of publishing in general, but I missed those!
by Sylvia Allen
I’m going to the San Francisco Writers Conference! It’s February 12-17. I’m going to this particular conference because the novel that I’m trying to publish is very definitely set in San Francisco.
I went in 2016 and had a wonderful time but did not use the contacts I made in any kind of useful way. I’m going, this time, to do it right.
Before the 2016 conference, I attended a class whose purpose was to prepare us to meet agents at a writers conference. We were told that we would have a very short time to pitch our book, maybe two to five minutes. The agent would then say, “No, thanks,” or ask to see a few pages, or ask to see chapters. Our job then would be to send the agent what they asked for when we got home from the conference.
The instructor said that many, possibly even most, of conference attendees who are asked to send pages to the agents do not in fact ever send them. They rationalize this in various ways: The agent did not really want to see the material. Their book wasn’t good enough. The agent would just throw it away.
Our instructor shook her head at the odd behavior of people. You went to the conference and met agents for the express purpose of having them see your writing and consider representing you. And didn’t the agent actually specifically ask to see pages? Why on earth wouldn’t you send them those pages the instant you got home? I too was puzzled. I knew that, if an agent asked to see my work, I would send it the instant I got home.
At that conference in 2016, several agents asked me to send sample chapters from my book. Some of them asked me questions about the book and recommended that I make some changes. I thought they were excellent suggestions and would make it a better book. It is so embarrassing to admit this, but I went home from the conference, and…didn’t send anything. I decided to do a rewrite first, based on what the agents had said. But then I got busy and didn’t get around to the rewrite. I finally did it last year—it did make a better book!—and sent the requested material to those agents with an explanation. I did not hear back from anyone, to nobody’s surprise. This time I’m going to do it right. No matter what else they say, if the agents ask to see chapters, I’ll send chapters. I swear. If you’re going, see you there.
From February 15th to the 18th, I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference at the International Mark Hopkins Hotel atop Nob Hill in San Francisco. In many ways, I was fully prepared for those four days. I had my 45-second “elevator pitch” sketched out and memorized, I knew what genre I was writing in, and I was pretty well up to speed on the different publishing options available to me (self-publishing, traditional publishing, and “hybrid” publishing, which is a mix of the two).
In some ways, however, I was woefully unprepared. When the morning of Sunday the 18th rolled around, it was time for the main event. “Speed dating with agents,” it was called. All of us aspiring writers had been anxiously waiting for this day, and practicing and preparing for it the previous three days. This would be our chance to sit down with as many real, live literary agents as we could in the span of an hour. We had just three minutes with each agent, so we had to make our pitches short, snappy, and sexy.
By Melanie E. Rijkers
The San Francisco Writers Conference is one of the most relaxed and inspiring writers gatherings I’ve ever seen. Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2018, the conference will go down the hill and move to the Hyatt Regency from 2019.
I think this is an excellent follow up location of the majestic Mark Hopkins on top of Nob Hill. Having lead writers Eyespiration photo walks before, the new location will make Yoga for the Eyes possible, a daily mindfulness photo walk at 6:15 am (sunrise).
From 2019 the fab Laurie McLean will be director of SFWC, leaving all of us thanking the grand Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada for doing an excellent job, on getting the SFWC started and as well on improving each superb edition.
From hardly any room for self pub and e-books, at today’s conference all you need to know on how to publish your book (and sell them by the truckload on Amazon – Penny Sansivieri) is available. It took the SFWC only a few years to embrace many new ways of publishing.
@SFWC I want to thank the incredible leaders of this conference for outstanding speakers, workshops, and technical support sessions with consultations. This conference was recommended to me by another author and I was incredibly impressed.
Did you write a story or blog post about your experience at the San Francisco Writers Conference?
We would love to read it and possibly share it with others. Contact Linda Lee.