Many of you found Synchronized Chaos Magazine along the journey towards publication of your book or articles. We kicked off this virtual publication intending to create a virtual writers’ conference, a place where people can network and mentor each other concerning the craft of writing and the ins and outs of publication. Where people can put in good words for each other and locate other writers to endorse and talk up their work.
So far, that’s happened here and there in spurts and trickles – which excites us, since flesh and blood, bricks and mortar conferences, classes, degree programs, etc are out of reach for many talented authors due to cost, time and distance. We at Synchronized Chaos seek to make that experience possible for all interested writers, to strengthen and promote the future of these art forms.
However, if you can attend one offline writers’ conference this coming year, as your Creative Facilitator, I strongly encourage you to choose the San Francisco Writers’ Conference, once again hosted over President’s Day Weekend (February 12-14) in the historic Mark Hopkins Hotel.
Last year, when I attended, the variety of personalities and workshop offerings most impressed me. One can choose among intellectual discussions of world cultural history, high-minded talks about the nature and future of writing, workshops on aspects of craft (character development, pacing, sentence craft, etc), specific marketing and proposal-writing/editor and publisher-finding advice from businesspeople in the writing field.
There’s something for everyone, fiction and nonfiction writers, book and article authors, beginners and more experienced people, the old and the young, the well-connected and those just learning their way around. And there are the presenters who offer information which many other folks don’t realize writers need…for example, last year I heard a woman speak on nonverbal communication in networking – how to project confidence and friendliness through body language and better connect with others. Other speakers shared wisdom on interviewing from their years of journalistic experience covering the Chinese Cultural Revolution, tracking down serendipitously discovered Indonesian painters, and explaining the rest of the world to the United States. Interview skills can prove useful to novelists seeking authentic material, as well as journalists…and the seminar attracted a diverse crowd.
This phrase has become cliche for writers’ conferences – but for the San Francisco Writers’ Conference, the best and most professionally important moments likely will be the connections you make with others. Not just editors and agents and famous published writers, although plenty plan to attend and share expertise, including Kevin Smokler, Frances Dinkelspiel, Jerry Cimino of the SF Beat Museum, and a large assortment of representatives from major agencies in New York and elsewhere.
The conference offers ‘Speed Dating’ with literary agents – a session where for an extra $50 you can share your book idea with a whole variety of agents of your choice, and become inspired by everyone else’s book ideas around your table.
But you’ll likely benefit most from the random connections – ordinary people similar to yourself, who might take an interest in your project and write a foreword, coach you on your proposal, direct you to a writers’ group in your area or add you on LinkedIn and introduce you to contacts at publications where you might want to work. The conference includes a cocktail reception, book signings, and sometimes special discussions hosted by conference founders and agents Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen. Last year we discussed what any professional writers can learn from Greg Mortenson’s memoir of climbing mountains and building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan…courage, creativity, resilience, determination, finding a cause greater than oneself around which to focus one’s life.
The founders and speakers worked to take the conference’s emphasis off of simply promoting oneself for fame and success and to encourage us to invest time and thought into how best to competently communicate worthwhile messages, and to preserve and continue our world literary and cultural heritage. The SFWC resolutely remains educational, cultural, and professional – never a personality-cult or namedropping event. As a journalist, reviewer, and art writer, the experience challenged me to develop my skills and also to locate people and stories worth describing to a larger audience, such as Mortenson’s community-based efforts to help educate poor Central Asian children. Larsen and Pomada also collected donations for the school-building foundation, allowing our community of writers to reach out to those possibly learning to read and write for the first time.
Everyone at the SFWC, famous or not, has a story, and one could write a novel synthesized from the experiences of the attendees. I remember meeting a lady writing a memoir of her experiences as a Vietnam War nurse, an aspiring Egyptian scholar and poet who thought perhaps she knew one of Synchronized Chaos’ contributors, an Australian herpetologist creating a virtual library of natural history, and a couple of professors from my alma mater (UC Davis) creating formal poetry based on their past lives as rock musicians. And the people’s stories stayed with me even longer than some of the educational material – although I purchased CD’s of the workshops I couldn’t attend, along with some I participated in but wanted to review. I still have, and still occasionally listen to, the speakers from the San Francisco Writers’ Conference, and strongly believe the material has improved my craft.
In many ways, which many people don’t realize until they take their craft to a professional level, writing for publication is a team sport. And the San Francisco Writers’ Conference presents an incredible opportunity to strategize, prepare, and hone craft and marketing skills with your teammates!
You may sign up for the San Francisco Writers’ Conference through their website, www.sfwriters.org – the event takes place in San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Hotel February 12-14th, with a theme of “Building Bridges to Better Tomorrows.”