In the ten years I’ve been teaching and presenting at writer’s conferences, a few features have always separated the best writers conference from the also-rans for me:
1) The hopes and enthusiasm of participants, who are looking for vital guidance and information to fulfill the life dreams and aspirations of publishing their books and stories;
2) The giving nature of presenters, who dig into their personal wells of hard-earned wisdom and trade secrets — sometimes, including material that gives them their competitive advantage in business — to empower and enrich the participants, to make the journey to the bookshelves perhaps a little easier than their own;
3) The sheer variety of the workshops, critique sessions, keynotes and presentations;
4) The amazing speed at which the publishing world turns, and changes; and
5) The quality and ability of participating agents, editors and publishers to do three things with authors: a) Be honest without being rude — or vague; b) Come to conferences looking for hot new voices (because you’ll find them); and c) Give quality advice and treat every writer with the respect they deserve for having the guts and dedication to write a book — NOT an easy thing to do.
Over the years, one of the best and most admired conferences for delivering on all of these areas is the Southern California Writers Conference, which takes place this weekend at Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego. From directors Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers to their staff and cast of presenters (authors, editors, agents, publishers, script agents and more), the SCWC team puts away their egos for three days and gives it up for the participants. Big-time. In a tireless way that motivates everyone who attends for weeks and months afterwards. And I mean tireless — sometimes, the late-night rogue read & critique sessions last until daybreak. Then, by 8 a.m., the next morning’s sessions are underway.
In the past year, the SCWC has become the launching pad for each semi-annual issue of the literary anthology I edit, The Hummingbird Review. We’re launching the third issue this weekend, and as publisher Charlie Redner wrote in a nice little fallout insert, “Remove socks before reading as they will be knocked off without notice.” Wait until you see this issue — from the great Gary Snyder and Michael Blake to some of the finest poets in California and the nation, we’ve got a spectacular collection of prose and poetry. Better yet, don’t wait — go to amazon.com, openbookspress.com or thehummingbirdreview.com right now and order a copy. (I might add, we’ve published several poets and authors whom we discovered at the SCWC — Jacob Pruett, Claudia Whitsitt, Marla Sink Druzgal, Alwyn Pinnow, E. Scott Menter and Jesse Lomeli among them)
For my part, I love to arrive at conferences with different twists on writing, marketing, editing or promoting. Seems like the schedule has caught up with me this time, but what a weekend celebration of the written word it’s going to be for everyone who participates in the workshops that I’m leading. Here, I’ll borrow an idea from fellow presenter/author/blogger Marla Miller and preview my presentations:
Healing: In Your Own Words: This is my favorite workshop to present, because there is no more purposeful, honest or spiritual form of writing than finding and expressing the words to help trigger healing within yourself, a friend or family member, a client/patient, or the reading audience at large. Cathartic moments always happen in this workshop, and the level of openness among participants is truly inspiring.
Multi-Genre Writing: Since my teen years, I’ve written in several different genres — poetry, journalism, fiction, lyric/songwriting, journaling, narrative non-fiction, essays and memoir. In recent years, I’ve put several of them together in the same works, a particularly enriching technique for readers. And one that’s more and more popular in both the print and online worlds. So in this workshop, we’re going to practice writing in genres other than our native form, and then blending the material into one piece. I’m getting ready to write a book on this with literary agent/author Verna Dreisbach, so this will be a very lively workshop. Get ready to have your writing muscles stretched — and your narrative reach increased.
The Celebrated Image: Creating and Polishing Poems: Now we get down to my deepest love, poetry. This is the first of four sessions in PoetryCram 2011, a daylong workshop for participants who want to write new poems or put their poems into publishable chapbook form. I’ll be joined by Hummingbird Review publisher Charlie Redner, poetry teacher and poet Ed Decker, and online publishing expert Lin Robinson. In the opening workshop, we’re going to turn images into poems, expand and polish those poems, and make those tough decisions on structural form, and decide on an order for an eventual collection or chapbook. The inner and outer world is the sandbox, the words and experiences are the toys, and we’re going to play!
In addition, I will be meeting one-on-one with several authors to discuss their works-in-progress, and possibly putting something together last-minute to help authors build their all-important promotional platforms. Not sure yet. But stay tuned. One of the other great things about SCWC is that you have to keep checking the website during the week leading to the conference — and then check the board once you arrive. There are always changes … a true reflection of the fluid writer’s mind.
I’ll blog from the conference, and also share more on the various topics in the coming weeks. If you’re a writer in Southern California and not doing anything this weekend, come on down for either the full conference (Friday night through Sunday night) or the weekend sessions. You don’t have to sign up for workshops in advance (except for the PoetryCram and NovelCram) … just walk in, open up your pad, journal, iPad or laptop, and prepare to fully expand your horizons as a writer — and learn what it takes to get published.