Event: San Francisco Writers Conference
Location: Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco, CA
Length: 4 days + classes
Cost: $725 general admission; $50 Speed Dating with Agents, $99-$198 open enrollment classes
“I’m going to write the great American novel.”
“Yup. How do I do it?”
As Laurie mentioned earlier, this one is dear to us, and I’ve attended every year since I was an wee agentling. It’s a wonderful mix of agents, editors, published authors, film professionals, and ambitious writers of all stripes. As you may have guessed by now, some attend simply to learn and hone their craft while others seek to establish business connections and pitch their finished products to agents.*
The conference itself goes from Thursday through Sunday, and open enrollment classes are offered Thursday and the following Monday. These classes go far beyond the usual offerings, lasting 3+ hours. There are also plenty of events surrounding the conference, from cocktail mixers to readings to movie screenings.
This year was a little different in that Speed Dating with Agents was held on Friday instead of Sunday. If you have yet to experience the wonderful madness, I’ll break it down for you. The attendees who sign up for it get split into 4 groups. Each group gets 50 minutes in a giant room with a bunch of agents seated at two-person tables. Lines form in front of the tables, and every 3 minutes, a bell rings, signifying that a new attendee may sit with the agent and pitch. It’s a rapid turnover that some find intense, but it allows for a maximum number of conversations and potential matches. It’s always a good crowd, and I inevitably leave with at least one that I’m very excited to see, but for whatever reason this year was especially promising. If you’ve been following our Instagram, you already know that I requested 19 of the 62 pitches I received, which is an unreal percentage.
Another difference from past years is an increased focus on poetry. SFWC had been in line with many other conferences in offering maybe one or two token poetry workshops, but this time, there seemed to be an established poetry track, thanks in part to the involvement of Brian Felsen. I love working with poets and believe that poetry is an important part of our evolving literary ecosystem. Keep an eye out in the coming month for a groundbreaking new poetry anthology.
Another notable addition to this year’s SFWC was our own Julie Kagawa. On opening night, she held the festive Faery Market, in which she met with her fans, signed books, read from an early draft of her forthcoming Talon series for the first time (!) and answered questions alongside Laurie and her editor at Harlequin Teen. She was also featured on a panel before being whisked away to an event at local independent, Kepler’s Books.
All in all, it was another solid offering. As always, the SFWC proved to be one of the premier writers’ conferences on the West Coast.
*Protip: Even if you arrive at a conference with a “finished” product, be sure to take the time to attend the sessions and further revise your work. Implement what you learn before you send the agent what they’ve requested. You will learn something, and it will make your product more appealing. I always receive at least one requested submission before the conference is even finished, and those submissions always disappoint.