Guest Post: San Miguel Writers’ Conference by Gordon Cope – Part One

This is the first of a 3-part series written by Gordon Cope who has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations. Gordon has offered to give us an “insider’s look” into the writing conference held annually in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Part One: THE CONFERENCE

This is my third year attending the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. I first became interested in the conference after my wife Linda and I moved full time to Manzanillo, Mexico, located on the Pacific Coast, south of Puerto Vallarta. San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is situated inland, approximately halfway between Guadalajara and Mexico City, and about 8-hours by car from Manzanillo. Friends in Mexico called my attention to the upcoming conference, and I was so impressed by the speaker lineup, the workshops and the city itself, that I immediately signed up.

Folk Art in San Miguel de Allende

Folk Art in San Miguel de Allende

2015 marked the 10-year anniversary of the conference. For the last decade, Susan Page and an army of volunteers have been organizing a five-day extravaganza that has earned international recognition for the quality of speakers, extracurricular activities and workshops. I will talk about the speakers and activities in part II and III of my guest blog, but first, I’d like to discuss the workshops.

I have been writing professionally for a long time; for the last 30 years, it has been my full-time job. In addition to working as a reporter for the Calgary Herald newspaper, I have also been a journalist and international correspondent specializing in the energy sector. As an author, I have had three travel memoirs traditionally published; A Paris Moment, So, we Sold Our House and Ran Away to the South Pacific, and A Thames Moment. In addition, I wrote a mystery thriller, Secret Combinations, that was released by a Canadian publisher.

However, I have had little formal education in regards to creative writing, and the opportunities to meet fellow practitioners and learn from experienced faculty members were important considerations in attending the conference. I wanted to learn firsthand the tips and techniques used by successful writers to enhance their work.

Workshops

The conference offers over 50 workshops, ranging from fiction to non-fiction and poetry. They are organized into seven sessions spread out over five days. Each workshop is 90-minutes long, and features a lesson from a subject matter expert, exercises, and a Q&A opportunity.

One of my favourite workshops was Randall Platt’s talk on point-of-view, tense and voice. She spoke at length about how an author creates a character, delving into a fictional construct by asking simple questions about their gender, physical appearance, and then building on interpersonal relationships with family, spouse and friends until a character emerges that can convince the reader that they might actually exist. For our exercise, Randall had us imagine the Point of View of a major character in the story of the Titanic. I chose the iceberg.

The Business of Writing

Publishers are in the business of making money from books, and the sector is currently going through a massive upheaval as online retailers like Amazon undermine their ability to price their product. The knock-on effect upon authors is immense; few publisher will now take on an unproven writer unless they have some built-in notoriety or social platform.

The conference offers a sampling of workshops that inform and offer alternative publishing outlets, such as self-publishing. I attended a very informative session taught by Judith Gille, an independent author and bookstore owner. Gille outlined the Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing, walking attendees through what essentially the author needs to do to step into the shoes of the publisher. The publishing rights for A Paris Moment recently reverted to me, and I am in the process of launching the 10th Anniversary eBook edition of the travel memoir; what Judith had to say about successfully entering the ePublishing sector was both reassuring and immensely informative.

Agent Pitches

The conference offers another tremendous benefit; the opportunity to pitch your manuscript to an agent. For many years, I have been sending out query letters to agents in regards to several of my writing projects, to no avail. At every conference, however, I have had the chance to speak one-on-one to an established literary agent, learning how to overcome nervousness and communicate my enthusiasm for my work. This year, I spoke to Kimberly Cameron, of Kimberly Cameron & Associates. She was sufficiently impressed by my pitch for A War Child (a contemporary historical fiction set in occupied Paris during the Second World War), that she requested a copy of the entire manuscript for her consideration. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

For more information about the conference, visit their main website.

Part Two
Part Three

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13 responses

  1. […] a guest blogger of a 3-part series about the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. Here’s Part One. As well, he also contributed a 3-part series on the Femmes Fatales of Paris. Here’s Part One […]

  2. […] a guest blogger of a 3-part series about the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. Here’s Part One. As well, he also contributed a 3-part series on the Femmes Fatales of Paris. Here’s Part One […]

  3. […] a guest blogger of a 3-part series about the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. Here’s Part One. As well, he also contributed a 3-part series on the Femmes Fatales of Paris. Here’s Part One […]

  4. […] Gordon Cope was also a guest blogger of a 3-part series about the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. Here’s Part One. […]

  5. […] Gordon Cope also was a guest blogger of a 3-part series about the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. Here’s Part One. […]

  6. […] Gordon Cope also was a guest blogger of a 3-part series about the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. Here’s Part One. […]

  7. The San Miguel Writers’ Conference sounds wonderful, and not just because I’m longing for warmer weather! I have attended some conferences that are close to my home, but the cost of attending conferences far away can be prohibitive. I love the workshops, the panels, the Q&A, and everything else conferences have to offer, but I think what I love most is meeting other authors. It can be so inspiring to see what other writers have accomplished and just being in the same room with them is exciting and humbling. Thanks for the great post!

    1. The wonderful aspect of SMA is that it can be both a destination for a conference and a holiday. I also love the fact that I get to meet other authors, but it is also such an enchanting place that when I am not at the conference, I can explore the town.

  8. […] Gordon Cope is guest blogging a 3-part series on my main blog about the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. Here’s Part One. […]

  9. Conferences have a lot to offer. Being around other writers creates an energy and motivation. And agent pitches are an opportunity – have to learn to speak for your book! Enjoyable read, thanks

    1. Unless you’re in a town where agents congregate (New York), it’s very difficult to meet them. Having a chance to speak to an agent helped me understand their role in the entire process.

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