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.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.
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.
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.