Bilingual site shared with Nancy Snipper, acclaimed author and cultural affairs journalist. July 2016 ushers in her new site: SN Travel and Arts without Borders. Check it out!
Site bilingue partagé avec Nancy Snipper, auteur acclameé et journaliste des affaires culturelles. Juillet 2016 inaugure sa nouvelle site: SN Travel and Arts without Borders. Vérifiez-le!
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Thursday, 13 March 2014
San Miguel’s Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival
that exceeds all words!
by Nancy Snipper
Imagine meeting some of the world’s most renowned writers, eating with
them, smoozing with them, hearing them read from their work, and buying their books
– then coming home with these books that have been personally author-autographed.
This and more is in store for you at San
Miguel’s Writer’s Conference. You’ll meet a plethora of illuminating keynote
speakers – along with a rostrum of remarkably stimulating workshop leaders -
literary mentors who come in the form of print authors, digital marketing
experts and word-smith multi-media publishing wizards.
This year’s titans led sixty-four 90-minute sessions along with 19
intensive half-day practicums. These writing veterans were also verbal masters
of great élan; they enthusiastically shared their ideas, offered successful
strategies and insightful revelations about crafting novels, poetry and plays.
The sedentary side of writing was complimented the festival’s fabulous
excursions in and outside the city. Cuisine, cantina crawls, photography, hot
springs bathing and lavish home tours were just some of the pay-extra perks
slated for further mind/body stimulation.
Such was my experience at San Miguel’s Writers’ Conference as it ushered
in its 9th year of success. This literary liveliness – enhanced by the city in
which it is held, spilled over onto the lush grounds of the Real Minas Hotel. Inside
and outside, the pristine premises were buzzing with writers, readers and
agents – all here to help enrich our uniquely personal relationship with the
Festival Director, Susan Page (don’t you just love her last name last
name!) together with her 23 volunteers were outnumbered by us all: approximately
1300 participants gathered into the various indoor rooms, and expansive white
tents during the five-day festival to hear experienced writers share their
writing journeys and offer brilliant much-needed techniques including selling
strategies on and off the Internet. They gave hands-on help, encouraging us to
take our story ideas out of our heads and write them down, develop them and
hone them into book form.
One of the most
engaging workshops covering the bare bones of story building was given by Mary
Morris. Having written fourteen books, she gave us great tools for creating
stories. She stressed the importance of finding ways to utilize our own life
experience to create a full novel by highlighting the value of keeping lists,
journaling, eavesdropping, witnessing events and talking to strangers and
writing down ideas. She was very funny and a great teacher.
Nine-hundred folks flocked to hear the seven acclaimed keynote speakers
read from their work and answered questions. They included: Ellen Bass and
David White. Kafka-loving novelist, Kathy Diamant and Laura Esquivel, recipient
of Chile’s Pablo Neruda Order of Artistic Merit and Culture (2010) exemplified
the caliber of brilliant writers at this festival. Mexican writers Alberto Ruy
Sanchez, Rosa Beltran, and Ignacio Padilla lent prestigious presence while
representing writers working in the Spanish language. Their fascinating topics
had English language participants wanting to learn Spanish as fast as they
Benjamin Alire Saenz
These literary luminaries inspired us, and as I listened to the great
writer, Yann Martel speak about how vitally relevant the arts are to the human
condition, and answer questions about his most famous work, Life of Pi, it became clear that this
festival responded to the needs of all writers – whether you had finished your
novel’s umpteenth draft, or blank pages have been staring back at you for the
past years. Memoirs, romance, historical fiction, horror and more; words such
as platforms, hooks, synopsis, submission and query letters – these all became
signature iconic terms used in the publishing business in many of the workshops
Since my novel is a work of literary fiction and it had not yet been
submitted to any literary agent, I made a bee-line to the panel event that
featured four literary agents. It was most interesting to hear these experienced
agents confess that 99% of submissions never make it past the query letter.
They warned us against bragging about our novel or comparing our story to that
of a favorite author in order to get “signed on”. They told us what not to
write when trying to snag an agent. Andy Ross felt regional novels could be
taken to market, while Jeff Kleinman gave a thumbs down to such stories for
their lack of broad-base reader appeal. Irene Goodman who was the former
assistant to the agent who represented Stephen King has been a member of the
publishing community for over 25 years, and so when I casually met her by
chance – I saw her sitting alone at an outdoor table – I dared to approach
her.Although I had not signed up for an
appointment to pitch my story – as others had, Irene still welcomed me and
asked me pertinent questions about my novel. She did not brush me off, and in
fact, began to speak perfect French when she learned I spoke French (I live
Montreal, Quebec). We had a fascinating discussion about Quebec and how my
novel related to the frustrations incumbent with being an anglophone trying to
write in a francophone province. Did my novel express rage? Yes, but not for
Either out of politeness or curiosity, Irene invited me to send 60 pages
to her, which then became ten in a subsequent email she kindly sent to me. No
matter. Like so many others at this conference, I felt a tinge of excitement just
to have the chance to talk to an agent whether it was during question period or
in a pitch session. This kind of networking was happening 24/7, and as such,
offered immeasurable opportunities for writers seeking publishers through agents.
Meandering into the
Bucking the traditional publishing route was a hot topic at the
festival. A host of workshops detailed a myriad of ways to digitalize your writing,
thereby enabling you to bypass any “middleman”, and gain total control over your
book as it enters the market.
I learned this when I attended the workshop, How to sell Booksby the Truckload
on Amazon. Cracker-jack Internet wiz, Penny Sanseveri has taken Amazon.com
by storm, accessing internal algorithm triggers that put your book out to the
world. She talked about Author Central pages and eBook strategies that optimize
marketing while putting you in direct control of selling your book. As she
quickly let us into a labyrinth of ways to make your book stand out each week
on various sites, I was beginning to appreciate my talk more and more with Ms.
Goodman. I was in the midst of a maelstrom; this whirlwind workshop plunged us
deeper and deeper into a cyberspace world that I felt ill-equipped to enter.
However, many self-published authors attending this workshop were thrilled to
get these tangible strategies. I could see the dollar signs dazing their minds
as Penny espoused the merits of digital marketing. If anything, I left this
session feeling in awe of her and in a slump about myself. Not being an Amazon.com
gal could limit the sales of my novel were I to self-publish – even though one
of my children’s books is on Amazon, because my publisher put it there. Still,
I held the hope that my novel might one day end up in the hands of a publisher,
before I hit 82.
Complimenting this workshop was Market
your Book with Love. Presented by
San Miguel resident, Aisha Griffin, this unique session was just what the book
doctor ordered. Aisha equated the creation of a book to having a beloved baby –
the initial idea for the story (conception), developing the plot and characters
(growth) and finally, publication and marketing (delivery into the world). Her company
oversees all the editing and publishing details that many of us are in desperate
need of.It was just what the book
doctor ordered Aisha used a soft manner when she illustrated her easy-to-follow
digital marketing strategy – she used the book of a participant to show how to
“doctor up” your digital page. Her delivery was gentle and clear. I walked away
with some focus about eventually creating a page for my novel-to-be on the
She was not a big advocate of tons of social networks or book marketing
sites that place your book in a sea of other books only to be ignored if not
astutely tended to by the author – a commitment that consumes one’s creative
energies and time. I agreed wholeheartedly with her. Maybe, her company was the
one to hand my novel over to, but what would that cost me? I did not sign up
for “starving writer syndrome”.
To wrap up in words the many gifts the San
Miguel Writers’ Conference gave me is akin to writing a novel in a few
paragraphs; and since writing for me is a life-long “preoccupation” with no end
in sight, I suspect I will be returning next year to this inspiring festival.
“Floating on Lily Pads” is the title of my
novel; and I came pretty close to doing that at this miraculous event.