Imagine you find out there’s a writing conference happening near you. Imagine you find out it’s only one day. And then imagine you find out it’s FREE.
That, my friends, is the experience of the Fallbrook Writers’ Conference, a magical annual event I found out happens each fall in North San Diego County!
I found out about the event thanks to author Jonathan Maberry and immediately signed up. I was excited that a) it was free and b) it still included great add-on options like pitch to an agent and lunch with an author.
The event itself did not disappoint. I recruited Kristin Luna and another friend to come along (who recruited another friend) so it was a writing PARTY. The Fallbrook Writers’ Conference was held at the Fallbrook Library, a picturesque library in the little town of Fallbrook, CA, known for its avocados, rural lifestyle, somewhat lower housing prices, and Oink and Moo Burgers (alas, this trip to Fallbrook did not include a burger pitstop).
Overall, I was so impressed by the quality of the presentations and the organization of the event. The first session of the day with agents Jill Marr and Elise Capron from Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency was so good and so helpful. I was lucky enough to have an appointment to pitch my book to an agent at the conference and I felt like what I got out of the first session really jived with the feedback I got during the pitch appointment so overall I believe I now know how to make my query letter that much stronger. Soo….if that was the ONLY thing I got out of the conference, it would have been a day well spent.
But it got better! I listened to Matt Coyle talk about his journey to becoming a published author, had lunch with author Laura McNeal, and listened to author Marivi Soliven give an important talk about domestic violence against women.
The last session of the day I want to particularly highlight as it was a panel about diversity in writing. It featured authors Marivi Soliven, Mickey Brent, and Huda Al-Marashi. This session was fascinating, eye-opening, frustrating (as far as hearing the challenges the authors have faced in their careers) and a clear illustration of the necessity of continuing to push for and talk about the inclusion of diverse voices in writing. Just a really amazing session.
Well done to everyone involved with the Fallbrook Writers’ Conference, I’m planning to come back next year!
2018 Shannon thought her review of Superstars Writing Seminars was crazy delayed.
2019 Shannon said, “Hold my beer.”
Superstars Writing Seminars 2019 took place the first week of February.
It’s *cough* nearly September and this review is just now being published.
But I don’t think it makes sharing my experience any less valuable, especially since this year I was experiencing it as an alumni, not a newbie.
I still think this is the best writing conference I’ve ever been to. It’s by far the most encouraging, supportive, and positive experience around. I was talking to my friend K recently and we were both remarking how a lot of writing conferences can leave you feeling discouraged and a little beaten down by the process and the amount of luck that is required to get a book all the way to publication if you’re going the traditional route.
Which isn’t to say Superstars doesn’t tell it like it is. They absolutely do. They just reinforce the messaging with a heavy dose of encouragement and support.
I keep thinking of this quote from Game of Thrones: “A Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing.”
And I think the same could be true of writers. Though writing is a solitary endeavor, writers need community if they’re going to survive the process. There’s no other way. The odds are too heavily stacked against you to carry that weight on your own. You need people around you to wipe your tears, give you a hug, and cheer the loudest for you when you succeed.
That’s what Superstars is all about. Come for the knowledge, stay for the lifelong friends you’ll make and the tribe that welcomes you back year after year.
Though the details of this year’s event have gotten fuzzier with time, I do want to mention a few highlights from this year’s conference:
-Craft day continues to be the best investment in terms of learning craft that you can make. This year I got to listen to Jim Butcher talk about developing characters and it was mind-blowingly good. Also Jim Butcher is a great storyteller – and not just on paper. If you ever have the chance to see him talk, you should take it. 10/10 would recommend.
-The VIP dinner continues to be one of the highlights of the whole conference. Yes, it’s an extra expense. Yes, there’s no guarantee you’ll get to sit with your first or even second choice author or editor. But the people who come to Superstars are of such high quality, your evening won’t be a waste no matter whose table you end up at. Just make sure you study the faculty list before you go so you don’t *almost* end up asking Jeffrey Deaver who he is. Not that I know from experience or anything.
-If you can afford it, absolutely stay at the hotel. Again, this isn’t cheap. But Superstars is the middle of winter and after the conference ends for the day, the lobby bar is the place to be. Friendships are cemented, writers groups are formed, and books are birthed with the help of a cocktail or two. It’s worth it to be able to part of that experience and not have to worry about driving somewhere in the snow at night.
I’m planning to head back to Superstars again this year for the third year in a row! If you’re interested in learning more about the event and snagging a discount code, reach out to me!
Okay, so this conference happened at the end of January…yes, JANUARY! Better late than never on this review, right?
One of the reasons I did still want to do this review though is because this is the best writing conference I’ve ever been to. Seriously.
My neighbor has gone many times before and she was always telling me how would I like it and I should really come. I was resistant mostly because it’s an investment to travel to Colorado Springs where it’s held every year. What if I didn’t like it? What if I didn’t get anything out of it? It’s a long conference – it would be a lot of time off from my job and there was hotel, airfare, and meals.
But after the SDSU conference went on hiatus for 2018, I decided I would apply for the scholarship open to first year attendees. And after the application process, I was now so invested I had basically decided I was going to go even if I didn’t get the scholarship. I didn’t so I registered for everything in November.
I was excited about our hotel because the conference takes place at the Antlers. The Antlers is a historic hotel and while the hotel as it stands is not the original (it’s the third hotel of the same name on the same site), what’s notable about The Antlers is that Nikola Tesla might have stayed there instead of at the Alta Vista in 1899 if The Antlers hadn’t burnt to the ground the year before. You can read more about my Colorado Springs historic hotel research here. And while the Alta Vista has been gone for more than fifty years, I figured The Antlers would have some info about its history somewhere in the hotel. And I was right! They had pictures! I actually spent an hour one day walking around the hotel and photographing all of their pictures to file with my research. I didn’t expect to have much time to explore Colorado Springs (and I didn’t) so it was nice to be able to get those photos. I actually went to Colorado Springs a few years ago and took myself on a photographic research tour. You can see that story and photos here.
By the time January rolled around, I was pretty stressed. Superstars ended up being sandwiched between two horse shows and my birthday. I’d also picked up a couple clients and was trying to do that and my regular job beside it. I considered not going to the conference even though everything was pretty much already paid for because life felt very overwhelming. But I took a deep breath, told myself I would figure it out, and packed my bags for Colorado.
We flew into Colorado Springs which I have never done before. It was weird to be in my home state, but not seeing my family or any of my friends. I did have one friend I planned to go see in Colorado Springs, but as luck would have it, that didn’t end up working out so it really was a trip home without seeing any of the people who make it home.
One of the things that makes Superstars different is that there’s an emphasis on tribe and community. And that starts from the moment you show up because other members of the tribe that live local or are already in town volunteer to pick people up from the two airports. My neighbor and I ended up getting picked up with a guy from Texas who had also never been to Superstars before. We’re now all in a writing group together so if you needed a reference point for how well the tribe thing works, that pretty much tells you all you need to know!
My neighbor has been coming to Superstars for years so she knew tons of people which meant I immediately got introduced to tons of people. Everyone was very nice and welcoming even if I was a little overwhelmed. But after a few days, I started to remember people and made a few friends of my own.
Overall, what set this conference apart for me beyond the instruction was the people. So many friendly people. And so many people invested in making relationships, not acquaintances. I still talk to and interact with people I met at the conference beyond the ones that are now part of my writer’s group. And that is pretty darn cool.
Okay, so on to the instruction! I can honestly say I learned so much at the conference. It’s really a conference about the business of writing, how to make it a business, how to build a brand, and how to build a career for a lifetime. The first day is optional and it’s a “craft day” which is your traditional writing conference fare of topics related to the actual writing of stories. It was definitely good, don’t get me wrong, but the business of writing sessions were really life-changing for my process and my work.
I’ve always been very serious about wanting to write books. I’m also just pretty practical (at least in this sense, the rest of my life is debatable) and I’ve worked hard to find and create a career outside of writing. Because I love writing, books, and everything associated with being a writer, but I have no interest in starving for my art. That’s my personal line in the sand and you can say what you want about that, call me not a “real writer” or not dedicated enough because I don’t write everyday or because I’m not willing to be a starving artist, but I don’t care. I know who I am, what I was put on this Earth to do, and I also know how deep my dedication runs.
Anyway. Mini rant over. So, what was really life-changing for me was I really came around to the idea of thinking of each of my books as a product. It’s not a book, it’s a product for sale, and if the market does not want it, there’s not much you can do about that. You can attempt to fix it, but at some point you might need to concede defeat and try something else. That has been really life-changing in my approach to my process and goals. I’ve been working on Shadow of the Magician off and on since the spring of 2012. I wrote a couple drafts of another book called Haven’s Gate in the meantime that I never was able to get representation for. And I wrote an untitled draft of the first book in a sci-fi trilogy. But I have largely been consumed by this project at different points over the last six years and I’ve lost track of what number draft I’m on. I think six or seven because the story has had three huge development shifts that prompted complete rewrites. But my point now is that this is the last time around. If this doesn’t do it, I’m moving on to something else because life is short and I have more stories I want to write.
I took tons of notes during the lectures and really learned so much that I didn’t know about the way publishing works, whether it’s traditional or self-publishing. I met writers at all different stages in their careers, published and not. I got to hear from Branden Sanderson, Jonathan Maberry, James Owen, Dave Farland, and Kevin J. Anderson which was all really fantastic. I also had lunch with Jonathan and dinner with James a few times. Those are the kinds of experiences that Superstars gives you!
I also got to practice pitching my book and finally felt like I truly get the difference between the hook, the pitch, and the synopsis and how to create them. This is essential information for any aspiring authors and it’s an art all in itself. If you’ve ever asked me or someone else whose writing a book what the book is about and you got back a rambling, disjointed answer, it’s because writing the book is one thing. Being able to distill the 85,000 words that are in the book and the 40,000 that are on the cutting room floor and the 30,000 that make up your notes and the countless books you read while doing research and all the internet rabbit holes you went down into just a paragraph or a pithy sentence is a mighty tall order.
I am looking forward to heading back to Superstars next winter for the 10th anniversary conference! You can find out more about the 2019 Superstars Writing Seminars conference here and if you have more questions about my experience, just let me know! Also if you are thinking about going, I can get you a discount code for $100 off your registration! This discount is good until November 1, 2018.
I think I’m going to post more check-ins of how my writing is going, maybe quarterly to start since I’m a little scared that if I commit to monthly I won’t have much to report. In between working on whatever book project I have going and writing for Isle of Books, I also usually have a couple publications a month on other sites. My freelance articles often seem like feast or famine…either I’m doing just a couple or I’m doing so many I’m genuinely concerned I won’t make my deadlines.
Personal life wise, I’ve had a really busy fall and I don’t expect it to let up until Halloween…meaning that progress on my book has been glacially slow. So slow that I’m a little embarrassed to admit how little I got done during the month of September. Things were going better earlier in the summer until my confidence got a little rattled and the recovery from that has been slow going. Not having time to write consistently isn’t helping much in that department.
On a more positive note, I did get quite a few other things published! Looking at this list makes me feel a little less terrible about how my book progress is going…
I also attended a one day writing conference in May and applied for a scholarship for another writing conference happening at the end of January/beginning of February…fingers crossed that I get it!
This is months and months overdue (I attended this event in January!), but I definitely wanted to review this event because it was awesome!
The SDSU Writer’s Conference is an annual event in San Diego and one I’ve been trying (and failing!) to attend for the last 5 years. However, after the 2016 conference, I emailed the coordinators and asked if they could add me to their mailing list so I would know when to sign up. Problem. Solved. I registered for the 2017 event with no problem and eagerly waited to attend my first ever writing conference! UCSD had a writing conference in the fall of 2011, but I was sadly not able to attend any of the panels between my class schedule and traveling to San Francisco. So the 2017 SDSU Writer’s Conference was my first taste of the world of professional writing.
It poured rain all weekend and since the event was in Mission Valley, we even got a flash flood alert during one of the panels that scared the bejesus out of all the out of towners. The San Diegans were quick to reassure the concerned that that’s just want Mission Valley does when it rains, it floods. Still, the bad weather could not dampen the energy and enthusiasm that this event had in spades.
It was divided between keynote presentation and panel events, which was nice because you could pick and choose your trainings you wanted to attend. The keynote speakers this year were Jonathan Maberry, R.L. Stine, J.A. Jance, and Sherrilyn Kenyon. We also had a special presentation on the final day from Marjorie Hart, author of Summer at Tiffany. Of the keynote speakers, the only one I was familiar with prior to the event was R.L. Stine because of course. All the keynote speakers gave wonderful and very inspiring presentations!
The panel events were fabulous as well. They even had historical fiction panels led by author Gina Mulligan which apparently is relatively rare for writing conferences. As I’m still working on my historical fiction novel about Nikola Tesla, I made sure to attend all of these events. Also, Gina is probably the sweetest person ever. Seriously, ever.
Some other standout panels were the panel taught by agent Mark Gottlieb on how to write an effective hook and all of the panels taught by Bob Mayer. There was also a cool panel I didn’t get to attend where you could see real weapons and chat with experts from the FBI, CIA, police, and military. I did not attend one panel that was not fabulous and I purchased the recordings for several more (I still have not listened to these yet, but I am grateful this was an option and I have them when I’m ready).
I met so many nice attendees, editors, and agents at this event! I only did one pitch which was okay because I’m not where I want to be with the book yet. But I walked away with valuable information from the editor I met with on how to fix my story synopsis!
I highly, highly recommend this conference. I am planning to attend again in 2018. If you live in San Diego and are a writer, you should really sign up. Yes, conference fees are relatively expensive, but this event is worth every penny!