Recap: Fallbrook Writers’ Conference 2019

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.

Author Matt Coyle at Fallbrook Writers Conference 2019

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!

Diversity in Writing Panel at Fallbrook Writers Conference 2019

Recap: Superstars Writing Seminars 2019

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!

2017 SDSU Writer’s Conference in Review

This is months and months overdue (I attended this event in January!), but I definitely wanted to review this event because it was awesome!

IMG_0684

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.

IMG_0675

Jonathan Maberry Speaking

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!

IMG_0678

R.L. Stine Speaking

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).

IMG_0688

Panel With Authors J.A. Jance and Sherrilyn Kenyon

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!