Spent the weekend in rainy (!) San Diego at the Southern California Writers Conference — SCWC — and I have to say it was very good. I learned a lot, met some wonderful, talented writers and writing experts, and got some great feedback on my book, Losing Normal.
Among the best for me were the ‘Rogue Reads,’ late night gatherings (9PM is my late night, & these went on until midnight or later), with other writers and two very helpful facilitators, Melanie Hooks and Laura Perkins. Writers brought samples of their work, some just for general critiques, others (me), with specific problems to solve. I got (blushing here) very positive responses, and learned a lesson: Prologue not necessary; trust my story.
There were lots of daily seminars on topics like Genre, Plot vs. Character, Authorial Voice, Publicity and a three-session panel, Novel Intensive. It wasn’t possible to attend them all, so I had to pick and choose. Marla Miller and Jennifer Redmond ran ‘Pitch Witches’ (formerly ‘Two Bitches Who Take Pitches’), wherein we read our agent queries and they responded. “You lost me after ten seconds” was Marla’s first response to mine. Her point was that I spent too much time after the first paragraph describing the world of my book, and should have spent the time with my characters. I rewrote it.
I also found out some very useful information for those of you planning to attend a writing conference, especially if you’re going to meet with agents and/or editors: many conferences PAY the agents and editors, which means they’re possibly just coming for a vacation, nicer-than New-York-weather or something, with no intention of actually taking on new authors. SCWC doesn’t pay its guest agents or editors. Good advice: ask the conference organizers.