Central Coast Writers' Conference
29 years ago Lillian Dean, an admin at Cuesta College thought there should be a Writers' Conference that would invite published authors, agents, publishers and professional editors to the college to work with aspiring authors and the rich community of published authors in San Luis Obispo area. The goal was always to keep it small enough to be manageable and personal while offering interactive workshops with established industry professionals. Twenty-nine years later we still seek around 300 attendees to meet and learn about the craft of writing and today's publishing industry. We introduce industry notables to present who are willing to share their expertise...and time. We seek presenters in all genres.
Our faculty has a grown a bit due to the six editors I added this year to offer professional manuscript critiques and 15 minutes of conference face time. We typically invite 12-15 presenters. They are willing to come to San Luis Obispo for our Central Coast ambiance and the reputation CCWC has developed over the years. Most come from the western United States but we have had international attendees as well as guest presenters. The unique discovery I have made is once a presenter commits with the Central Coast Writers Conference, things seem to heat up professionally for them. The conference karma is as magical as our setting on the Central Coast.
There have been 5 directors, although one doesn't really count because she only lasted a year! This is my fourth year and I'm proud to say that besides myself, past director Cathe Olson is still involved as Coordinator of the Lillian Dean Writing Competition and past director Charlotte Alexander will introduce her husband and co-conference-director, Dave Congalton as our Success Story of 2013 for fulfilling his dreams as a successful screenwriter. This banner year for Dave is one movie, AUTHORS ANONYMOUS due to be released this fall and another due into production this fall.
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My experience is limited attending other Conferences. I've attended the San Francisco Writers Conference and SCBWI workshops. I cannot say they are lacking. Each has unique reasons to attend. Writers conferences provide networking opportunities to discover the many options available to writers today. We can expand our writing skills, network with other writers who have been through the process, receive encouragement and advice on works in progress and pursue and connect with editors, agents and publishers.
CCWC has always been 75-90 minute workshops to develop or hone skills and learn about the current marketplace. San Francisco offers more panels and shorter presentations with more presenters. This offers more opportunities to network with professionals agents and publishers. This year we have stepped up the opportunities with more editors and agents presenting this September than ever before. Yet we will maintain the longer workshop format by pros who are excellent presenters willing to share their expertise.
How can writers help get their work viewed by the best quality people at conferences?
Good question and exactly why I have contracted with 7 professional editors in a variety of genres who will not only do an in-depth manuscript review of the first 10 pages .... or any 10 pages, but will return the critique before the conference with the anticipation of 15-minutes scheduled at the conference to discuss the manuscript critique and/or the modifications made as suggested by the editor. Just as the overall conference fees are under $200, the manuscript critique and face time is only $59.
Everyone has dreamt of writing the Great American Novel. Hanging out with writers and learning how writers complete their process is so interesting to readers and aspiring writers. Readers will receive the insights about the process and the business of publication today...which is evolving as fast as we speak.
Tell us some of your personal favorite authors, both ones that have attended and ones you just enjoy reading.
Every year I fall crazy in love with reading our keynote's works, but let me mention just a few. My first CCWC introduced me to Victoria Zackheim, who is a novelist, playwright, screenwriters, and now a very good friend, mentor and amazing woman. She presented the anthology she edited, THE OTHER WOMAN. Victoria takes a concept and has notable authors and famous people write their personal essay. She is creative, inspiring, and fun to read. Nathan Bransford was my first keynote. He was a sought after agent when he presented and provided us with a preview of what was to happen in publication - chaos with abounding opportunities for the flexible writer, agent and ePublisher. And although he changed positions, his website still has some of the best how-to's for writers looking for an agent or publisher. Next on my keynote list was Jonathan Maberry. I had never read a zombie book or wanted to. Nor was I big on thrillers, but Jonathan has chilled and thrilled me. The Joe Ledger Series and his YA series starting with ROT AND RUIN are wonderful reads that we'll see in movies one of these days. Jonathan has become a good friend because he is willing to share his talent...and himself. Next keynote was Jack Grapes, who is an icon in the poetry world. He also developed a system of writing both poetry and fiction METHOD WRITING, which he shares with students and celebrities wanting to write and based in Hollywood/West Los Angeles area. He is an incredible teacher and our attendees flocked to his workshops after hearing his keynote. This year Rebecca Rasmussen has captured my heart and interest. I believe THE BIRD SISTERS will be a GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. It is a beautiful story written with all the best elements to take you away to middle America to meet these wonderful characters. We should all be so lucky to write like Rebecca - and we can. She instructs at UCLA.
Two programs that are unique for CCWC are our PG&E Teen Writers Program and our Chevron Teachable Moments In-Service for Teachers. With the support of PG&E we have 25+ scholarships for middle and high school students to attend. I select 2 presenter to design an exclusive workshops for the teens. This year YA author Shannon Messenger and nonfiction author Katya Cengel and Agent Gordon Warnock will present to the teens. It has been so successful I created the same model for the teens teachers to enjoy the conference and adapt new writing tools for the 2013 curriculum. Once the teens or teachers glean from their two workshops, they also select 2 more workshops in the genre of their choice. Teachers can also earn credits for their attendance.
I'll stop there, but could go on and on with authors I have enjoyed to read and respect and value their presentation skills and willingness to share their expertise.
What are your thoughts on social media for authors just starting out?
An absolute must today for authors. When I was first seeking presenters I learned quickly websites were static and Facebook would get me directly to the industry people I wanted to invite. But for those breaking in, reading several blogs by authors and those writing tips on writing will be great research. And if you are just starting then read blogs by our 2012 Success Story, Anne R. Allen. She not only has the first hand experience to demonstrate how a blog can help your writing career, but her insights are practical and her goal is to keep you writing your manuscript more than your social media outreach. But even Anne confirms writers need to write so blogging will fill that need and build a name for new authors at the same time.
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