Tag Archives: Michael Larsen

San Francisco Writers For Change puts mission first

“It’s the only conference like it,” San Francisco Writers For Change Conference organizer Michael Larsen said recently.

This was his response to whether the conference should be held every year or every other year. Larsen is relentless in his conviction. Every year. It’s too important not to do every year.

“This is a huge public service,” he continued. “Nobody else in the world is doing this. Nobody.”

The nonprofit organization that puts on the four-day San Francisco Writers Conference, which includes more than 100 presenters and is known as one of the top writing conferences in the country, started this one-day event for no other reason than a sense of mission.

The critical details:

  • Saturday, September 12th, 2015
  • 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
  • First Unitarian Universalist Center of San Francisco

Writers for change. It’s a unique concept and a focus that is different from other conferences because the mission comes first. The book deals, the profits, the egos of the publishing business come second.

Here is information about the conference:

The Writing for Change Conference is devoted to bringing together agents, editors, authors, and publishing professionals in order to enable writers to learn about writing, publishing, marketing, and technology. You’ll come away knowing how to get your work published successfully, online and off.

You will have the chance to learn from and pitch your book to the presenters, and to get feedback on your work from freelance editors.

Last year I was honored to be given a scholarship to attend this conference. It became my introduction to the deep literary community of San Francisco, and the most important day I spent on my career in the entire year. This conference with its affordable price (just $79 if you register before the end of the month) and packed one-day schedule is a bridge into publishing for emerging writers who are concerned about change issues.

The conference has agents, editors, self-publishing experts along with a host of information for writers wanting to turn their passions and causes into books. Journalists, activists, academics and budding writers should come to this conference.

How many times have you been told, “you should write a book?”

This conference puts that dream into action in a way nobody else will. Nobody.


Fiction critique group forms with #SFWC2016 in mind

Perhaps one of the reasons the San Francisco Writers Conference was named as one of the top five in the country is the dividends that continue to pay for participants after the conference ends.

SFWC is organized by more than a hundred volunteers dedicated to the vibrant, artistic community that exists in San Francisco. But beyond that, few conferences have a literary agent as a leader who attends writer groups formed during the conference.

During the last SFWC, several of us took on Michael Larsen’s challenge to form a non-fiction writers critique group.

We came together with a precise goal of having a marketable product in time for the 2016 San Francisco Writers Conference. Larsen volunteered to attend the first group. He liked it so much he’s kept coming since.

It’s been invigorating, so much so that we want to start a similar group for fiction writers. Larsen was the first to join the group to offer his expertise and encouragement.

“This is what the conference is all about,” he said.

We have openings for five SF-based writers and two from afar who can join via Skype.

The format:

  • We will meet the second Sunday of each month from 4-6 p.m. in the financial district near the Embarcadero Bart stop.
  • Each month two writers receive an hour of focused feedback. They send out up to 25 pages prior to the meeting. Others are encouraged to give detailed edits in track changes that can be emailed after the group.
  • During the group discussion each participant gives a handful of bullet-point critiques.
  • Over the course of four months, each writer will cycle through for his or her feedback hour.
  • Over the course of the one-year commitment, each writer will receive three, in-depth, hours of diverse feedback to push their work to a deeper level.

If this commitment appeals to you, visit our contact page and drop us a line.  Include a brief overview of your work, interests and bio. You can learn more about my writing and editing at www.effinartist.com

Free 30-minute author consultation – I have new openings in my editing and coaching schedule for up-and-coming writers of fiction, memoir or investigative non-fiction. Check out my platform here. I am an award-winning reporter, columnist and editor with fifteen years experience.

Contact me for a free 30-minute consultation based on a review of one chapter of your work. I build relationships with my clients and want to share their vision for the project. If I’m not a good fit, I’ll tell you and encourage you do to the same. I am confident our efficient and organized partnership will save you time and money while helping you meet your writing goals. References available. Visit our contact page if interested.

#SFWC2015 lives on in writing group

During the first seminars of the four-day 2015 San Francisco Writers Conference, conference organizer and literary agent Michael Larsen challenged those in attendance to form writing groups. He pressed for volunteers to start a fiction group, a young adult group, and a non-fiction group. He encouraged people to meet up afterward to discuss the potential.

I raised my hand to lead the non-fiction effort. Immediately after the seminar four people pressed business cards in my hand, eager to get started.

During the conference I scouted for others who I knew would add to the robust and expert feedback that makes a group thrive. By conference’s end I had seven other writers in mind for the group. A month later seven of those eight gathered to launch our writing group. Two were in attendance by Skype, one from Seattle, one from Mexico, while the rest of us gathered in downtown San Francisco.

With some tweaks from the members, we agreed on a format a bit more intensive than other groups I had joined. For two hours once a month, we’d meet leading up to next year’s SFWC with the purpose of writing something ready to pitch.

We’d dedicate one hour to two writers at each we meeting, allowing us all to have an hour of feedback every quarter.

Those presenting their work send it out to the group at least a week before the meeting. The rest of the group reads it and marks it up in track changes. We then synthesize our comments for an overview discussion during the group. We then follow-up after the meeting by emailing our detailed edits.

This format allows us to vet more pages than a group with limited time given to every writer. We decided we can send up to 25 pages. This intensive, detailed and thorough review from six other writers with different skills, experiences and expertise is the foundation of the group. We’ve only met once, but the feedback was exceptional. The quality and care of each writer’s feedback was evident. We all learned thanks to one brave writer who went first. Even in the comments I wrote for her, I caught flawed patterns in my own work. In helping her, I was encouraged to get back to the drawing board myself.

None of us knew each other when the conference started, but the common goal and dedication to craft has stitched us together for the next year. We have different projects and different goals but a common respect for the process and ardor for the art, and the results it may bring.

And who joined us for the first meeting? Mike Larsen himself.

“This is what the conference is all about,” he told me.

This is also how it lives on.


Emotional hangover of SFWC2015 gives way to resolve.

By Doug Piotter: Starving Artist given new life at SFWC2015

Emotional hangover of #SFWC2015 gives way to resolve

Toward the end of a brilliant 2015 San Francisco Writers Conference conference organizer Michael Larsen asked the classroom of participants how many aspired to be published by one of the big five New York publishers. Perched in the very back I raised my hand reflexively.

“One?” Larsen asked his eyes sweeping the room. “Really? That’s it?”

Of course that wasn’t it, but no other hands shot up. Had the same question been asked at the start of the conference every hand would have shot up. But a jammed packed four days with a collection of literary talent that makes this conference unrivaled on the West Coast had so overloaded the participants with information, the reaction time just wasn’t there. I heard from several that at times all the information, some of which often conflicted, created confusion in what had surely been resolve at the conference’s outset.

Which, I suspect, is exactly the point. As Larsen said more than once, “If something can stop you from writing, let it… But if nothing can then don’t ever stop.”

Or as many agents and editors said time and again, there is no blueprint to success. Every agent and publisher has preferences and quirks and a certain level of fatigue with the sheer volume of writers desperate to get their book sold. For every serious, well-prepared, excellent proposal, another gaggle bordering on idiocy are also shoved in front of those who sell books. Having been both the prepared and the idiot, I can commiserate.

The industry is not for the faint of heart. I return as I do so often to my wise sage, Jimmy Dugan of A League of Their Own  who said, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy anyone could do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Throughout the conference agents, editors and experts in the field told writers to harness their expectations. If your only goal is to be the next John Grisham it might make any hope of actually doing that impossible. Agents often cautioned writers to find better comparisons than every best seller in your genre. Be realistic, they said, because this is a hard, hard business to succeed in and your up against a huge pool of talent all trying to get what you want.

I was a spectator at the conference. I was there to help, not pitch my books. Michael Larsen had awarded me a scholarship to the San Francisco Writers For Change conference last fall, so I volunteered to be his aide for the entire conference as a way of saying thanks. So even though I too felt my emotions riding the highs and lows of being close to those agents who could simply slide a contract across the table and help green-light my dreams, I could temper it a bit by knowing this was not my time. Throughout the weekend I felt great empathy — and not an insignificant amount of envy — for those grabbing a bat and swinging for the fences to make their dreams come true.

At one point as I listened to a panel of 15 agents, I realized I had already been turned down by half of them. During the conference I received in my e-mail yet another turn down from an agent I pitched a few weeks ago. I took those as signposts leading me on through the fog. Somewhere through this process the fit will come. I started learning more about the other agents on the panel who hadn’t had the privilege of turning me down yet. “Your time will come soon,” I thought, taking notes about them.

With so much to learn, so much to sift through and so many obvious challenges for writers to overcome — as if sitting down and writing a book isn’t difficult enough–I came away with something a bit deeper than just knowledge.

  • I learned to embrace the now. If you spend your whole life looking ahead to the perfect agent, the perfect publisher, the big success, you miss the real reason most of us write: to hone our craft and express our art.
  • I learned to trust defend my conviction, not my book. It sounds strange but even while making my living as a professional writer, I have wanted nothing more than to write books. I will always endeavor to that end. But the vast majority of pages I’ve written will never be read and the books I write will shape-shift and evolve through edits, revisions, title changes, development and (hopefully) evolving skill. I embrace this evolution even while knowing I’ll always be the first one to shoot up my hand when asked if I want (expect is a better word) to be sold to a big five publisher in New York. That is my conviction. My work is my conviction. But the specific projects will continue to evolve and improve.
  • I learned to ignore discouragement. Life is hard. Being successful at any one thing is hard. Critics and naysayers surround writers like Gen. Santa Ana at the Alamo. I have a pile of declines from agents, publishers, editors for various projects that could drown me if tied to my ankle and dropped with me in the San Francisco Bay. It doesn’t matter. All I need is one: one agent who believes in me, one publisher who takes a chance on me, one moment that launches me. Until those parts come together in divine harmony, I will ignore the discouragement and continue to do what I love: Write.
  • Most importantly I learned that I will continue to work on all the various aspects of publishing like platform, and proposals and brand, but nothing matters more than pages of a story that excel. This is my first and foremost goal, passion and focus: a story well told.

The San Francisco Writers Conference was memorable for me because I came away something deeper than knowledge. I came away with resolve.

@SFWC launches writers for its 12th year

As the Valentine’s weekend gets its early start, the doors of the beautiful Mark Hopkins hotel in San Francisco open to hundreds of writers in the West Coast’s signature conference, The San Francisco Writers Conference.

Once again, this event has sold out. But, here’s the good news… it’s not too late to get a flavor of the event and to connect with the literary talent coming this weekend to San Francisco.

For those who didn’t sign up, open enrollment in a wide range of extra sessions happening today and Monday after the conference are still available. Find out more about  open enrollment today here.

Now into its second decade, this conference created by long-time literary agents Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada, is a launching pad for up-and-coming writers. With more than 100 writers, agents, publishers and editors giving nearly as many workshops through five packed days of sessions and events, the San Francisco Writers Conference is a world-class event.

If you haven’t been to these types of events, you need to plan for it the coming year. Make it a late New Year’s resolution to avail yourself of the expertise brought together in these forums. The San Francisco Writers Conference delves into the rich literary expertise of the Bay Area and brings it all together in one place.

Who better but the founders of the event to tell you why its a good time now to mark your calendar for next year or take in an open enrollment class right now, today. Consider:

Top Ten Reasons for Writers to Attend the 2015 San Francisco Writers Conference

      • Launch your writing career–or take it to a more professional level–with direction from bestselling authors and publishing experts.
      • Choose from a schedule of workshops, panels and sessions that fit your specific writing needs and goals.
      • Get your questions answered at the Ask-a-Pro session featuring New York and California editors…included in your registration fee.
      • Go to Speed Dating for Agents – Pitch your book ideas one-on-one in a room full of literary agents ($60 option for registered attendees only)
      • Receive free feedback on your work from freelance book editors.
      • Kick back in Cafe Ferlinghetti with writers from all over the country…and foreign countries, too.
      • Talk with exhibitors and find out what’s new for writers.
      • Browse our onsite bookstore (produced by BookShop West Portal) and you can get the books you purchase autographed by the presenters.
      • Jump into pitch contests, “Open Mic” readings, and socialize at our Gala Welcome party. This is just a sampling of SFWC’s over-the-top networking opportunities during the event.
      • Stay awhile longer with our optional in-depth Pre Conference classes on Thursday, February 12th and Post Conference classes on Monday, February 16th to increase the value of the conference even more.