I just got back from a whole week in San Francisco! It was my second time there, and I’d like to tell you all about it, but I figured it would be best if I posted about my FIRST time for some context.
Okay. So my first visit to San Francisco was February 2014 for the San Francisco Writer’s Conference (or #SFWC). I’d been to a few writer conferences before, and I may do a post on them in the future, but they were all in New York, and in this case, I was looking to travel. At the time, I didn’t know anyone who lived in the Bay Area, so I figured that a conference would be a great excuse to not only try getting an agent, but to also see a new city.
(Let the journey begin.)
Unfortunately, while I did make it out to San Francisco, I didn’t get to see a new city, and I didn’t exactly get an agent—at least not yet.
Let me explain.
First the basics: I flew there out of Newark and stayed at the Mark Twain Hotel in the Tenderloin area. The hotel was excellent and I enjoyed the few days I stayed there. However, it’s located in the Tenderloin, an area of San Francisco that has a lot of homeless outreach programs.
(Not pictured: crackheads and hippies aggressively begging for money and/or peeing on the wall.)
After arriving I wanted to just toss all my stuff on the bed and explore the neighborhood a bit, as any decent tourist who dropped a whole bunch of money on a plane ticket and hotel costs is wont to do.
But it was dark, and there were weird (for lack of a better term) people roaming the streets, without a single cop in sight, causing me to feel unsafe. It then came as no surprise when I went to my hotel and the glass double doors were locked. I guess the hotel staff is QUITE aware of the area they do business.
(“Dude, this place has got hemp milk. Hemp milk! I can’t be everywhere at once.”)
The conference was scheduled for Thursday through Sunday, so on Thursday morning I skipped a few events and tried to see a bit of the city.
All I had time for was to take a bus to Pier 39 at Fisherman’s wharf and check out the barking Sea Lions, buy a few souvenirs, and quickly browse some of the shops. Then I jumped in a cab and took it to a parking lot near the Golden Gate Bridge, because my dad wanted a picture.
(But it was covered in fog.)
But it was all good. As my cab waited for me, two Austrian girls got inside of it. While that may sound like a great opportunity since they were blonde, attractive, and friendly, there was very little chance of us hanging out at any point after the cab ride.
Mainly because: the conference was the entire day (8am to 5pm) and I was still in school, so I had homework to do in ADDITION to writing, which I try to do every single day.
(Busy college days. May they rest in peace.)
So…onto the conference itself. The schedule was set into these 45-60 minute panels regarding certain topics such as “How to Market Yourself Online” or “How to self-Publish” or “The Benefits of Working a Day Job.” Stuff like that.
Now I could lay out the details of these panels but I was there primarily to sell my work to agents and maybe hire an editor. I’ll start with the agents first. Like the rest of my blog, I try hard not to name names, and that’s a tradition I’ll continue here.
(Just add them to the list of anonymous people I talk about the blog.)
The SFWC had a “speed-dating” event set-up for writers and agents, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: The agents sit at a small table, and the writer has about 3 minutes or so to pitch their work. From there the agent will decide if they’re interested or not.
Or be a total dirt bag.
So I participated in this session, with my pitch at the ready, and it’s exactly as I’ve come to expect: the agents sit there, tired and disgruntled, and listen to you sell your story. Now, I spoke with three agents: one was sarcastic and apathetic; the other was upbeat, energetic, and interested in my work; while the last was some dude who was so unprofessional and nasty that I had to excuse myself and leave the hotel for five minutes to catch my breath.
(Ouch. Please stop. That’s enough. I MEAN IT!)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when it comes to becoming a professional writer, sissies need not apply. You need a thick skin; not just for the people close to you who’ll discourage you, but for people in the industry whose egos get a kick out of squashing you like the pleading bug you are. What’s more, even if you get published, and even if you become popular, there’s HORDES and CLANS of internet trolls ready to attack you.
But I digress.
So anyways, I did the whole agent thing and walked out with one lead. Fine. But what I was more interested in was hiring a freelance editor, someone that could look at my work with an objective eye, and offer precise feedback on a level that a friend or family member couldn’t provide, as well as advice on how to improve.
(“When the student is ready, the master will appear. Especially if you’re trying to become the Batman.” – Buddhist proverb)
I also met with three editors as well. The first two were on the bill (so to speak) and I had to make an appointment to meet with them. (Both were named David, the last name of the family my story is about, oddly enough) They both were pretty cool, to be honest. One dude moved from Westchester County out to Marin County (the area across the Golden Gate Bridge) and the other guy lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
I liked the first editor, and he seemed interested in my work, but when he gave me his card, I went on his website and couldn’t find any info or reviews of his editorial services. In fact, his entire website seemed bare-bones and came across as an afterthought.
(Not like this place. I mean…a monkey evolving into a writer? BRILLIANT!)
The second editor was nice too, as well as enthusiastic and engaged while we spoke. But the problem was that he felt too…um, “salesman-y” to put it bluntly. The second I sat down he tried to sell me a twenty dollar book / manual thingy, which turned me off, and I think he said that if I did so I’d get a discounted phone call to ask him questions.
And then after we sat down, and he wanted to look at my work, he talked about arranging a phone call, causing me to wonder “Is the phone call free? Or do I have to pay for it? Oh, dang it, I should have bought that book of his!”
I don’t know what that guy was thinking. Seriously: I’m here to hire him and work on something together and he’s selling me trinkets! That’s like me walking into a job interview and being all, “How goes it, handsome feller? Can I interest you in a tasty frankfurter? How about some candy corn sprinkled on a hot slice of apple pie?” Then leaning in, “An old family recipe, kiddo. Talk about dee-lish!”
To which they just stare at me with a baffled expression on their faces, look at my resume and say, “Uh…you’re Mr. Seegitz, right? The guy applying for the Project Manager, position, right?”
(“And why in God’s name are you dressed like Charlie Chaplin after a garage sale?”)
But there was a third guy I met at the conference. He was in the audience at one of the panels, talking to a middle-aged blonde lady, who had that sarcastic east-coast thing going on, so of course I couldn’t help but participate in the conversation a bit.
Anyone who knows me knows I can be a bit shy, but once I’m comfortable, I open up, and I felt comfortable talking to these two. The guy’s name was Michael Mohr, and he was a local editor. I spoke to him for a bit about neutral topics like the weather, New York, and the Bay Area. He was warm, understanding, and just an all-around cool guy. So I took his card and shoved it in my bag with all the others.
(I’ll get to all these…eventually.)
Now when I got home and researched Michael I found a presentable, professional website, with client testimonials, photos, advice posts, and all sorts of other information. The website was straightforward in its message, which was more than I could say for the other two candidates, so I decided to reach out to Michael.
Long story short, he promised to do a five page sample edit, I sent him the first chapter at ten pages, and he was so into it he edited the whole ten pages. On my end, I was blown away by his insight, especially since I’ve had friends, family, and even other writers critique my work.
But Michael was on a whole different level. So I signed him, and we’ve been working together ever since. This was a year ago, and the project is even stronger than I could have imagined, with a projected submission timeframe of early 2016.
But I digress; I hashed all this out with him once I’d returned from San Francisco. So, getting back on topic…
All in all, the conference lasted a few days, and I had virtually no time to explore the city. I did, however manage to squeeze in a chance to see comedian Tom Papa perform.
(No joke here. He’s a funny dude.)
So that was my first trip to SF: short and not incredibly interesting (kind of like this post). But even so, the town made an impression on me, and I swore I’d be back one day.
And it wouldn’t be too long until that day. Like I said, I just came back from a trip there, and that will be the topic for next week’s post.
THAT’S RIGHT PEOPLE, I SAID NEXT WEEK!
Bonus post time. Next week’s post is going up on May 9th, breaking the bi-weekly schedule I’ve established. The “Post Schedule” tab has been updated accordingly, so, as always, be sure to check in whenever you forget when the next post is due.
(I’m always on time.)
As always be sure to subscribe to this blog by email if you haven’t already, share the post with anyone who might be interested, and of course, leave a comment below sharing your thoughts…especially if you’ve attended the #SFWC
See you next week,
J. F. Seegitz