Photo: Margaret Atwood by Luis Mora
By Carmen Rioja
International Writers’ Conference
San Miguel Literary Sala, A. C. networks presents:
Have you discovered the Pleasures of Reading and writing in these strange days? If you haven’t, I will encourage you to do so. Quarantine times may be struggling, but books offer great comfort in countless aspects of our lives.
That is the core for the 16th San Miguel International Writers’ Conference starting online this October 2020, organized by a local NGO devoted to readers, writers, stories, and everything related to books. This reunion has become one of the most desired, warm, and prestigious in the world.
I had the great pleasure to interview executive director and famous writer, Susan Page, to learn all the juicy details and programming. This is the first of three parts of the transcription.
C.R: Can you tell us your name and position at the Writers’ Conference?
S.P: I am Susan Page, and I am co-founder and executive director of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, now in our 16th year.
C.R: Looking to the past, how difficult was it to build a sustainable international writers’ community that now has become one of the most important worldwide?
S.P: We never felt that it was difficult. It was fun. It was a wonderful opportunity. At the very beginning, we were not thinking about creating a world-famous Writers’ Conference… The key ingredient is that in our very first workshop, we presented a famous author. It was John Berendt. At that time Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was all over the bestseller lists. So, I had a friend who was a good friend of his, and I was able to persuade them to come down. We started in 2006, and then in 2010, we were able to attract Barbara Kingsolver. And we were so excited because we knew that was really going to put us on the map and it did! As we added famous authors to our roster, that helped attract other famous authors and high profile, distinguished writers, who were best sellers and well-known names. So as that built every year, it got more and more exciting. We realize another big asset that we have is that we are tricultural and bilingual. And we always have speakers and workshops from Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. And when you came on board, you began to strengthen and create our Mexican wing of the Conference, which now has become so important and so well known. So, the keynotes speakers, the trilingual aspects of it, and the location of San Miguel are the things that drove the Conference.
C.R: That is very kind of you. When you interview the people that come every year to the Conference, you realize that some came from Argentina, some came in a large group from Australia, and then we had some French, and so on. Do you think it is growing somehow also in this way for this year?
S.P: This is a very good point. Yes, and of course this year when everything is totally different and we have gone online, we hope to expand our audience worldwide even more. And yes, you are right, we have had people attending in person from as far as New Zealand, and Bali, different parts of Europe, Scandinavia. And you know, one of the things we hear from many people and especially faculty: “I attend many writers’ conferences, and this is the finest one that I go to all year.” “This is the best writers’ conference I ever attended.” And I have asked people to find out more about why. They say it is the quality of the attendees, a very high caliber of people who come that are excellent writers, that are serious about their craft, and wonderful teachers. We have so many applications from people who want to teach, that we are able to select “la crème de la crème.”
C.R: Talk to me please a little bit more about this, because we are starting activities very soon, who are the keynote guests?
S.P: Our very first lead-off keynote speaker is Margaret Atwood, who is maybe the most popular author alive today! Because of her classic book that she wrote years ago but now has been turned into a series: The Handmaid’s Tale. And Margaret Atwood is a wonderful speaker, she has a great sense of humor, she has a rich depth, and she has written so many books. And this is an interview on October 11, at 6 p.m. and that will lead us off! I am so excited about it. This will be performed in a delightful conversation with Merilyn Simonds, herself a huge author.
To be continued…
For complete info on this digital event, please visit: www.sanmiguelwritersconference.org