The 16th San Miguel International Writers’ Conference, organized by a local NGO, starts Oct 11. The conference, which will be held online in a 6-month series, is devoted to readers, writers, and everything related to books. It has become one of the most sought after, prestigious literary events in the world.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing the conference’s executive director, Susan Page. This is the third part of the complete transcription where you can learn about all this year’s juicy details and programming.
SP: What we hope is that we can continue to offer the high-quality conferences that we’ve evolved into, attracting more and more distinguished authors and writers to [as keynote speakers] for us and keep expanding the number of people who travel to San Miguel for this magical week in a town that is historic, that is a world heritage site, and to a conference that many say is the best conference that they’ve ever been to for the quality of teaching, the quality of networking and interaction among people, and the extraordinary keynote speakers that you get to meet in person in this small intimate setting. Those qualities are the qualities we want to keep and maintain…and always be adding some new fun element. The last several years we have had an event called the literary death match, which is a very fun game show, literary game show, led by a very creative person…those kinds of things. And this year, for the online version of the conference, we will be adding a radio play, which will be written by a local writer Nathan Feuerberg, and so we will keep innovating but we will keep the core of the quality that we’ve developed.
CR: That’s so beautiful. I’m sure it will always be a brilliant future for the conference. And also, it’s a very socially involved conference during the whole year. The social commitment of the conference develops all year round in San Miguel with different activities like the conference’s support of Ojalá Niños and it does that kind of thing all the time. What message [would you like to share with] the readers of Atención San Miguel [regarding this aspect]?
SP: Our outreach into communities around San Miguel, for indigenous communities where education is not necessarily orientated toward literature, we are very proud of our outreach and very excited about our outreach to these students. The program Libros para Todos is really extraordinary, and it has kind of gone out on its own now but we incubated it. We distributed thousands of copies of the same book to youth in something like 18 or 20 communities. And we bring teachers in for workshops on how to teach the book. And then after the students have all read it, and they have their own book, the author comes to town and the students get to meet the author and he or she signs their books. That is an incredibly successful project in terms of getting youth excited about reading and literature. Ojalá Niños is getting younger children interested in reading and so on. So yeah, the outreach into the community is a very important part of what we do. And actually, there’s one aspect of the conference that I didn’t mention, which is the networking that goes on at the conference, which is possibly the most important part of the conference for many people who come, because you connect with other writers who maybe are struggling with the same issues or writing the same types of things and those friendships go on and sometimes, very tightly after the conference. And then you have the means to connect with well-known published writers and teachers who might become a coach for you or you can have an individual consultation with them and you of course get to meet famous authors and establish a relationship with them. Often, something that you hear in a conversation in between workshops when you are just having a cup of coffee with someone, is the most important thing that you will take home. So we always encourage people to stay on campus, mingle with people during the breaks and hang out in the evenings with each other because that is one of the most important things that will come out of a week here in San Miguel. And for this, you know, we’ve transformed our conference into what we are calling the “literary season online” this year, so that we will all be on zoom, instead of five days it’s a week each month spread out over six months. And we have included networking events in that, so you can hear a keynote address […] and after that you hang around for a lightly structured networking time where you can [be] with five other people.
CR: That is lovely, because people, we are craving for that, and I’m sure it is going to be very successful. And what about the literary agents?
SP: The literary agents will be there. They are teaching workshops and doing consultations.
For complete info on this digital event, please visit: www.sanmiguelwritersconference.org.