I was honored to have won a scholarship to the 2014 San Miguel Writer’s Conference and I’ve been wanting to write about my experiences since my return two weeks ago but I couldn’t come up with what to write about. I had an incredible time on so many levels that there is basically too much to say. When I have trouble narrowing down my thoughts, I find it helps to make a list. Now that I’ve made the list, I have no idea what the list is about. It’s not a list of Reasons to Go to SMWC or a list of Things I Love About SMWC. It’s not even a list of What I Learned at SMWC. It’s most closely related to Random Things About My Experience at SMWC. So, let’s go with that.
1. San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful colonial city, just as I suspected it would be. It is surrounded by mountains and the downtown area, La Jardin where the La Paroquia stands, is on top of a hill. As I walked the streets, I could always keep my eye on the towers of the church to orient myself. There is so much culture there, too. A rich history of beatniks, an old factory turned into galleries, handmade market goods, and music and art everywhere.
2. There are a lot of ex-pats living in San Miguel, mostly American, some Canadian, almost all retirees. This was reflected in the attendance at the conference. Many of the people lived in San Miguel full or part time or hoped to one day or had been coming to the conference every year for eight years. Many people were retired and self-publishing memoirs about their lives.
3. Every year the conference holds a big fiesta that they tout as “famous.” I didn’t think it would live up to the hype, but it did. I had so much fun eating good food, drinking margaritas, and dancing with new friends.
4. Based on a series of experiences at the conference, including some very engaging workshops and important feedback from agent pitches, I gained a better perspective on how far I have come in regards to my writing and my knowledge of the business of literature. Ten years ago, I was in a completely different place both creatively and intellectually.
5. I met some seriously cool people, writers from all different walks of life and in all stages of the game who had something to teach me. Artists and hippies, students and truck drivers, ex-pats and activists — everyone kind and inviting.
6. The keynote speakers were all amazing. They included Calvin Trillin, Yan Patel, Laura Esquivel, David Whyte, Ellen Bass and Benjamin Saenz. Seriously, isn’t that an awesome line-up for a little conference? I’m guessing it’s because everyone wants to go to Mexico in February.
7. I hadn’t traveled abroad alone since I met my husband and I realized that I take in much more of my environment when I am alone. I speak the language more. I engage more with people around me. I pay more attention.
And this list doesn’t even include the bohemian bars, the full moon rising or my trip to the hot springs cave. The small size of the conference created more space for conversation and networking than I would have gotten from say, AWP. There were less workshops of course, but there was always something happening. The most difficult part was that I didn’t have enough time to explore the city and surrounding areas. One day, I’d like to return with my family.