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18 Energizing Practices to Spark Your Writing & Free Your Voice

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Write and Do Good: The San Francisco Writing for Change Writers Conference

Michael LarsenLisa: What’s the purpose of the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference?

Mike: The theme of the conference is “Changing the World One Book at a Time.” The right book will change the world. We are besieged with huge domestic and international problems urgently in need of solutions. Government and business can’t provide them, so they have to come from the bottom up.
Writers are essential for providing the ideas, guidance, and inspiration we need, and they have instant access to however many of the three billion people on the Web read English. The world desperately needs all of the skill, creativity and perseverance writers can bring to the challenge. The Conference is limited to only 100 writers who come from around the country and abroad.

Lisa: What an exciting vision. Having worked in the nonprofit sector–and run a nonprofit for 10 years–I would have loved to have had the opportunity to attend this conference all those years ago! Writing was a big part of our work–since the written word was one of the main ways we reached and inspired people. Who should attend the Writing for Change Conference?

Mike: Fiction and nonfiction writers who want to use their writing to help bring about the personal, social, economic, political, and environmental changes we need in our communities, our country and the world.

Lisa: What’s the advantage of attending this conference over other more general writers conferences?

Mike: Like other writers conferences, the Change Conference has panels of authors, agents, editors and marketing people. Attendees can pitch their books to agents and editors. At the Change Conference, they receive more than 40 pages of handouts and can also receive free editorial and publicity consultations. The Change Conference costs less than most conferences.

Lisa: I noticed that–it’s a true bargain.

Mike: The presenters spend most of their speaking time giving attendees practical advice. Attendees can also call me any time after the conference if they have questions. The speakers and program are at
As far as we know, it’s the only writers conference that focuses on writing for change. Considering the urgency of our problems, it may be the most needed writers conference in the world.
Lisa: What’s your advice for writers attending the Conference–any tips for them to get the most of their experience?
Mike: 1. Be clear about your literary and financial goals: what you want to write and how you want it published.
2. Be prepared to absorb of lot of state-of-the-art information you need to give your work maximum impact.
3. Work on your pitch, up to 30 seconds of concise answers to two questions: why the book and why you.

Lisa:  How does the Writing for Change Writers Conference make a difference for attendees?

Michael Larsen and Elizabeth PomadaMike: The Conference is in its sixth year because feedback from attendees assures us that it’s very helpful in:
• Providing information they need
• Enabling them to network with agents and editors they can contact when their proposal or manuscript for a novel is ready
• Creating lasting relationships with other writers
• Inspiring writers to pursue their mission
Having worked in publishing in New York, been an agent for more than forty years, writing or coauthoring eleven books, and being the co-director of the San Francisco Writers Conference—now in its twelfth year, I know that writers have the same questions and challenges. This jam-packed day is the most effective way to help them at the least cost.

In 2008, Cami Walker met her agent, Rita Rosenkranz, and her editor, Katie McHigh, who bought her book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life. The next year, 29 Gifts made the New York Times extended bestseller list.

Lisa: I love fairy tale endings like that–especially when it’s about making a difference. Thanks, Mike. Having been part of last year’s San Francisco Writers Conference, I can attest to what a standout conference you, Elizabeth and all the volunteers put together–in terms of inspiration, a thrilling experience and the practical information one picks up. I’m sure Writing for Change will be the same–and even more targeted for those focused on providing solutions and creating change. Readers can check out the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference and feel free to ask questions of Mike as a comment below.

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Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Nina Angela McKissock says

    I’m concerned that this would be a proving ground for evangelists. Is it? Are there many religious-based authors in attendance?
    Thank you,

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Nina,
      The focus is on social change and solving big world problems. So it’s not a religious conference. There may be religious people/authors there but I don’t think it has anything to do with evangelism.

    • Mike Larsen says

      Many thanks for asking. Very sorry, but there will be no religious-based authors at the conference. The site lists the authors who will be there. Best of luck with your writing.

  2. Sophia says

    Hello Lisa,

    Great to have recently discovered your website and blog! This sounds like a wonderful conference. Thanks for sharing some great resources here.

    I was wondering if you could answer a question I had. I am writing a book proposal for an art instruction book, and am having a lot of trouble with finding the appropriate agents to query. I have looked into countless agents that deal with Art and How To books. However, the art books they represent always seem to be more coffee table books, and none of the how to books they show on their website relate to art instruction.

    I would be so very thankful if you could offer some advice on finding an agent for this type of book, as I would really love to work with one as opposed to working directly with a publisher. I know several art instruction book publishers take direct submissions from authors, so I am wondering if that is just how it is typically done with this genre.

    Thank you so much for your time and I hope to hear your thoughts.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Sophia,
      It sounds like an exciting book! Have you looked at sites like and Publishers Marketplace?
      Another resource is to look at some art instruction books at the bookstore and look in the acknowledgements section to see who the agent is.
      It may be that this is a smaller audience and therefore there is not enough of an advance with this type of book to warrant and agent’s time, but I don’t know that market well enough to know. I will ask an agent and get back to you.

    • Mike Larsen says

      Dear Sophia:

      Agents listings in directories indicate if they handle how-to books, but your credentials, the size of the potential audience for the book, and your visibility and promotion plan will help determine your chances of finding an agent and publisher. Please write to me, and when I know more, I can give you the advice you need.

  3. Sophia says

    Hello Lisa,

    Thanks so much for getting back to me. I had been looking at and writers market, but will definitely take a look at the websites you mentioned. I have looked at a few acknowledgement sections and I usually see praise for a publisher or editor, but never came across an agent. So maybe you are right that it might be too small an audience to warrant an agent. If you do happen to speak with an agent about this, that would be great and I look forward to hearing any other thoughts you might have from them. Thank you so much, Sophia

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