The SDSU Writers’ Conference has a long history of launching careers by opening doors. This annual conference was among the first to pioneer 1:1 appointments with agents and editors, giving writers unprecedented access to top-tier publishing professionals — many of whom interact with unpublished authors only through conferences.
Among the more than 300 writing enthusiasts/aspiring authors who descended upon the 2015 SDSU Writers’ Conference was Craig Fox, who came in search of feedback on his novel, Playing Pretty Woman. Among his appointments was an Advance Reading with freelance editor Jennifer Pooley.
Advance Reading appointments require submitting the first 10 pages of your manuscript to be read prior to the conference. Attendees also have the option of scheduling a Consultation appointment, which is a Q&A opportunity to pitch your project as a whole and discuss its viability in the marketplace.
Every year, each editor and agent chooses their favorite project(s) for a Conference Choice Award, and Fox’s was chosen by Pooley. We trace Fox’s SDSU Writers’ Conference experience, and where he is today on his journey to publication.
As you a writer by profession or is it an avocation?
What project brought you to the 2015 SDSU Writers’ Conference?
Adult fiction with a young adult protagonist. After seeing Pretty Woman, a gay kid tries to emulate Julia Roberts to find his Richard Gere.
How long have you been working on it?
Care to share the opening line?
“Why don’t you talk?”
Could you tell that Jennifer was pretty excited about your 10 pages or was it a complete surprise when you heard your name announced as an Editor’s Choice winner?
She’d said she enjoyed it, but it was still a surprise.
Are you still heady with euphoria?
What was her response to your complete manuscript?
She said she loved it.
Was 2015 your first time at the conference or have you attended before?
What do you think is one of the greatest strengths of the conference?
Learning the practicalities of getting published.
Had you been querying agents and trying to get representation prior to the conference? If so, what has the response been?
Lots of people liked the writing, but were worried it was not a good fit for them.
Did you make a connection with a fellow writer or an editor or agent at one of the mixers or the networking lunch?
Jennifer was a blast.
What’s the first book that spoke to you as a young reader?
Oh, so many. I still cry when Charlotte dies.
Who’s your favorite author (or top three if it’s hard to choose one)?
Armistead Maupin if we’re tossing out Shakespeare.
What’s the current status of Playing Pretty Woman?
I had quite a few agents read it. They all enjoyed it. One even had me do some edits for him. But in the end they all thought it wasn’t marketable. I’ve written a couple of things since, but decided to bring something to the 2016 conference that I wrote a while back that my friends all encouraged me to bring.
This one is called The Case of the Bad Boyfriend. It’s a mix of Sherlock Holmes, Encyclopedia Brown, and Tales of the City.
A San Francisco State freshman struggling with coming out becomes a Watson to an elderly gay detective, Arloe Mooney. While uncovering clues, Adam also uncovers a gay life he’d never been privy to.
Here are a few summary paragraphs:
Adam, a freshman at San Francisco State, knows he’s gay but still fears even venturing into the Castro. The best he can do is visit Dolores Park at the neighborhood’s edge. There he meets Arloe Mooney, a genteel semi-retired detective, and his angry mutt, Love. Arloe helps Adam out of his shell with his suspicious tea brews, not-so-subtle matchmaking machinations, and employing him as his Dr. Watson.
Adam and Arloe’s adventures take them to varied and vibrant neighborhoods of this romantic city while following Adam’s exposure to gay life and slow maturation. The odd pair investigate a mystery with an eccentric theater producer and his show’s porn star; a gym-rat love triangle; a china doll lumberjack’s cheating buddy; the murderer of a pet parakeet; and a blackmailing letter to a gay security company manager regarding his conniving aerobics instructor boyfriend.
The novel is 65,000 words and fully complete. I have an outline for a sequel and anticipate writing a long series following Adams’s continuing maturation.
What keeps you going in the pursuit of your writing goal?
I enjoy completing a story that I haven’t seen before.
The 32nd Annual SDSU Writers’ Conference is Jan. 22-24, 2016 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley. Register now for three amazing days that could change your writing life.