I first participated in the SDSU Writers’ Conference in 2007. The impetus to attend was a story a friend told me about his escape from Vietnam as a “boat person.” It was such a dramatic and moving story we decided it must be told. However, my friend, Phu Hoang, said he didn’t feel competent as a writer so I offered to do it with him. I had always had an interest in writing and resolved that before my hair turned grey, I should either fish or cut bait if I really wanted to get serious about it. My sister was associated with SDSU and told me about the writers’ conference. I signed up.
The keynote speaker was Jack Grapes, author, actor, and poet. What he said in his opening remarks that resonated with me was “write the movie in your head.” It struck home because whenever I write, I always see, hear, and feel the scenes. I wanted to learn how to take what was in my head and put it down on paper, so that others could read it and have the same experience. I attended all three of Jack’s workshops that weekend at the conference. He taught what he called “method writing” and it intrigued me. Afterwards I spoke with him and told him what I wanted to do; write a book about my friend’s experience. He said that writing was a craft that had to be learned, just as I learned engineering before I worked in that field. I discovered he had a private writing workshop in Los Angeles, so I joined and he became my teacher and writing coach. Over time I began to write the story. I continued attending his workshops for another three years, showing up each week to read another scene and receive feedback and coaching. I finished the book – a novel, On the Back of the Tiger, based on real events, and am now in the process of working with an editor to ready it for publication. The name of the book is
I attended the SDSU Writers’ Conference twice since and each time have gained from the experience, whether it was picking up a gem about writing better dialog, or navigating the ever-changing world of publishing. I owe the beginnings of what I hope to be my next career, or at the very least the joy of a passion realized, to my participation in the SDSU Writers’ Conference.