Geraldine Brooks and Lawrence Wright are among the guest writers at the San Miguel writers' conference. Geraldine Brooks and Lawrence Wright are among the guest writers at the annual conference.

San Miguel Writers’ Conference goes online, but works to retain its intimacy

With Zoom video conferencing, everyone will have a front-row seat

Like many gatherings in this pandemic year, the Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival in San Miguel de Allende had to make the decision to go virtual. But organizers have decided to see the upside of the virtual format, which will be done completely on Zoom video conferencing this season.

“Maybe the best feature of these historic online interviews is that everyone has a front-row seat along with the opportunity to “go up on stage” afterward for a personal chat with the author,” says conference cofounder Susan Page.

For an event that attracts attendees from around the world and prestigious guests every year, the conference is known for being an event where the barriers between attendees and guests are thin. Most guest speakers hang out after their event and talk with audience members. The conference is also known for its relaxed atmosphere of interaction and networking among attendees, with many connections and friendships made.

So organizers have worked to preserve as much of that intimate atmosphere as possible. For example, the usual question-and-answer events now have an option to submit a question for the speaker at the time of registration. Also, thanks to the Zoom format, the usual “chat with the author” opportunity is just a screen away and attendees can still interact virtually between events.

This year, the conference features an impressive line of guest speakers and interviewees — Margaret Atwood, Diana Gabaldon, Isabel Allende, Geraldine Brooks, Lawrence Wright and many more. The guest list includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, three Giller Prize winners, an Emmy winner, and two authors with No. 1 books on the New York Times bestseller list.

Besides the headlining guests, the conference for writers and lovers of literature will also feature 24 skill-building workshops for fiction and nonfiction writers, also to be conducted on Zoom.

The Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival runs until next March.

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