With a newly expanded roster of offerings, organizers of the Central Coast Writers Conference aim to attract writers, readers and other literati to San Luis Obispo later this week.
Now in its 32nd year, the event, which runs Thursday through Saturday in San Luis Obispo, features 60-plus literary professionals sharing their insights via 85 classes and workshops, plus panel discussions, keynote presentations and more. It’s presented by Cuesta College Community Programs.
As many as 400 people are expected to attend the conference next week, according to conference director Teri Bayus. That’s compared to about 250 conference goers last fall.
“I have always envisioned it as a destination conference,” Bayus said, noting that about half of last year’s attendees were local. Others traveled from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Arizona and Nevada.
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The event starts Thursday with an afternoonlong Book and Author Fair at Mission Plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo. It’ll offer a sneak peak of the conference with appearances by more than 40 authors, illustrators and publishers.
Last year’s book fair, held at SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel in Pismo Beach, suffered somewhat from sweltering heat and a lack of foot traffic, said Arroyo Grande resident Deborah Love, who helps organize the event.
She and Bayus hope to drum up more interest this year by bringing the book fair back to San Luis Obispo, where the Central Coast Book and Author Festival — as the event was once known — traditionally had been held since 2000.
“It’s just a great outing for people,” Love said, noting that the book fair will coincide with the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market.
According to Love, event-goers can “meet the authors, have a one-on-one chat with them, purchase a book and have it signed,” or simply “walk through and get ideas about what to get from the library.” Attendees can also sit in on panel discussions.
The free book and author fair serves as the official lead-up to the ticketed main event at Cuesta College’s San Luis Obispo campus.
“The networking seems to be what everybody wants more than anything else,” Bayus said, so she’s giving conference goers this year “a full two days where you’re just immersed with everybody and meeting together and dining together.”
The conference kicks off Friday morning with a keynote address by Sam Horn, whose book “Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone” teaches how to pitch projects, and it closes Saturday evening following a presentation by Pismo Beach author Wendelin Van Draanen, whose novels for young readers and teens include “Flipped” and the Sammy Keyes series. (Van Draanen’s husband, “Road Rash” author Mark Huntley Parsons, also is participating in the conference.)
In between, conference-goers can attend workshops and panel discussions by the likes of San Luis Obispo poet Kevin Clark, mystery writer Anne Perry and horror writers Jonathan Maberry and Nancy Holder.
Hollywood is represented by movie screenwriters such as Morro Bay resident Anthony Peckham (“Invictus”) Rob Edwards (“The Princess and the Frog”) and Doug Richardson (“Bad Boys”) — as well as Emmy Award winners Gene Perret, writer for “The Carol Burnett Show” and dozens of Bob Hope television specials, and Peter Dunne, whose TV producing and writing credits include “JAG,” “Knots Landing” and “Melrose Place.”
“That’s a very underserved part of the writing community,” Bayus said.
According to Bayus, this year’s conference also puts a special emphasis on agents and publishers.
“I wanted the business of writing to be a big part of it,” she said.
Bayus stressed that the Central Coast Writers Conference is aimed at helping both beginning writers and established authors.
“Everybody there has a heart for wanting writers to succeed and do better, and they’ll do anything in their power to help you,” Bayus said.
Central Coast Writers Conference
The free Book and Author Fair will be held 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Mission Plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo.
The writers conference continues 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Cuesta College, off Highway 1 north of San Luis Obispo.
Registration is $225 for the full conference, or $80 for the teen writers workshop. Individual events cost $25 to $30.