Thursday, February 9, 2012

Data mining the 2012 SF Writers Conference

Last February I posted on the topic of the annual San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC). I'll be attending again this year, for the third time, and have begun to look over the (still-tentative) schedule of sessions posted last week.

The conference will be held on Presidents Day Weekend, 16-19 February, at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. There's an impressive array of speakers, and seventy-five currently scheduled sessions and keynotes. The conference has sold out, but there's a waiting list if you're inspired to make a last-minute attempt to attend. There are also SFWC Master Classes offered on Monday 20 February, for which enrollment is still open.

Like last year, after reading through the listed sessions I was curious about the big picture view of what's on offer at SFWC. Since I have last year's categorization readily at hand, from last year's blog post, I have compiled counts of sessions in the same categories (almost) that I used last year, for comparison.

(For the record, by "almost" I mean that this year I broke out poetry into its own category, rather than grouping it with "Miscellaneous" sessions; to keep the comparison honest, I broke out last year's poetry-oriented session count in the new category as well.)

Et voilĂ :

Category 2012 Sessions 2011 Sessions
The industry: how it works, how to work it    18 13
Promotion (platform building, etc.) 14 15
Fiction (adult or general) 8 15
Craft and practice of writing 7 9
Poetry 7 3
Self-publishing, E-books 6 4
Books for kids and young adults 6 7
Non-fiction 3 7
Miscellaneous 6 2
Total 75 73

Same disclaimer as last year: Others might count some of the sessions differently than I did, and some would come up with different categories. Since the 'raw data' is the publicly posted schedule, readers are free to come up with their own schemes ... I'd be interested to see other slices and dices in comments to this post.

Like last year, I've used Wordle to generate a word cloud (see image, click to enlarge) from the SFWC schedule. Input to this year's word cloud was limited to session names, so the cloud gives a sense of the content of the sessions without the clutter of the presenters' names (I included names in last year's Wordle). No offense intended to the presenters, natch.

The big trends I'm seeing this year include an increase by more than twofold in poetry-oriented sessions, significantly more about the rapidly-morphing publishing industry, and a better-than-last-year emphasis on the new and disruptive kidz in the class, self-publishing channels and e-books. Also, interestingly, a halving of sessions oriented specifically to fiction and specifically to non-fiction; and a slight decrease in sessions aimed at the craft and practice of writing.

Six of the eight members of my on-line writers' critique group are attending this year -- traveling from as far as the midwest and Europe -- and a seventh will be returning from overseas in time to meet us for a post-conference lunch. I'm really looking forward to spending time with my circle of working writers after a year of contact limited mostly to e-mail and Skype.

Like last year, my on-line critique group will be looking for new writers to join us -- and because we communicate via the intertubes it doesn't matter where in the world new members live. If you're attending and think you might be interested, please feel welcome to seek me out; or send an e-mail ahead of time (you can find contact info on my web site). Our group's activities and guidelines are pretty close to the same as those I summarized in my post last year, How to organize an on-line writers' group; please have a look if you'd like to know more.

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Data-mining the SF Writers Conference schedule
How to organize an on-line writers' group
Drafting vs. editing
Music, memory, nostalgia ... and the novel

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