Writing the Future Conference 2010

The Writer’s Center hosted the Writing the Future conference on March 20, which I attended after a kind invitation from the center.  Sorry for the poor quality of my photos; I had no idea the lighting would be so somber — I would have brought my SLR otherwise.  Unfortunately, I missed most of the first panel thanks to the Metro system and its track delays all morning, which was not fun — sitting in dark tunnels for 20-30 minutes on end without any updates.  But, I digress.

The second discussion, which started at about 10:45AM, touched upon how technology is changing and how writers can take advantage of those changes and latest tools.  The panelists included Jay Ogilvy, Lee Gutkind, Richard Nash, Sandra Beasley, Lauren Cerand, Sarah Courteau, Jack Sallay, Dan Sarewitz, and Jeff Kleinman, with jobs as literary agents, writers, poets, publishers, and academics.  These panelists talked about how to improve match-making between writers and readers by creating communities in which they find one another, which would cut out legacy publishing —  a term used to describe traditional publishers like the Random Houses and Simon and Schusters.

The traditional thought about holding a mass market inventory of books to supply to readers is fading into the distance, which is why writers need to find new ways of reaching their audiences, either through social media or their own Websites.  Social media is making it easier to highlight small presses and lesser-known authors in a sea of millions of writers.  One mistake many writers and publishers make is that they view paper as something more than a vehicle through which to express their writing, ideas, and tell stories.

One of the major highlights of the panel was the information provided by Jack Sallay about his small start-up business, Vook that combines multimedia with the written word.  He discussed a wide range of multimedia combinations from music to video embedded with the written word.  Some of the videos are done with the help of filmmakers and authors, while others are cute videos of bunnies or other items and tied to books, like The Velveteen Rabbit.  Sallay noted that the project has been more successful than expected.

One surprise at the conference was the presence of the New York Times’ Nick Bilton, who writes for the Bits Blog and has written a new book, I Live in the Future & Here’s How it Works.  He discussed the wave of the future in technology and the creation of flexible screens that will eventually replace paper books and maybe even Kindles and other devices.

I think the main takeaway from the conference is that the publishing industry continues to be in transition, especially in terms of how readers are matched to writers and how those relationships are sustained.  Writers will need to understand their writing, what audience it is best suited for, and create a platform through which they can reach out to audiences and readers alike.  Writers will have to become business people and look out for the best ways to market themselves and their work by using the latest technology.

I’m going to leave you with a bit of video from the final panel on ethics in nonfiction and memoir, which got pretty active between audience questions and discussion among the panelists.  Also if you want to see the rest of the shoddy photos I took, go here.

FTC Disclosure: Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. CM: I completely agree that it would be great to have more conferences of this caliber. I think even though I have a pretty good grasp of technology and social media that I even learned something.

    I would love to see a book blogger panel. I would be happy to participate. Actually, book bloggers are having their own conference on May 28 in NYC following the Book Expo America convention in the same venue, Javits.

    I would love for more authors to come.

  2. C.M. Mayo says

    Serena, it was great to see you there, however briefly (what a crush of people!!) Thanks for posting your report with all these handy links. Hands down, it was the most mind-opening writing conference I have ever attended. I came home and made a video. Ha! Now: to order an iPad! Wouldn't it be grand if the Writers Center would turn this into an annual conference? We have too many conferences out there with the usual "how do I get an agent" stuff– we need something more future oriented like this, that addresses what it means to be a writer when so much of our writing (and more) is on a screen. There should be a panel for book bloggers. It would be fascinating to hear more about your experience with this. The whole blogging thing have evolved and continues to evolve in very unexpected ways. Well, blog on!

  3. Sounds like lots to think about.

  4. Sounds like an interesting discussion. It will be interesting to see all the changes in publishing in the next few years.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  5. Sounds like you had a very interesting, informative day. I'm really interested in the Vook. It sounds fun and innovative.