The Great Oz

Detour, passengers. Let’s take a peek behind the curtain…

I began writing these taxi stories a few years ago as a way of keeping in touch with my aging, published author mother back on the east coast; to let her know what’s been going on in my life. (Yes, it’s been all about mom.) And like you, she’s been amused by many of these stories, and aghast at some of my actions in others. But as moms go, they forgive. And they want to see you thrive, and pay rent and stuff. So, mine sent her cabbie author son off to the 2016 San Francisco Writer’s Conference, which took place over four days last week, up at the four-star Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill.

It was all at once exhilarating, educational, and inspirational. There was a wonderful silver-haired, author-in-retirement community buzzing about, with all giving one another much needed support. The red meat of the event were various competing talks regarding the writing of pitches, book proposals and agent query letters, and, of course, tips for online marketing and the hot pursuit of publicity.

(Ah, what’s a non-practicing Buddhist to do?)

The keynote address at one of the breakfasts was delivered by bestselling author of the Ivy + Bean kids’ book series, Annie Barrows. To clanking dishes, Annie relayed to all us rapt writers stats from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, like: There were 156,000 self-described authors in the U.S. in 2013. And, there are over 4,500 books released in the United States every single day. But these overwhelming figures all washed away with Annie’s uplifting takeaways: “Don’t let ANYONE, EVER tell you that you are not a ‘real’ author.” And, “NO ONE knows ANYTHING about punctuation!”


The Goal: To secure conference co-director Mike Larsen as my agent. And to have Mike pursue a traditional book deal on my behalf.

I began the day early (and caffeinated) on Thursday morning, attending a talk by the object of my desire, entitled, The Ten Commandments for Becoming a Successful Writer. Long-time victim of weekly spam emails regarding new cabbie blog-posts, Mike has been an angel. Over the last year and a half, Mike has emailed me back numerous times with great advice and words of encouragement. He’s called me once. And THE Mike Larsen even invited me over to his home for his Christmas party! Yes, before I entered the gilded doors of The Mark Hopkins, the hook was already half in this fish’s mouth!

Seated amidst about thirty other aspiring professional authors, with pens at the ready, the aforementioned, very cool Mike Larsen opened his talk with some funny malapropisms, before punctuating his intro with the winning entry in this year’s conference slogan contest, “Writers do it on paper.”

Side Note: We’ll later learn to steer clear of -y and -ly adjectives like “very”. Apparently, they betray an author’s lack of imagination in word choice.

Just after the jokes, and right in the middle of Mike citing the many accomplishments of his, um, very impressive resume’, Mike drops the bomb.

“Oh, and I stopped representing new authors a year ago.”

Yes, the conference was all at once exhilarating, educational, inspirational… and dejecting.

The End.

Or, was it?

With conference schedule and highlighter in hand, I re-calibrated, devoting myself now to focusing on the numerous other agents attending the conference. I immediately snuck out of Mike’s Ten Commandments talk to duck into another event, currently in progress; Queen Victoria and Klaus Sherman: A Bestselling Author and Their Agent’s Working Marriage.

(Eh, I’d already read Mike’s Ten Commandments three times at home, anyway.)

It was in the Working Marriage talk that we agent-hungry attendees were let in on the rib busting tale of Queen Victoria commiserating once in L.A. with a fellow Brit. It seems Fellow Brit was purchasing the Queen’s manuscript for HBO a mini-series, which was then to be transposed into a modern take on Jack the Ripper. Well, the Queen asked Fellow Brit what he missed most about the U.K. And American marmalade was the hilarious reply. The sad state of it here in America, anyway. (Insert rattling jewelry HERE.) Something to do with oranges outside of the U.K.

Next stop, Prepping the Perfect Pitch: Convincing Agents to See Your Manuscript

Twelve agents sat all stoic on stage, as one at a time they all took shots critiquing pitches from a standing room-only crowd of insecure authors, the likes of Tokyo Jane.

Alex Sack

Alex Sack, born 1970, is a taxi driver who grew up in the Washington D.C. suburbs of Maryland. He attended several different colleges and universities around the D.C./Baltimore region as a music major for 4 & 1/2 years before quitting - pre-diploma - to the horror of his father. He tried his hand as a professional musician/songwriter seeing him through travels domiciled in New York City’s East Village, Los Angeles (where he scored a few songs on The Disney Channel's 'Even Stevens') and San Francisco - where he's ultimately put down roots. Alex is a single dad to two boys, currently ages 15 and 17. His post-natal fallback occupation as Operations Assistant at a start-up clean-tech engineering consultancy came to a sudden end with the one-two punch of the owner’s fatal skiing accident in Tahoe and the subsequent downturn in the economy.This - and an acquired nervous twitch to cubicle work - has led to his latest job...

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