Updated: Mar 11
The first time I learned of San Miguel de Allende was when I heard about the International Writers’ Conference held in the city. It is prestigious five day festival that gathers readers and writers from Mexico, the United States, Europe and Canada to share work and ideas about the craft and business of writing. A famous writer said about the conference that if Dante had had the San Miguel experience, he would have written more about heaven than hell. I drooled over the impressive list of writers who would speak and lead workshops every year, but I never found the courage to attend. For the past two years their events have been held online—-a blessing.
AIthough I had had plays produced and poems and books published, and had won some awards as writer/actor, I was just beginning to feel legitimate as a writer when my fourth book was published last April, right before we moved. Of course I wondered: Would I fit into the community once we moved here? How open are the writers in San Miguel to newcomers that they’ve never heard of? My publisher had wanted me to narrate an audio version of the book, but I turned down the offer. It didn’t seem a worthwhile investment of my time. Meanwhile, I was playing around with the idea of having As Far as the I Can See turned into a movie, but had no idea how to pursue that idea. A writer friend in San Miguel I had met online suggested I get in touch with Susan Page the founder of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Sala since she might know someone who knew someone in the film industry. She knows everyone in the literary world, this friend said. So I sent Susan an email explaining who I was and what I wanted and said that I would soon be moving to town. She suggested someone who teaches screenplay writing, and also said that I should let her know when I was settled in San Miguel so we could get together for coffee. That invitation blew me away. Susan Page, in addition to being founder and director of the Writers’ Conference and Literary Sala, an organization she founded 19 years ago, is the author of 7 books, including If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single? a bestselling book that took her to Oprah’s tv program and on a world tour. Her work has been translated into 18 languages and is still selling after more than 30 years in print. She meets routinely with writers like Isabel Allende, Elinor Lipman, Margaret Atwood, Geraldine Brooks, Lawrence Wright, and Isabel Wilkerson, and yet she was gracious enough to invite me to have coffee with her.
I didn’t contact Susan for five months. I was too busy trying to learn my address, how to get from here to there, the pronounciation of street names and the ATM with the lowest exchange rate for pesos. I was finding my sea legs as a newbie. But one day when the publisher of my book contacted me to say that they had selected a narrator for an audio version of As Far As the I Can See, I remembered my correspondence with Susan and felt like stepping out of my self-enforced anonymity and connecting with her. We met at Geek and Coffee, a lovely spot connected with the Fabrica la Aurora, a renovated textile mill that houses shops and galleries with works by local artists in many mediums. The setting was magical and it was a lovely San Miguel day, as most are. Our conversation was easy and interesting. I learned more of her history and how she came to establish the Writers’ Conference. She was interested in work that I have done. Knowing that I’ve written some pieces for theater, she asked if I’d like to do something in San Miguel, a play, or teach? I told her I was past all that now. Performance no longer appeals to me, except as audience member ,and I am contented for now just writing my blog. She understood. She has taken years off from her own writing, though she’s beginning a new work, based on her family story set many generations ago. It is completely different from her prior books on relationships, and she needs to step back from the writers’ conference in order to give herself time to work on it. We agreed that I would volunteer to help with next year’s conference. It will be a full-time job for five days. I left our coffee thinking maybe I too will have more to say in the future. When I am not so busy living life in San Miguel, I might be willing to immerse myself again in a solitary world of words. I am open to what comes.