Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thoughts on the Surrey International Writers' Conference

This weekend, I attended the 18th annual Surrey International Writers’ Conference. This conference for writers has been gaining a lot of attention as one of the friendliest, most informative, and fun conferences in North America, and it is. I mean, where else would you see well known crime writer Anne Perry mingling with attendees. She even sat in on a workshop offered by agent Ken Sherman that I attended, and later thanked me for helping out at the volunteer desk during agent/editor appointments. And I saw this friendliness everywhere. With about eighty enthusiastic volunteers, it’s no wonder things ran pretty smoothly.

For those of you who’ve never heard of SIWC, this is a three-day event (four for those taking masters classes) that offers oodles of workshops and panel discussions on nearly every topic imaginable. While the most of the workshops focus on some aspect of fiction, there are workshops for poets, nonfiction writers, and film script writers. Three, ninety-minute workshops happen simultaneously in nine different meeting rooms, so picking and choosing a workshop of choice can be a tough decision. But you’re free to come and go discreetly, and many attendees have to because their agent/editor appointments are also scheduled throughout the day.

One of the beauties of this conference is the opportunity for authors to have short, one-on-one sessions with editors and agents to pitch their work. There is also a blue pencil café, where you can have a few pages of your work evaluated. Pitch practice sessions are also offered to go over your approach before you do the real thing.

This was my sixth conference over a thirteen year period. Three years ago, I had the good fortune to win an honourable mention in the short fiction category and receive an award from Jack Whyte and Diana Gabaldon. This time, I made the shortlist, but alas, no prize. Still, it was worth it to write short stories again, and actually finish a piece.

For the first time, I attended a masters class, and this one was conducted by thriller writer James Scott Bell, who provided a really informative look at taking fiction to the next level. Even though I already knew many of the writing tips given in workshops, there were still a handful of intriguing ideas that have made me rethink how I approach things like setting and story structure. For anyone who’d like more information about next year’s conference here’s the link to give you more information: Enjoy!

My Vancouver-based, Alex Bellamy mysteries can be purchased at


Jessica Subject said...

Oh, I know a couple people who went, and I so wish I could have been there. I plan to go next year though.

Anonymous said...

I was there (been going since 2004) and it's everything you've said, and more. Can't recommend it enough.

Carol J. Garvin

Shari Green said...

SUCH an awesome conference! (I was in James Scott Bell's master class, too -- loved it!)

Enjoyed reading your SiWC thoughts. Thanks! :)

onsebidonne said...

I loved it even more this year than last year. Ivan Coyote --whom I had met before--was so inspiring again and encouraging. What awesome presenters this year...loved every minute of it. Way to go organizers!