And, boy, is it a doozy.
There are some appearances and conferences that are pretty cush on the writer’s side of things. You show up, you wave, you sign some books…hopefully get shooed back into your lonely writer’s cave before you start feeling too big for your britches.
However, as cush gigs go, the Surrey International Writer’s Conference held every October not one of them.
I don’t mean that we’re not treated well. Conversely, we are given respect, acknowledgement, and all the tools necessary to work to our highest level…but the key word in that sentence is work, and I’ve never worked so hard as I do when I attend this conference.
I also love every minute of it.
It is my humble opinion that SIWC is the best writer’s conference out there, but let me back up a moment for context. Some of you already know this but before I was published I was a part of an online writer’s forum for about eight years. This was in the very beginning of the dial-up age, and I had to use a service called Prodigy to access the forum. Despite the inconvenience of being screeched at by the phone line for a full minute before gaining online access, I persevered because for the first time I found a like-minded group of people who felt as I did about writing, and many of these people attended Surrey yearly.
I did finally make it to Surrey, though it was as a presenter after my first couple of books were published, and here’s why I love it so much—and why I think any aspiring writer out there should really give it a second glance:
–they are age inclusive; respectful of writers of every age from teen to senior. Everyone is there to learn.
–the focus is on craft, not gimmicks. So often online you’ll hear aspiring authors talking about how to game the system—get more likes, fiddle with metadata, ‘ten easy step to yada yada’—but the writers and agents and editors at Surrey know there’s no shortcut to writing well, and everyone is focused on doing their level best at all time.
–the conference is small and presenters are required to attend all meals and social events on the schedule. This is conference magic, y’all. It’s laid back, intimate, and low pressure. You get to rub shoulders with everyone. In the elevators, in the hallways, over drinks in the lounge…and the interactions I’ve seen between attendees and presenters are genuine connections.
–opportunity: you can pitch your story to agents, to editors, and you can have it critiqued in ‘blue pencil’ sessions, where the presenting authors go over your pages for immediate feedback.
–it’s in Canada. I like Canada.
There’s also a signing, cocktail parties—I think there was even a pajama party thrown in there a couple of years ago; I’d better check on that—and a trade show. In short, SIWC is what all writing conferences aspire to be, and the people running it are professional, kind, genuine, and lovers of the written word, down to the last.
You can go here to see the full schedule, but here’s my schedule for the weekend:
Friday, October 23:
10:00am – The Un-Put-Down-Able Book (Panel)
Want your readers to forget about dinner dates and housework because they’re unable to put your book down? Whatever your genre, the key is the same: tension. Join our panel of writers of page turners to learn the secrets of making your readers think “just one more chapter” over and over again.
2:15 – my blue pencil session (not sure if this is full yet or not, but I’ll be critiquing whomever shows up!)
8:00 pm – post banquet keynote
Saturday, October 24:
11:30am – Forays into Fantasy (panel)
The world of fantasy is as varied as our imaginations, but even wildly different worlds come with the same concerns for writers. Join our panel of fantasy writers, led by agent Laurie McLean, and bring your questions.
2:15pm – Surviving Your Writing Career
Presenter: Vicki Pettersson
Seeing your work on bookstore shelves for the first time is an undeniable high, but a long-term writer’s career typically contains challenges and rewards in equal measure. In this workshop we’ll discuss overcoming the ups-and-downs on your way to becoming a career writer, how neither success nor failure is absolute, and how to face the ambiguous nature of the publishing business … while continuing to love what you do every step of the way.
11:30am — Writer’s Toolbox
Presenter: Vicki Pettersson
No two writers’ paths unfold identically, but every published author finds a way to address goal-setting, time management, and the resolve to get to the writer’s chair daily. Join bestselling author Vicki Pettersson for tips, tricks, and hacks to help first-time authors beat the mind games that stand in the way of publication.
So, for the record, that’s two panels, two workshops, a keynote, signing, blue pencil and all luncheons and dinners … see what I mean about work?
And every minute is a joy.
I think there are still a few registration spots open if you’re interested this year, and check out the full programming to keep in mind for next year’s conference as well.
For those who are attending … see you soon!