SiWC in Retrospect

Even if you leave late nights to the partiers, the pace at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference keeps your brain in perpetual motion. Every year I come home emotionally recharged but physically and mentally exhausted. It takes a couple days before my brain kicks into gear again, and I can begin to digest all the nourishment it’s been fed.

During registration I added a fourth day to the Conference package, drawn by the addition of James Scott Bell to the panel of presenters. His Thursday Master Class on Next Level Fiction went way beyond informative –it was stimulating, rejuvenating, and motivating, and the same can be said of the workshops he led over the next three days. He brought a fresh voice to the panel, and shared his expertise with confidence, warmth and humour. (I also had a ‘Blue Pencil’ interview with him that brought light into the darkness of a long-standing genre dilemma. For that alone I am supremely grateful.)

There were many other notable presenters there, too, of course — fifty of them in all — sharing their wisdom and wit. Some were familiar and much-appreciated people from previous years; some were also post-mealtime keynote speakers whose words brought nods of agreement, laughter and standing ovations – Elizabeth Engstrom, Tim Wynne-Jones, Ivan Coyote, Julia Quinn, Arthur Slade. The closing address by Robert Dugoni left me in tears!

I’m not going to try and condense all my notes to share with you. Other conference attendees around the blogosphere are posting theirs, but it’s impossible for me to convey all the benefits of attendance to someone who wasn’t there. Words on a page can’t replicate the experience.  I heard more than one presenter call the SiWC the best conference in North America. How can I give it any better accolade than that?


"It's a wrap!"

Update: I haven’t provided a lot of conference details here, but DD Shari Green has blogged each day since our return. Check out her posts for a more intimate look at all the highlights, beginning with her post on Monday.



Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

10 thoughts on “SiWC in Retrospect

    1. Like reading a wonderful ‘how-to’ book, there is always more information at this conference than can be absorbed all at once. I took a lot of notes that I’m looking forward to reviewing… when my brain finally wakes up.

    1. It was interesting to hear some of the presenters give their opinion that it’s one of the best (and friendliest) in North America. I’d don’t have others to compare it with, but can agree SiWC is wonderful. And yes, I’m glad we were able to attend together, too. Being there to see you acknowledged as a contest winner was particularly special! As Joylene said on Monday, I’m such a proud Mom!

  1. I went to a little retreat and I came home exhausted. LOL. Can’t imagine what SiWC would do to me. But I long to go. The retreat was gentle and inspiring. We were able to share openly and without hesitation. Everyone’s voice was heard. But it’s different. Perhaps it’s the perfect introduction to something as vast and impressive as Surrey? That’s something to think about.

    1. I think I mentioned on your blog that the strength of smaller events such as your retreat is in their intimacy. We had opportunities for one-on-one interaction at mealtimes, in the workshops, and in social times before, in between, and after sessions. Smaller groups formed within the larger number of attendees, but surrounded by several hundred people there was no way that anyone could get to know everyone.

      I don’t know that one kind of event is any better than the other. The calibre of the workshop presenters is what’s important. The opportunity to learn from very successful authors, agents, editors, publishers and filmmakers is there in either one. It’s just multiplied in the larger conferences. After attending several SiWCs, however, I recommend planning to either attend with a friend, or arrange to meet up with real or online friends there. Despite how friendly everyone is, having someone to share the experience with helps eliminate that ‘alone in a crowd’ feeling.

    1. Hi Jen. James Bell never did actually write anything during our ‘Blue Pencil’ session together. At one point he read through my opening pages, but mostly we just talked about certain concerns I’ve had. I hoped for advice and what I received was immensely helpful. Sometimes we aren’t distanced enough from our own work to see what is clear to someone more experienced.

      I’m sorry to hear your kitten is still missing. It’s so heart-wrenching wondering where a beloved pet might be and if he is in need of help. I pray you’ll find him soon.

  2. I some glad you had such a great experience. Sounds like your batteries are all charged and you ready to go again… I’m sure it will take awhile for everything to be absorbed.. 🙂

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