More Conference Thoughts and an Inadequate Thank You

I’ve been reflecting on the people involved with the Surrey Conference. So many people! They all had an impact on how I experienced the conference and yet many of them I didn’t directly encounter. For every visible contribution there were at least ten more from behind the scenes, and every one was important to the success of the whole. I’m thankful for all of them. This conference is always the highlight of my writing year.

From its small beginnings, instigated in 1993 by Ed Griffin, the conference has mushroomed in both numbers and impact. It has a reputation for drawing people well known throughout the writing community. The 1994 conference featured the late best-selling author Maeve Binchey as a keynote speaker. Since then, author Jack Whyte has been coming for nineteen years; Diana Gabaldon for eighteen. Anne Perry arrives annually from England. Michael Slade and Robert J. Sawyer have become regulars. Top NY agent and author Donald Maass figured this was his sixteenth or seventeenth year. Why do they keep returning? Why do so many others — authors, agents, editors, publishers and screenwriters — willingly join the panel of over sixty presenters every year?

Yes, they probably enjoy the camaraderie, and perhaps they benefit in ways beyond selling additional books, but I suspect it’s more about the giving back. One thing I’m learning in my journey is that every successful writer was once a newbie, and those memories prod many of them to reach out a helping hand and an understanding heart to those who are still en route.

Donald Maass

Not one of them keeps the ‘secrets of their success’ to themselves. They’re always more than generous about sharing their wisdom and experience. Donald Maass was wrung out with the last of a cold when he arrived at the hotel, but he still gave us a dynamic three-and-a-half hour workshop Thursday evening, and then offered to carry on the conversation over his meal and a glass of wine in the lounge afterwards. (That last bite of burger must have been very cold, Don!)

Jack Whyte

Jack Whyte didn’t disappoint with his memorable annual rendition of the Hippopotamus Song, “Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud” on Saturday evening, despite lapsing into total laryngitis afterwards. When he had no voice for his final workshop Sunday morning, he didn’t just send his regrets… he brought them to us in person. (Sure hope he’s feeling okay now.)

Kathy Chung
k.c. dyer

From morning’s first light to the latest hours of the night, conference coordinator Kathy Chung, her sidekick kc dyer, and their fellow Board and Committee members were everywhere, sometimes white with exhaustion, but still smiling and making sure everyone was having a good conference experience. I don’t know how they did it all, but I know why. Because they believe in the goal that has been the conference mandate for all twenty years: “To inspire, educate and motivate aspiring and experienced writers alike.”

I know I came away inspired, educated and motivated thanks to their dedication and efforts, and that of all the others who were there working for my benefit. It was another awesome conference weekend, and a simple ‘thank you’ hardly seems adequate.


[There are a couple flashes of static in this video, but for those who’d like to hear Jack sing it, here’s my 2007 YouTube version of his “Glorious Mud”.]

~  ~  ~


Published by Carol

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

11 thoughts on “More Conference Thoughts and an Inadequate Thank You

  1. Great article, Carol! I’d like to add my thank-you’s to yours. The Surrey conference is world class (having been to a few over the last few years, I can say this with confidence).

    Last weekend was either my eleventh or twelfth consecutive year attending SIWC, and I am like a little kid counting sleeps beforehand. For the first eight/nine years, I attended as a non-fiction writer and this last three as a fiction writer. There is always lots to learn.

    This year, it was great to see so many Golden Ears Writers at the conference. I felt like a proud mother!


  2. I couldn’t believe everything I learned! I was a newbie, and came away from it feeling like I’d been shot out of a cannon– inspired and ready to kick butt! I’m completely psyched for next year! Trying to figure out how to start saving my pennies before then. It was lovely meeting you, Carol. Kathy, KC, Jack, Don, and everyone else– Thanks for doing what you do!

  3. I can imagine how wonderful it was, yet I bet I’m not close to the true wonder of it. So glad you enjoyed yourself, Carol. I’m looking forward to hearing how it effected you in the long run.

  4. Thanks for stopping by to comment, everyone.
    ~ Katherine, you have a few more Surrey Con years under your belt than I have. My first year was 2004, and it still seems new and exciting!
    ~ Laini, it’s wonderful that you found the conference so energizing! I wish I could go every year, but usually it takes an extra year to collect enough funds. We can hope for next year, though, can’t we?
    ~ Joylene, I think I get something different out of it every time I attend. I’ll have to e-mail you more deets and a photo. Soon.

  5. A beautiful thank you, Carol. You’re so right. Everyone involved in the conference is amazing! A truly great weekend. One that has also become a highlight for me.

  6. I think anyone who has ever attended the Surrey Conference raves about it. The fact that ‘Blue Pencil” and agent appointments are included with the registration fee is always a plus, but so, too, is the way everyone mingles. The non-workshop moments can be just as beneficial as any of the more formal sessions… and even those are pretty informal.

    ~ Judith, I hope you can make it. I usually only manage every second year, but I always dream of a windfall that will make every year possible. 🙂

  7. Carol,
    Thank you so much for your lovely post. It’s attendees like you and Shari and others who come away inspired and excited who make what we do worthwhile.

  8. How exciting, Carol! I enjoyed reading about your weekend at the conference. I’ve never attended an event like this but it sounds as though it would be very inspiring for any writer. And great photos from the conference. 🙂

I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s