Conferences are often the brunt of jokes. You know how it is — the annual conference in Vegas that’s little more than a vacation getaway where attendees take in all the entertainment and casino opportunities, and make it to one conference session just to legitimize the trip’s expense claim.
Not so for most writers’ conferences. Maybe the difference is because writing is very much a solitary pursuit and it takes effort to commit to a weekend of being constantly immersed in a crowd of five-to-six hundred people. We have to be convinced the opportunities to improve skills and mingle with so many people who understand our unique lifestyle are going to be worth the stress of putting our introverted selves ‘out there’.
This particular weekend was definitely worth it!
The Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) has become known as “the most comprehensive professional development conference of its kind in Canada”, unique in atmosphere and what it provides for writers of every experience level. Its reputation has mushroomed and registration sold out well before this year’s event.
Last weekend writers, agents, editors, publishers and screenwriters arrived en masse to learn, teach, listen, encourage …. a total of fifty-eight of them were presenting ninety different workshops over the three days (a choice of nine in every time slot), and participating in free pitch sessions and ‘blue pencil’ consultations. Yes, it gets mind-boggling, and we came away with information overload, but inspired beyond belief.
Those things all contributed to the conference’s many highlights, but it was the less obvious experiences that made it truly unique.
- a special atmosphere of camaraderie and inclusiveness that embraced novice writers and famous authors, newbies and industry professionals
- evening conversations and mingling over drinks
- warm smiles and words of encouragement
- a New York bestselling author remembering my name from a previous year and stepping up for a photo.
- tears over an unexpected award for DD Shari Green, and pride in her well-received first time workshop presentations
- singing along with Jack Whyte’s infamous annual rendition of the Hippopotamus Song
- disbelief that it could already be the ninth year for Michael Slade’s ‘Shock Theatre’
- k c dyer’s distinctive daily selection of colourful tights
- and the sun shining at least intermittently throughout the weekend to showcase the beautiful autumn scenery and the mountains of our west coast venue.
I have so many photos but this sampling gives you a taste of what made the weekend special. It’s always memorable, but every year seems more so than the last. If I were to have any criticism at all, it would be that it’s getting too big, but that’s just the claustrophobia in me fluttering its anxious hands in the air. The writer in me loved it all.
Next year will be the conference’s twenty-fifth anniversary. It’s going to be spectacular! You might want to mark October 20-22, 2017 on your calendar right now.
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