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”.]

~  ~  ~

Research and Writing, an Inevitable Combination

Dead leaves crunched under foot and weeds crowded the path that was the only access to the abandoned cemetery.  Detailed directions from the curator of the small rural museum included the warning that it would be easy to miss the trailhead. But we didn’t, and eventually found what until that moment I hadn’t known existed — the grave marker of my great grandfather.

Only those of you who appreciate the complexity of genealogy will understand the thrill of that discovery. It’s amazing what research can uncover.

I’m impressed at how much research many writers undertake in order to ensure authenticity in their novels. I recently read a series of blog posts by Carla Gade who, in preparation for the writing of a colonial novella, attended a historical society’s presentation on “Dressing a Colonial Lady.”  There is far more to a colonial lady’s wardrobe than I ever imagined!

There can be hours spent online and in libraries gathering details for historical novels. And there is the travelling — sometimes extensive trips such as the ones to Britain taken by authors Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte.

Not every writer goes to that length, of course, and some “write what they know” and don’t do research at all.

What about you? If it’s required, how do you handle the research in preparation for your writing?

~

Research and Writing – Part 2, coming on Friday.

Brushing Elbows With SiWC

Surrey1This is THE weekend — the Surrey International Writers’ Conference is underway. I’m not a delegate this year but was there today as a volunteer to help staff a trade table for the Federation of BC Writers. As people drifted past or stopped to chat I was struck with a sense of belonging. I’ve attended before and everything was so familiar.

Surrey2When my task was done I reeeealy wanted to join the stream of hungry writers heading into the ballroom for dinner and tonight’s keynote speaker, Anthony Dalton, and then stay on for Michael Slade‘s infamous Shock Theatre presentation with Diana Gabaldon, Anne Perry, Jack Whyte and, of course, kc dyer. Instead, I left for home. My turn as a delegate comes up again next year. Not until next year…. ::sigh::

Goodbye Summer Reading, Hello Fall Gardening

Just one more day! Yikes! Can I finish all the things I wanted to do this summer in the one day that’s left before autumn arrives on Tuesday? I doubt it. The one thing I have accomplished, however, is meeting my summer reading goal. Challenged by Jennifer Hubbard to read ten books by September 21st, I’ve read twelve:

  1. A Sweetness to the Soul – Jane Kirkpatrick
  2. Northern Lights – Nora Roberts
  3. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
  4. The Bancroft Strategy – Robert Ludlum
  5. Whiteout – Ken Follett
  6. Through the Valley of the Shadow – Rod Gehl
  7. Black Hills – Nora Roberts
  8. Beyond the Vows – Ed Griffin
  9. Fury of the Wind – Doris Riedweg
  10. I Luff You B.C. – Jan Drabek
  11. Word Work – Bruce Holland Rogers
  12. 6th Target – James Patterson/Maxine Paetro

My desire was to read a wider variety than is my norm. My out-of-genre choice was the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series.  Anything even faintly paranormal usually doesn’t interest me but I’ve met Diana at writers’ conferences and was curious about her writing style. I surprised myself by being totally caught up in Jamie and Claire’s across-the-centuries story and Diana’s captivating prose. I am now a convert and am just delving into the second in the series, “Dragonfly in Amber”.

But as summer fades so, too, do the flowers in our garden beds and there is a staggering amount of deadheading, weeding and cutting back of perenniels confronting me every time I glance out the window. Garden or read? Read or garden? Oh, what to do? Surely the gardening can wait another day while I luxuriate in one last summertime read. Of course it can!

Keep Doin’ It

There’s nothing complicated about finding one’s way onto the road to success. At least, not for NY Times best-selling author Diana Gabaldon. In her interview with Dee-Ann Leblanc on the “Freelance Survivor” website she was asked for her most important piece of advice:

 

          “Keep doin’ it.  Not only do you get better at something, the more you do it—persistence is the single most important aspect of success.”

 

It’s not complicated, but it’s profound in its simplicity and truth. Just “keep doin’ it.”

 

I am, Diana. I am.