Now THAT was a conference!

Whooo-eeee! A three-and-one-half day whirlwind just deposited me back at home and my brain is still reeling. So many great people, so much information conveyed, such a lot of encouragement, inspiration and motivation provided… not to mention all the fabulous food consumed!

I promised a conference round up, but I’ve come to the conclusion it’s impossible to condense the following into a few paragraphs:

  • the impact of being among 700 people who love writing as much as you do,
  • the contributions of fifty-five authors, agents, editors and screenwriters at the free ‘Blue Pencil’ and agent interviews,
  • the vast amounts of material they presented during more than seventy workshops,
  • the helpfulness of at least a hundred volunteers, staff and organizers, or
  • the luxury of the conference’s first class hotel setting.

You’ve heard the saying ‘you need to see it to believe it.’ Well, in this case you need to be there to fully appreciate it.

Maybe by Wednesday my brain will be better able to sort through the weekend’s highlights, but at the moment it’s still on Information Overload. For now I think I’ll leave you with a few of my photos and the suggestion that you set aside October 24-27, 2013 and plan to come and see for yourself what makes this conference one of the very best in North America.

[A click on any photo will enlarge it]

Just one-third of the packed Conference hotel ballroom

MC, Carol “Sparkles” Monaghan complete with deelyboppers but minus her wand and feather boa

Agent Donald Maass and Conference Coordinator Kathy Chung

DD Shari Green and author Eileen Cook at the Book Fair

Author Jack Whyte giving his annual rendition of “Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud” (after which he lost his voice)

Author Hallie Ephron at Saturday night’s Book Fair

Editor Nancy Marie Bell (and yes, Joylene, I DID give her your hug!)

SiWC writing contest coordinator and author kc dyer…

… and kc’s infamous “sexy legs” tights

There are more, but they’ll have to wait. The weekend’s lack of sleep has caught up to me and I’m off to dream the maybe-not-so-impossible-anymore dream.

~  ~  ~

In a fog… (in which I complain about suitcases)

Some days my brain is in a fog. There’s just no other way to describe it — fuzzy, unfocused, a little lost. It happens to me every time you put me in front of a suitcase.

A foggy day on the Fraser River

Suitcases were designed to thwart any attempt to contain what may be necessary for the impending journey. Doesn’t matter if I’m going to be away for two days or ten, there is always spillover into a tote bag, my purse, and occasionally even a couple plastic grocery bags.

Take this weekend, for example. Three-and-a-half days at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference is not a particularly long time. (I know from experience it will be much too short.) I won’t be dancing, mountain climbing, gardening or attending the opera. I’ll be indoors, either sitting in workshops or hobnobbing with friends and fellow writers the entire time, so I won’t need a great diversity of clothing. So why is it the stack of neatly folded items on my bed once again towers higher than the suitcase that not long ago held everything I needed for a month’s vacation? (Well, almost everything. There was my hairdryer and my writing kit…. oh, and my camera. They all ended up in a separate bag.)

This is my dilemma: what to eliminate to ensure there will still be room to bring back all the books and other goodies that I’m undoubtedly going to accumulate during the weekend. What can I do without? Shoes? Maybe. If I don’t get my slacks hemmed nobody is going to be able to see my feet anyway. Underwear? No, that would be indecent, and I’m always decent. Maybe the bulky sweater. If I wear my flamboyant  ‘Roaring Twenties’ coat all weekend I won’t need a sweater. Then again, I can’t live in that coat for three-and-a-half days. The feathers will drive me crazy.

I can’t seem to focus on the solution. There must be one, but I’m ready for a coffee break at the moment. I fancy a muffin. Maybe I’ll go bake a batch of pumpkin ones. I have some pumpkin I didn’t use at Thanksgiving. Did I tell you that our church ladies bake The. Best. Pumpkin pies? They make them as a fundraiser every fall. I think they’ll also have some to sell at their Christmas bazaar that’s coming up in November. I must remember to pick up the ingredients for my fruitcakes soon so I have everything on hand for that annual mid-November baking endeavour. Oh, speaking of annual things, did you know the Surrey conference is this weekend? Whatever am I going to do about this mountain of stuff I need to take?

There’s a bigger suitcase in the basement. I think my mother-in-law’s silver tea service is in a box somewhere down there, too. I’ll bet it needs polishing. I wonder if I have any tarnish remover.

Do you have packing panic whenever you travel, or is it just me? 

~  ~  ~

It’s a little like Christmas in October!

October’s here! You know how it was when you were a child waiting for Christmas? December 1st arrived, and with it came all those tantalizing secrets, the fragrance of Mother’s gingerbread baking, the ritual unpacking of heirloom ornaments and, of course, Dad’s annual untangling of Christmas lights. Days crossed off the calendar ever so  s l o w l y  and it seemed like Christmas vacation was never going to arrive.

Parents had a totally different perception of time. So much to do and only three weeks left!

It’s time to don my writing sweatshirt!

The arrival of October brings the same reality for me, but for different reasons. Barely three weeks. In fact, it’s not quite three weeks until the Surrey International Writers’ Conference begins. For those who are registered and anxious to be there, it’s time filled with impatient waiting. Three weeks seem like a long time, but I’m all grown up now. I know it’s not.

I suspect there are people beginning to scramble. There may be a bit of panic. But as we “X” off the days on the calendar there’s no question everything will get done and the Conference weekend will eventually arrive. That’s not the sound of sleigh bells in the distance, but  faint strains of the hallowed “Hippopotamus Song” mingled with chants of “This day we write!”

Oh, squeeeee!!! October’s here!


What special occasion(s) whipped you into breathless excitement as a child? Did becoming an adult alter your perspective?

~  ~  ~


It’s today! SiWC registration opens today!

I start hyperventilating on this day each year. At least I do on the years I’m able to attend the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and this is one of those years. I’ve been attending since 2004 and always come home filled with renewed energy for my writing, reams of notes from the workshops, lots of new friends, and usually a few extra pounds from the great food. My suitcase weighs more on the homeward trip, too, since I can never resist the many booths of books and writing-related goodies. And then there’s that magnificent silent auction!

Both speakers and attendees will tell you it is one of the top conferences in North America. Each year I claim it’s the best year, but 2010 was particularly sweet. I attended with my daughter, Shari Green, and had the joy of seeing her presented with a cheque for winning First Place in the ‘Writing for Young People’ category of the annual writing contest.

When agent Don Maass was unable to attend that year due to a conflict of dates, my scheduled appointment with him was transferred to his replacement, author James Scott Bell, and I had The. Best. Ever. discussion with him! It actually changed my thinking about my choice of genre.

Every year I learn so much and come away inspired to write better, reach higher and try harder. My writerly soul is always nourished. Chicken soup can’t compete with the SiWC!

So, come twelve o’clock Pacific Time today when registration opens, I’ll be among the first in line. This is the conference’s twentieth anniversary year, and I know it’s going to be something really special. I wouldn’t miss it for anything!

In the meantime, does anyone have a paper bag handy? I have to get my breathing under control before noon.


Have you attended conferences in your profession? What would you say is the greatest benefit gained?

~  ~  ~

What happens at SiWC….


What happens in Surrey doesn’t necessarily stay in Surrey! If this video by Kimberly (@kimmydon) doesn’t convince you the Surrey International Writers’ Conference is THE place to be, nothing will. Where else would you see uber-agent Donald Maass literally stripping the [auctioned] shirt off the back of uber-author Robert Dugoni?

I couldn’t get to the conference this year, but followed the highlights via Twitter and Facebook, and am already looking forward to attending the 2012 conference — its twentieth anniversary year. It’s impossible to contemplate missing this conference two years in a row, though not necessarily because of the fun aspects.

Were you there? Or have you attended other conferences this year? What were the highlights for you?


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.


Unresponsive Brain Cells Don’t Matter, Do They?

Information Overload’ is a reality. I know, because I’m afflicted. Just home from four days at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and my fuzzy brain refuses to offer up coherent words for a timely post of writing inspiration. Not that it doesn’t contain lots of said inspiration. It does. It’s just that the great helpings of it acquired this weekend are nestled away in sluggish grey matter that refuses to release it. I need to go to bed! Hence, a shortened version of my weekend’s highlights:

Awesome Thursday Master Class on ‘Next Level Fiction’ with James Scott Bell

… who had the greatest gelskin for his laptop!

Daughter, Shari Green, winner of the SiWC Writing Contest, YA category.

There’s a brief podcast interview with Shari here.

Hundreds and hundreds of fellow writers, authors, editors, agents, and publishers making connections, attending workshops, sharing good ideas, good news, good fellowship, and good food.

Bottles of wine, late night gatherings, Tweeted directions.

(Of course there is no picture! Would you really expect one?)

A Silent Auction, huge Trade Show, books and bargains galore.

(I wanted one of everything!)

The Saturday evening Book Fair and its author book signings.

The annual rendition of “Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud” by Jack Whyte.

(Just ignore the bottle… a little pre-song fortification.)

There’s tons more, but eyes are glazing over. Have to sleep now.

To be continued….

Conference Time! Yaaaay!

Today has finally arrived! My camera and I are headed for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference with sessions today through Sunday. Talk about awesome! My choice of Master Class for this evening’s session is James Scott Bell’s “Next Level Fiction”.  Over the next three days there are more than seventy workshops to choose from, all led by great presenters. Wow! Decisions, decisions, decisions!

I received word that I had been shortlisted again as a finalist in the writing contest, so that was cool. Didn’t win… but I know someone who did, and that’s more than cool.

I’ll be back on Monday to tell you all about it and share my conference experiences and some fresh photos. (These ones are from the last time I attended.)

View from the hotel room

Today’s the Day and I Did It!

Yes, I did. With a gnawing in my stomach that other years caused me to bypass my first choices, with lips pursed and heart thudding, today I took a deep breath, checked two particular names, clicked “submit” and cemented my decision.

Registration opened at noon today for the 2010 Surrey International Writers’ Conference. I’ve attended for several years and taken part in the editor and agent sessions, never confident that my writing was worth the time they gave to listen and evaluate, despite their encouragement. I love this conference for its information, inspiration, rejuvenation – and, of course, the pure pleasure of hobnobbing with other writers and writing professionals. It’s a heady environment!

This year I decided to register early and try to book an interview with my first choice of agent and editor. I value their opinion and can only know what that is if I actually present my material for scrutiny, right?

The deed is done. Registration and the appointments are confirmed. Gulp. Now I have to live with this trepidation for four months until conference time arrives. One consolation: I should lose weight between now and then. The butterflies are bound to consume any calories I manage to eat.

Do you have plans to attend a writing conference this year? Have you attended one before? How was your experience?


It’s Not Too Soon To Start

Seven months. Seven oh-so-long months to wait. My inbox brought the first tantalizing reminder that this year’s dates for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference are October 22-24. I save up my shekels to go every second year and this is my year to attend. Woohoo!


Conference staff already have plans underway and there is information starting to show up on their website and blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. Still seven months to go but the hype has started. It may seem like an eternity but we all know how quickly weeks and months slip away. There’s a writing contest, too, so if we’re thinking of vying for the $1000 prize money it’s not too soon to start working on a submission.


Hmmm… let’s see… a topic. I need a topic. It’s only seven not-so-far-away months.


What benefits do you think conferences and writing contests offer aspiring authors.