Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Surrey International Writers Conference Report by Nancy M Bell

Wow, I can't believe another year has passed and SIWC2014 is over. As always I had a wonderful and informative time soaking in the advice and information provided by the presenters and visiting with old friends. Not to mention making tons of new ones. I flew into Abbotsford airport on Thursday morning with my friend Vicki Barrow and was met by Sharon Clayton who was kind enough to come and collect us. Thursday afternoon was spent in a Masters Class with Jack Whyte where 12 lucky people (this class fills up REALLY fast every year) get three pages of their work critiqued by Jack and then the rest of the class weighs in with their opinion too. I always learn so much and pick up so many nuances of the craft from listening to everyone's work and the comments generated by it.

Thursday night I lounged a bit and then met up with my friend Sara Benfit from Portland. This is our time to catch up with each other and have a good natter. Sara does three Masters Classes on the Thursday. Kudos to her, she has way more stamina than I do. LOL

Vicki, Me and Sharon

Friday morning started with a key note address by Peter Rubie. Then we were off to our workshops. I attended "Navigating Online Promotion and Social Media" with Sarah Wendell. It was a blast! Sarah is a dynamic presenter and immensely amusing. Also, love those shoes, girl! Sarah wore these cool heels with three bows up the front-- very awesome! Other workshops offered at the same time were: Elevator Pitches, Setting: More than Creating a Sense of Place with Hallie Ephron, Building the Romance Novel with Elizabeth Boyle, Tough language, Tender Wisdoms with Amber Dawn, Intro to Speculative Fiction with Danika Dinsmore, Catcher in the Wry: Writing for Teens with Anita Daher, Creating Narrative Drive with Roberta Rich and Live the Dream as a Travel Writer with Lucas Aykroyd. Whew! And that's just the morning session! From 1:30 to 3 I attended A Dozen Stories: Discussing what works with Peter Rubie. This was billed as a manuscript discussion but ended up being more about how to pitch to an agent. Still very informative. There were again numerous other workshops but I won't bore you by listing them all! From 3:30 to 5 I attended a workshop with Michael Slade entitled Northern Gothic. It was very informative and Michael is a wonderful engaging speaker.

Friday night is costume night! This year the theme was Secrets, Lies and Bad Guys. I went as Mata Hari and Vicki was Black Jack Randall from Outlander. Her red great coat was AMAZING. It was a hilarious night. The crowning jewel of the evening is Michael Slade's Shock Theatre where he and a star studded cast perform some weird and wonderful spooky play done like an old radio show. The cast includes Jack Whyte, Anne Perry, Diana Gabaldon, kc Dyer and Michael Slade. In keeping with the Hallowe'en season, a pumpkin is always smashed at some point near the end. Last year Robert Dugoni wore the pumpkin on his head and dashed about before smashing it on the board provided. Always a huge hit and not to be missed if you attend this wonderful conference.

Mata Hari and Black Jack Randall

My take on Mata Hari's jeweled bra. I gifted it to Madame Zamboni played by MC Carol as she gazed into her crystal ball and commented on Mata Hari's "44's"

Saturday starts off in the Guildford Ballroom again with a keynote by Cory Doctorow. Then it was off to New Ideas in Social Media with Sean Cranbury, followed by lunch, and then Public Speaking for Writers with Robin Spano. This was a great workshop where everyone got to practice speaking to the group and answering off the cuff interview questions. How not to put your foot in your mouth 101 I dubbed it. LOL I missed the very popular SIWC Idol session where writers submit one page of their work anonymously and pages are picked at random and read by Jack Whyte to a panel of agents who give it a Yay or a Nay. Then it was off to Back Story with Anne Perry. Another great informative workshop.

Saturday evening is the Huge Book Signing event. My friend Sara Durham and I were part of it and had a great time. Tons of people show up as the event is open to the public. Lots of laughter and good conversation. A long long line of people waited patiently for Diana Gabaldon to sign their books, as well as a good turnout for Anne Perry and Jack Whyte. It is always wonderful to talk to readers and share my books with them.

I opted out of dinner to visit with a dear friend of mine who has had some health challenges this fall and this was the only time we could get together. We have a joy filled evening catching up at the ABC restaurant which we closed down! It was raining like cats and dogs and I was very grateful Arlen and Lynne picked me up and delivered me back to the hotel. Once back at the hotel I made my way up to Jack Whyte's book launch party. His third book in the Guardians of Scotland trilogy was set to release on November 4, 2014. But we had the wonderful opportunity to purchase it in advance of that date and Jack very graciously signed many copies. He also bought a small dram of Scotch for those present. YUM!

Sunday morning, everyone is a wee bit weary by now, but still energized by the keynote by Laura Bradbury. It seems like the weekend just began and now it's time to say goodbye for another year! Kathy Chung, event co-ordinator does a fantastic job each year and 2014 was no exception. Kudos to Kathy and the SIWC Board. A huge hoard of volunteers ensure the event runs like clockwork. Sunday morning workshop was Public Readings and Developing your Authentic Voice with Sean Cranbury, then on to Action Scenes with Jack Whyte. Then it's time for the final luncheon and good-byes. If you want to find more about this great experience you can visit the SIWC website.

On another note: If you're looking for a Christmas gift for the romance lover on your list... My romance Christmas Storm: A Longview Romance has just released. You can find out more at my author page at Books We Love.