Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ode to Surrey International Writers Conference

by Robin Spano

Question of the Week: What are your favorite writing conferences/conventions to attend?

First, thanks to Susan Shea, who defined the difference between conferences (collegial writerly gatherings) and conventions (fan-based gatherings).

My favorite convention is Bouchercon. I've written a post about that before. Here's a link if you're interested: http://www.robinspano.com/5-things-i-love-about-bouchercon/

My favorite conference is Surrey International Writers Conference. The atmosphere buzzes with warmth and excellence, which radiates down from the warm, brilliant organizer, Kathy Chung, and her team of similarly devoted board members. There is so much talent in any room you're in—not only because the presenters include the likes of Chevy Stevens and Diana Gabaldon, but because the aspiring authors who attend are smart, serious, and quite advanced in their craft. Some attendees are even published authors.

I'd attended educational sessions there in the past (if you ever have the opportunity to take a workshop from Don Maass, jump at it), so I was excited to be a presenter there in the fall of 2014. I taught two workshops—one on the craft of mystery writing, another on public speaking for authors. I sat for three blue pencil sessions where attendees brought me pages of their work to insta-critique. Both during those sessions and at meals, I met aspiring authors who I've stayed in touch and become friends with.

I also doubled as an attendee. I used every break I had to sit in on other presenters' workshops and soak up the wisdom of my colleagues. Favorites were “Making Readers Cry” taught by Robert J. Wiersema, and an excellent take on setting by Hallie Ephron.

I also had a lot of fun (maybe one night too much fun?) with my fellow presenters. There's something about being in a hotel with wine and fellow writerly folks that makes your inhibitions mysteriously disappear. (But they come back with a thud the next morning, right Rachel Letofsky?)

Next convention on my list to attend is Left Coast Crime. I've never been, but it sounds warm and wonderful. Maybe 2016?


Paul D. Marks said...

Robin, I echo your thoughts about the conventions and conferences. There's always a lot of fun and "frolic". Also, from your piece on B'con, how your husband likes hanging out with writers 'cause he thinks we're weird...in the most wonderful way :)

And I'd be curious about the panel or lecture on making readers cry.

Alan Orloff said...

You hit the nail on the head--conventions are a great place to meet other writers (among other things). In fact, Robin, I believe we met at a Bouchercon, and I believe you hooked me up to the poker game where we most certainly did not play for money, and I most certainly did not lose five bucks. See you in Raleigh?? At the card table?

RJ Harlick said...

Robin, you are so lucky you live close to the Surrey Writers Conference. I've always wanted to attend, but sadly I live just a little too far away. Good post.

Catriona McPherson said...

Come to LCC Phoenix! If you wait a year it'll be all the way in Hawaii. But then you'll be in Hawaii, I suppose.

Susan C Shea said...

Is this "Surrey" as in Surrey, England? Maybe the excuse I need to visit England again. Sounds lovely, Robin.

Robin Spano said...

Paul - The making readers cry workshop was a really smart look at how to use minimalist emotion with evocative details. It's hard to sum up in a comment but let's talk over wine sometime! (And if you run into Robert Wiersema before you run into me, ask him!)

Alan - LOL I'm skipping B'con this year but I'll take you on at the (of course not for money) poker game in 2016.

RJ - It is SO good. I hope you find yourself in Surrey one of these years.

Catriona - Phoenix and Hawaii BOTH sound enticing.

Susan - Sorry! I should have clarified. No, it's Surrey, British Columbia (Canada). A city that's part of Vancouver's urban sprawl.

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Kathy said...

Awww, thanks Robin. Lovely post. I'm so glad you experienced the warmth of SiWC; it's one of our goals to always keep that atmosphere.

RJ, there's no such thing as living too far away. :) We've had people come from Japan, Europe, Australia, and all over North America. Hope you can make it one of these years!

Kathy, SiWC Conference Coordinator

Shari Green said...

I love the Surrey conference! (I'd hoped to sit in on your Public Speaking workshop last year, but alas, no. Next time!) So much learning, so many friends... Six months 'til SiWC 2015!

Robin Spano said...

Thanks Kathy!

And Shari, next time you're on the mainland on a Saturday, get in touch. We have a Toastmasters for writers group that meets alternate Saturdays in New Westminster. Very similar to the workshop, and guests are welcome anytime.