Aside from the pitch and blue pencil time, The Surrey International Writers’ Conference offers an amazing variety of workshops and keynote addresses. As a teacher, I love learning, and it was wonderful to learn from the following:
Friday Keynote by Jane Espenson– screenwriter of Buffy, Husbands, Once Upon a Time, etc. She’s very funny and inspired us with the tale of achieving her dream to be a writer. Our words have power: “SO SAY WE ALL!”
How to Be a Well Paid Blogger by Carol Tice. In the next few months, you’ll see some changes to my blog, and many of them will be because of this rather astonishing workshop.
What to do with the Back story by Diana Gabaldon. This workshop focused on how to subtly introduce elements of back story without stopping the action of the story. To be honest, my favorite part of this workshop was when I raised my hand to ask a question, and Diana called on me by name. <g> In my blue pencil, we referenced things covered in this workshop, so I have specific things to remember…
Diving Into the Past a panel of historical fiction writers including CC Humphreys, Mary Balogh, Anne Perry, Jack Whyte, and in the audience, Diana Gabaldon who contributed now and then to the discussion when asked. I was pitching to an agent during part of this session, and missed half of this panel. The biggest tip I took from this was that you can research forever and never start writing. Research enough to get going, and then write! Don’t stop the fluency of writing to research, stick a question in square brackets and keep going. Later, after the first draft is done, you can go back and figure out what you needed to know.
Keynote speaker for Friday night was Robert Sawyer who told us not to track trends and figure out what’s hot. Rather, we should figure out our story and speak to the world the things we have to say, because we became writers to tell our own stories. We have to trust others will love what we love.
The Night Owl event was Shock Theatre 5 with Michael Slade narrating a radio play mash up of classic horror stories, voiced by Jack Whyte, Anne Perry, Diana Gabaldon, Sam Sykes, with folly work by KC Dyer and a special appearance by CC Humphreys. It was hilariously bad.
Saturday morning J. J. Lee gave an emotional keynote that had the crowd teary eyed and on its feet. We write magic.
I missed the first session of workshops waiting in line for 70 minutes to see about getting a second agent appointment. When I finally reached the front of the line it was 11:30 and I had to fly into the room to meet with Diana Gabaldon for my blue pencil. I was so close to missing my appointment, I nearly had an apoplexy.
Taking Control, Advanced Social Media with Sean Cranbury was interesting. His focus is essentially the anti-thesis of Carol Tice’s. He believes in free sharing of information and celebration of the arts of joyful community. However, he had a lot of good ideas about layout and professional presentation. These will be reflected in some up coming changes to this blog.
History: Riding the Wave with CC Humphreys. Poor Chris was feeling quite ill, but he was enthusiastic and had lots of interesting stories to tell about writing and researching A Place Called Armageddon, his latest book. Chris and I had a mutual Fluevog admiration society going on throughout this conference.
The keynote on Saturday evening was Susanna Kearsley with whom I’d been speaking during the book fair, trying to place ‘where do I know your name.’ She had no suggestions, but when she was called up to do the keynote I had a face palm moment. So embarrassing.
There was a Night Owl movie event, but I was too tired at this stage. My plan was to go back to my hotel for an early night, but in the end, I sat in the lobby chatting with Val King and Randy McCharles of Calgary instead.
Sunday morning, I was very slow moving. I was a bit late for the morning key note by Diana Gabaldon who spoke about something moving and amusing, but I’ve completely forgotten the details.
Luckily Ursula recorded it, and here is every word!
I missed the first workshop session standing in line to book and then having another agent pitch appointment.
My final workshop was Rhythm of the Word by Sam Sykes who showed how prose can be empowered by playing with rhythm in structure and dialogue.
The final keynote was by New York agent Donald Maass. He declared this a time of positive change and growth in publishing, and challenged us to use our words to write works that will CHANGE THE WORLD!
We had something to do every day from about 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Every meal we sat with other writers, agents, publishers, or editors discussing projects, life, and writing. There were 700 like minded souls sitting down to dine each meal, and just that was completely brilliant. I loved sitting with new people each day and discovering new things! It felt like ‘home’ in the most amazing way. It was wonderful meeting authors I love, getting my photograph taken with JJ Lee, Diana Gabaldon, Anne Perry, and Jack Whyte. Last time I attended SIWC I was too shy to approach any pros for photos. It’s fun being able to put up photos in my class room. Next time, I will take more photos of the people I mix and mingle with, so I’ll have “I knew them when!” photos!