Soaking it all in at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference

I just got back from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC).

My body and mind are exhausted but in the best possible way. I’ve never been to a writers’ conference before so I have nothing to compare this one to, but based on what I experienced, it was well, well worth the money.

Never have I been in a room with 400 or so people passionate for words and the stories we tell through them. There were people of all ages and stages in their writing journeys, and each and every one was made to feel welcomed. Many were already published authors, wanting to learn branding and marketing strategies, and many had just completed novels, looking for first-time publication. And then there were still others like me, working on bits and pieces and soaking in as much wisdom as we could from the presenters and fellow attendees.


My autographed copy of Shaena Lambert’s award-winning short story collection.

I attended 10 workshops over 2.5 days, and they were all fabulous. From workshops on making scenes and crafting formal poetry to panels on writing humour and un-put-down-able books, there was a great variety. Presenters included Hallie Ephron, Anne Perry, Jasper Fforde, Jack Whyte, Danika Dinsmore, Kate Braid, Terry Fallis, Stephen Galloway, Liza Palmer, and Michael Slade, to name a few. You can see the whole list here. And yes, it really is an “international” conference with presenters coming as far away as the UK.

What I particularly loved about the conference is the informal atmosphere where you can mingle with authors, editors, and agents over meals, after a class, or in the line-up for the washroom or some other unexpected place.

And not to mention the opportunity for every single attendee to have a published author edit the first few pages of his/her story AND pitch your work to one of the 16 or so agents that were there. How many times does that happen?

Among all the genre writers of speculative fiction, fantasy, YA, suspense, thriller, and the like, I was in the minority with the kind of writing I do—literary fiction. It’s a hard market to publish in, and yet I was encouraged by Beverly Jenkins‘s words of wisdom in her keynote speech: “Follow your heart, not the market.”

And the big icing on the cake of all of this? My short story, “Perfect Symmetry” received an honourable mention in the SiWC writing contest, judged by Jack Whyte, author of a historical fiction series about King Arthur, and Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series. Yeah, my mouth dropped open too. Still riding that huge wave of affirmation. You can read my story, along with the other 2 award winners, over here for about a month.

Now to channel all this inspiration back into the daily grind, that is the challenge! Onwards and upwards!