Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Surrey International Writer's Conference

DG’s Review - SIWC 2011

Vancouver City Skyline - by DGH

Starting on October 20th, I attended a local writers conference - the Surrey International Writers Conference - in its 19th year. SIWC offers a selection of conference packages which you can select to fit your own time commitment and budget. There was no time to take photos, so I've substituted photos of the Vancouver area. These photos show that we do have a few sunny days in the British Columbia Rainforest.

Brockton Point, Vancouver, Canada - by DGH

Cost vs. Value

This conference delivers great value and flexible options.  SIWC tries to keep the costs fair and reasonable for the attendees. Check the rates on this year's registration page.

There are several options to choose from:
  • full 3-day, Friday - Sunday conference package (meals, workshops, events)
  • conference basic - 3 days of conference workshops and keynotes, no meals or evening events
  • one-day only Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
  • Master classes are not included in the conference costs, and they are offered the day before as an adjunct to the conference. 

Master Classes:
These advanced 3 hour classes are presented by well-known literary agents, authors, or editors.  The morning, afternoon, or evening sessions are presented in conference room format with a short break.  Bring a notepad or a laptop to record your notes as the instructor takes you through exercises that will improve your writing.  In the evening class I attended taught by Donald Maass, there were approximately 130 people.

For my money, it was well worth the cost.  I'd like a smaller group size, but affordability is more important.  This class covered the three levels of story construction, and included on the spot writing exercises to improve your characters, setting, and plot.

Vancouver - Trolley bus on the right - CP Train Station at end

Critique and Pitch Appointments

I booked my appointments in June 2011 when registration opened.  One pitch and one critique is included with your registration, but subsequent bookings for agent/editor pitches and author critiques must be done at the conference to ensure everyone gets a chance.  There were lineups for bookings at the conference on the Friday that I attended. Best advice:  Get there early for a better selection.

  • Pitch - 10 minutes.  The process of getting from the lineup to the waiting area and in to see the actual person works better than I expected, thanks to the organization of the many volunteers.  I had enough time to pitch the novel, ask a few questions and discuss a few items.
  • Critique - 15 minutes.  In same room as above pitch appointments; one critique with a new Fantasy author and one with a very well-known science fiction/fantasy writer.  Both offered insights with their crits as to saleability, and tips on formatting and construction.  Exactly what I was looking for.

Included with the conference workshops and panels, are the Trade Show, the Book Fair and Signing, and Writing contests.  I've only commented on the parts of the conference that I participated in, which was a sampling of the offerings.

More details are available on the site of the Surrey International Writers' Conference


Anyone else had any recent experience at a retreat, conference, or workshop?