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?


  1. Detailed and too the point - a very good post. Sadly, no, I am still remiss at attending a writing conference.

  2. Don't worry J., one day you'll find one you like. There are many in your general area.

  3. WOW! This really sounds like a great conference. So worth it! I went to a similar one in Toronto but I was not so impressed. What you describe here is much better, not to mention the city ;) I love the pics!
    When I used to have more time (last summer to be exact), I attended as many workshops and conferences as I could. Nowadays, work has held me hostage and I am not as active in the literary world :(

  4. @ Claudia - conferences can be a great way to get motivated and there's always something to learn. SIWC draws an impressive list of publishing professionals and authors each year.

    Glad you liked the photos.

  5. Oh excellent. Sounds like you had a productive time. I haven't been to Vancouver in years, think they'll have a conference next year?

  6. @Gene Pool Diva - SIWC was very productive for me. I signed up for the newsletter at the SIWC site earlier in the year (see links above) so I would know when early registration savings were available.

    I'm sure there will be another conference next year, this was the 19th!

  7. Sounds like a great conference. I've been to Willamette Writers in Portland, which is also pretty reasonable.

  8. @M Pax - I've heard of that writers conference and Portland is close enough.

    It's good to hear that more conferences are keeping it reasonable. I looked at the Willamette Writers conference site and some of the presenters look the same.

    Good to know! I'll add Willamette to my list of nearby conference locations.

  9. I've never attended a conference. What a wonderful opportunity for you. And I can't get over the beautiful pictures of Vancouver. I got married in Victoria. Have a good day. :)

  10. @Laila - I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. I've spent many holidays in Victoria, BC, showing relatives around the museum, trying High Tea at the Empress Hotel and discovering interesting restaurants there.

    When you're ready to attend a conference, research what you want by location or cost or what they offer. That's how I narrowed down my list. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Vancouver would be a great place to go to attend a conference. Heck, it's a great place to go period. I haven't been there in a long time, but I really like it the times I went.

    Tossing It Out

  12. @Arlee - Thanks for dropping by! Vancouver is a great place to visit, and this conference is in Surrey, outside of the main Vancouver area, so a little less hectic than downtown venues.

    The SIWC is always in October. I definitely recommend it.

  13. I admit, I've never gone to a writer's conference.
    How did this one go for you?

  14. @Alex - I wanted professional feedback, (got that), wanted to meet a couple of favorite authors (did that plus some extras), wanted to discuss my novel idea (did that in a pitch and in critiques).

    So, I'd say it went really well. I enjoyed the parts of the conference that I attended. I'd definitely go to this one again. I made sure before I booked that the people I wanted to meet with were going to be attending.

    Next time, I might even get pictures. . .


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