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Thursday, 8 November 2012

A Dragon at the Surrey International Writers Conference

 A Dragon at the Surrey International Writers Conference


Tyner Gillies

For the past 6 years, this year included, October has found me within the Guildford Sheraton Hotel, in Surrey, BC, for the Surrey International Writer's Conference (SiWC). Without exception, each year has gotten better than the last, and I've come away a better storyteller.

What I've found, within the confines of the hotel, is what I like to refer to as a "Society of Likeminded Ink Heads." Both the Presenters, who are of the highest calibre, and the attendees, who are the greatest kind of people, are there for the same purpose: to celebrate the written word, and hone their craft. There is no animosity or competition among anyone there, only a palpable feeling of goodwill and companionship, and sincere desire for everyone to succeed.

The conference, which just celebrated it's twentieth anniversary, is one of the largest, and most well attended of it's kind in North America. Rather than being a festival or convention, it is a professional development seminar, geared towards providing education to writers. Topics discussed range from the proper use of grammar, to plotting our novel in a three act sequense, to adding tension to your prose, and utilizing the archtype of the hero's journey in your storytelling. The topics are too numerous to list, and cover any topic a budding writer might be curious about.

The SiWC board manages to recruit spectacular presenters for each conference. This year they hosted such notable personalities as Canadian Science Fiction author, Robert J Sawyer (who has won every science fiction award known to man); Historical Fiction Author, Jack Whyte; New York Times bestselling author, Diana Gabaldon, and many, many others.

Along with the cost of your registration you get one "Pitch Appointment" and one "Blue Pencil Appointment."

The Pitch Appointment gives you 10 minutes to sit down with the editor/agent/publisher of your choice (provided there is availability) and pitch your work to them. On some occasions, well-spoken writers have been able to sell their work during these pitch sessions. One year (I think it was 2010) a young lady signed a three-book contract with TOR publishing, based on that pitch session.

During the Blue Pencil appointments, you get 15 minutes with the writer of your choice, and they go over three pages of your work with you. In previous years I've been able to sit down and present my stuff to Jack Whyte, Terry Brooks, and CC Humphreys. The assistance and guidance I received in those 15 minute sessions has proven to be invaluable, and has doubtless made me a better writer.

The greatest thing about the conference is that it gives you an opportunity to mingle, talk to, and actually connect with some of these writers. It gives you some insite into what the life of a full time, professional author is like, and helps put things into perspective for you.

One of the highlights of this years conference for me was Robert J Sawyer's Keynote address during the Friday night banquet. To paraphrase, he said not to chase trends, to not be concerned over monetary gain or success. The important thing, he said, was the story. He told us to write the stories we want to read, and not to worry about anything anyone else said. "Your story might not matter to everyone," he told us. "But it will matter, very much, to someone."

With words like that cascading off the insides of my head, I have returned home with a renewed passion for my writing. The lessons I learned, and the inspiration I found at this years conference, will shore me up for the rest of the year, and help push me forward.

If you get an opportunity to attend the conference, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. 


Tyner Gillies is the author of THE WATCH.
It is available in trade paperback and ebook formats such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc. For a full description of this riveting horror, please check out www.darkdragonpublishing.com/thewatch.html 
Dark Dragon Publishing offers free shipping and handling within Canada and to the USA. 
You can find more information about Tyner by visiting his website, www.tynergillies.com

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