(Originally published Oct. 17, 2007).
This Sunday, I’m combining a trip to Calgary to visit my son in Banff with the Surrey International Writers Conference (SIWC) in Vancouver. During my new writing career, I have been fortunate enough to attend several RWA conferences (though, sadly, not Nationals). SIWC is unlike any other my limited experience has to offer.
SIWC’s energy level and excitement is incredible. It differs from RWA Nationals, however, because it incorporates all genres of writing, from crime, to sci-fi, to history to fantasy, to action, to mainstream, to non-fiction, to romance. Consequently, Surrey attracts many men. Even male writers enjoy the conference because many of the workshop presenters are men (e.g. Jack Whyte (historical fantasy), Bob Mayer (action adventure and now romance), Robert Sawyer (Sci-Fi).
Each year on the third weekend of October, 750 writers flock to the newly-renovated Sheraton Surrey to attend wall-to-wall workshops on every topic imaginable, to pitch their latest manuscript as many top agents and editors they can squeeze into three days, to endure blue pencil sessions conducted by big-name authors such as Diana Gabaldon and Jo Beverley, who graciously critiqued ‘The Jaguar Legacy’, and to commiserate with one another.
Some masochists even line up to have their egos crushed in an event called ‘SIWC Idol’.
Participants supply the first few paragraphs of their manuscript, anonymous, thank goodness, to protect the identity of the rejectees. One-by-one, Jack Whyte (who possesses a Scottish accent to die for and a superb reading voice) selects an entry and starts reading. The panel of judges, comprising four editors or agents, gives the entry either a thumbs-up, or, as is most often the case, a thumbs-down, followed by the reason for rejection.
What could be better than that? 30 to 40 live examples of rejected manuscripts and the causes. If your ego can stand the bruising, SIWC Idol is worth the price of admission.