At last year's SiWC conference, I tried to register for this year's conference before we left for the airport. It was that good! But, the lady at the desk just smiled and said registrations would open for this year's conference sometime in June 2010. They opened yesterday.
Conferences can be a waste of time, but not this one. This one was fun from the outset, but more importantly, it offers everything you could wish for in workshops plus chances to talk to editors, agents and authors. Blue pencil sessions allow you to have 10 - 15 minutes of a pro's attention to make a pitch, ask questions and pick the minds of some pretty heavy duty authors.
Members of our group, the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, came away with pots full of interest in their works. Offers were made to them, ranging from a request for a manuscript, to introductions to an agent. One editor asked one of our gals for a look at a manuscript that isn't even written yet, but she liked the idea and she liked our writer's work. There was a lot of interest in one author's work from one of the huge names in agents.
I lay back in the weeds last year so I could make the best pitches etc I can this year. I was greatly encouraged by the successes of SRW writers. I did get a request to sign up to write for an ezine that actually pays for submissions. Since all my writing experience so far (except for all the unfinished manuscripts around the house) has been in non-fiction it was an interesting offer.
Non-fiction writers are not ignored. There are some terrific workshops lined up for this year. I took a few workshops with a university professor who has won a Pulitzer for journalism. Wow. And that coment is definitely non-fiction. I have been freelancing for newspapers, magazines, radio and tv since 1966 and felt pretty confident about it - especially after winning two national awards, but this lady taught me things of a whole new depth.
The name of the conference is Surrey International Writers' Conference or SiWC. It started as a project by the Surrey, BC School District and it has grown to be what Anne Perry and Diana Gabaldon both commented , is the best conference in North America.
So, there is my enthusiasm reiterated, but why would you be interested?
Writers collect writing tips like kids collecting candy at Hallowe'en. There will never be enough. So, SiWC is the chance to sit at the feet of authors - actually in some uncomfortable chairs - and listen, tape or take reams of notes if that is the way you operate. You can ask questions of the presenters who are top names in the profession. You can ask authors making millions for the priceless tips on what you need in an agent or ask an agent on how to catch one. Agents are nearly as difficult to snag as publishers. The likes of Donald Maass, who is a top international agent, talks about what is needed to attract an agent and how to write the kind of novel that sells. Or you can ask known authors the details of how they got to where they are i.e. how many editors turned them down and why their agent walks on water. How do they get ediors so good they get mentioned in the thank-you-I couldn't-have-done-it-without-you-notes at the front of the book.
When you get to feeling low about rejection slips remember, these people have a collection of them too. By the way, what do you suppose the editor, who rejected J.K. Rowlins and Harry Potter, does for a living now? Walmart you say? Stock boy?
Just imagine walking into a Walmart store and casually saying to an employee "Oh, aren't you the editor who rejected my book which is now published in 30 languages, in 100 countries and just passed the one million sales mark? Dreams are free. Have lots of really good ones and find out from the pros how you are going to get that call that says you are now a professional author. If you see yourself as an author and believe in yourself and work like a dog, maybe for years, you will get that call.
And meanwhile, attend the SiWC and take in all that priceless information like a hungry man at a Roman feast. There are a zillion ideas to take in and endless opportunities to learn, learn, learn how to sell, sell, sell.
Authors - 25 of them - include names like Jeff Arch, Julia Quinn, Diana Gabaldon, Anne Perry and Jack Whyte. (If you haven't read Jack Whytes book Skystone, take your embarrassed little self to the library post haste). It is book one of a series and I have to pry them away from Husband to get my turn reading them. Whyte was my choice for a blue pencil session. He liked my three pages (YES!) and gave me some really useful comments.
There are two things: be mean - when the over person's 15 minutes are up, throw them aside bodily and sit down for your turn in a Blue Pencil session. I politely let the lady ahead of me gab on and ended up with only seven of my 15 minutes.
Second: getting there from the airport is a journey Indiana Jones could make a whole new movie about, as it requires, buses, sky trains, walking, more buses, a taxi. My advice? Find someone else who is going and share a taxi. It is $50 for a very long ride, but psychiatrists cost a lot more.
There are other conferences. Have you been to one or more? Have you been to the SiWC? (Check their web site SiWC for the lowdown and to register). Was it worth it? What did you pick up that was a treasure? (Not the silver, the ideas please.)
The SiWC early bird fee is $499 for Friday morning to early Sunday afternoon, Oct. 22-24 and that includes meals. Hotel rooms at a special cost are $119 per night. Most of us share.
See you there. Believe me, it's worth it!