I went to my first Writer’s Conference this week. The 17th annual Surrey International Writer’s Conference (SiWC) is being held at the Sheraton Vancouver Hotel in Surrey, BC, Canada (it’s running from 23-25th Oct 2009).
I’ve been to business conferences before, but nothing could quite prepare me. I only attended on Friday but I manage to pack in a lot into those few hours and came away with a renewed sense of purpose. As a warm-up to the Conference I went to a Master Class with Donald Maass (from the Donald Maass Literary Agency on Thursday night entitled “The Irresistable Novel”.
What makes a Master Class?
I’m probably not qualified to answer that, so instead I’ll tell you what I took away from it. Apart from a slightly numb posterior (3+ hours on a dining chair can do that to you), this was definitely a hands-on and Mr Maass really did what he said he was going to do. He took us through a series of exercises intended to help us identify what *we* found to be compelling in our own favourite books. Then he took us through another set of exercises where we self-analysed our current work and showed how it could be changed to become ‘irresistible’.
There was a lot of audience participation and it was intense work, but I found it to be very rewarding. Some of the suggestions weren’t relevant for what I’m doing at the moment, and I was pleased to see that some of the things I’m already doing. When I’m writing my next book (which will be very soon – NaNoWriMo FTW!) I will definitely be referring back to the notes I made and incorporating elements into my writing.
Raymond Maass was very personable and humorous in his presentation. He is very widely read (as you would hope a very successful agent would be) and illustrated his points with examples from many books. Well worth the money and time.
What the Conference was all about
Writing! And writers, agents, publishers, illustrators…everything to do with the business of books. The opening keynote speech, by author Anne Perry, was very inspiring, and from then on it was non-stop with workshops, appointments and connecting with fellow conference-goers. There were several workshops running simultaneously all day so there was enough variety to please even the most fickle person. While they were going on there were also Pitch Session with agents and publishers, and Blue Pencil sessions with experienced authors.
I’ll talk about the Pitch and Blue Pencil sessions in my next blog post. They were very interesting and I can confirm – agents and publishers are real people, too! That, in itself, is worth finding out for yourself
For now I would like to congratulate the organisers for a such a wonderful event. There was a great atmosphere and a palpable feeling of work being done. I made lots of connections and it was liberating to be among so many other writers, sharing stories of query letters, rejections, Twitter, making time to write….If you are heading there tomorrow then I wish you all the best (and wish I could be there). I’m already making plans to attend next year and I hope to go for the whole weekend then.