Spain Remembers

Spain Remembers

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Surrey International Writers’ Conference, October 20 -23, 2016
 By Joan M. Baril
How to describe my experience at a writers’ conference? It’s like being whirled in a blender for four days and then spit out with head spinning and hands clutching pages of notes which you hope will be legible when you get time to look at them again.
The Surrey Writers’ Conference has been going for twenty-four years. Its rep is solid gold. It is sometimes described as the best writers’ conference on the continent.
Joan and Jack Whyte
A phalanx of volunteers, a hoard of workshop presenters and literary agents, five hundred participants, nine 90-minute workshops for every time slot all day long starting at 10 in the morning, meals with guest speakers, a cocktail party, book tables, contests, silent auction, vendors, great food and Jack Whyte singing his hippopotamus song which starts “Mud, mud, glorious mud.”
But wait! There’s more! A costume party, theatre, music, wonderful food, a chance to pitch your novel to an agent, master classes, a blue pencil critique opportunity, and above all great conversation where I picked up interesting tips from the attendees, many of whom are published writers.

Joan and Karen X Tulchinshi, at the workshop on memoir.

All this happens in a comfortable hotel where it is a snap to get from venue to venue.
At the end of four days, my brain was happily reeling with new inspiration while, at the same time, the hippopotamus song had colonized a section of it and is still there. Curse you, Jack Whyte!
Although the advance information stated the conference is geared for all genres, it strongly leans toward genre fiction: sci-fi, fantasy, horror, mystery, historical, thriller and the various sub-sets and combinations thereof.

Key Note speaker Larry Brooks, a writer about writing. Check out story

I had a tough time choosing my workshops. Can I turn down Diana Gabaldon in favour of a workshop on memoir, my next project? Should I skip the much praised presentation by Hallie Ephron to take the workshop on combining writing and travel, an intriguing idea since I travel a lot. Hair pulling time.
It is difficult to decide which workshop was best.  I was hit by so many new ideas, new techniques and new ways of looking at novels and the writing of same, that I had a hard time staying in tune with the presenter because, at the same time, my brain was processing this information in relation to my own work. It was as if I was thinking double all the time. I was working on two tracks, one examining the new idea while the second track was considering how to use this information in the novel I am currently revising.
Very energizing. After a workshop by Karen X. Tulchinsky on the topic of family stories and memoir, I went to my room and wrote a memoir piece about an incident in my past that I had almost forgotten.

(photo left Diana Gabaldon)

Donald Maas of the Maass Literary Agency in New York gave the final keynote. He spoke about the irrational anger which has recently seized the world and then he spoke about the crazy joy of writing. He urged each person to compose a single sentence describing why they write and suggested they post this sentence by the computer screen. 
Another neat idea to end a sparkling time.

Dana Ramstedt at her craft table. For years she collected ink bottles. And she has ducks, pheasants and peacocks etc. at her farm. So she collected feathers, sharpened and pointed them, put them together with the ink bottles for a neat writer's collectible reminiscent of the days of the quill pen.  (see bottom right in photo). When I talked to her, we were interrupted by customers handing her money. These feathers in ink bottles were flying off the table. 

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