Surrey International Writers’ Conference 2015

I registered in the summer for a one-day marathon at October’s Surrey International Writers’ Conference SIWC 2015 for nearly $300:  three sessions, three one-on-ones and lunch at a value approximating $40 per …there, I’ve done the math.   Worth it?  Let me count the ways.

I registered for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference 2015 to inspire myself to get moving on a memoir project which is feeling a bit like a marathon.

When preparing for a marathon, they say a minimum prep-time is twelve weeks.  I trained beforehand for my sessions at the Surrey International Writers’ Converence (SIWC) 2015; reading books/doing research, writing, and finding structure/framework.

#1 Morning Session with Simon Clews in a session entitled ‘Pitch Perfect’.  Simon’s session was right before my actual pitch.  Great timing.  Tips?

  • The pitch isn’t the book rather an element of performance.
  • Give a basic understanding of the book: fiction or non, and genre.
  • Go digital to help sell the book. Create a platform.
  • Work on communication skills while getting to know your audience.
  • The one you’re pitching to is always right…this is a pitch session, not a bitch session.


#2 Pitch Session with Inklings Literary Agency’s  Naomi Davis

I chose Naomi because she does, occasionally, represent non-fiction.  An opportunity to send in chapter one for a critique is an opportunity I prize.


#3 Query Letters: the good, the bad and the ugly with a panel (including Naomi) and three other agent-panelists, Jesse Finkelstein, Jill Marr, and Patricia Nelson.  The moderator, Nephele Tempest, was also an agent offering invaluable tips like

  • Find the hook and sell it.
  • Put your best forward but also tailor your query to why you’ve reached out to that particular agent.
  • Show you’ve thought it through.
  • Query in fewer than 300 words and include word count for the manuscript.
  • What’s your profile/platform and have you worked with an editor or Beta readers?
  • Never say what you don’t know, avoid jokes, and stay positive without getting too personal.
  • What is your unique market position?
  • Understand your niche.
  • No first drafts.
  • Revise your whole in same way as chapter one.
  • Don’t close with expectations of what you hope for.
  • Don’t beg…instead re-configure and re-submit…show you listened to their advice.
  • Read submission guidelines.
  • Don’t be exclusive: sample several agents.
  • Don’t rush into signing yet keep agents informed as to your decision.


#4 Lunch

…a good opportunity to sit with other writers and bite into some tasty dialogue of what works and doesn’t.  Two of my lunch mates were in a weekly critique group and shared how it helped them.  For a digestif, I went to the book fair to invest in some reference books on my genre.


#5 Hallie Ephron, ‘New York Times’ bestselling author, ‘Making Scenes’

  • Move the plot forward by delivering action parallel to a mini-story arc.
  • Decide where to start/end scenes without too much back story (like in movie scenes).
  • Find the shape and balance between narrative and scenes.
  • Every scene needs tension which builds to a tipping point. (Hallie gave a hand-out with concrete examples.)


#6 and 7 A Blue Pencil Session followed by another Pitch

  • Provide concrete imagery. (poetry with Kate Braid)
  • One-on-ones are great practice for selling your product. (Beth Phelen invited me to query her.)


With invitations to submit a chapter and a query, some contacts made and info garnered, the day had been an investment…in moving my own plot forward.


I did my marathon training for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference 2015 and didn’t ‘hit the wall’ too badly until I’d driven home to collapse, and consider (several days later) where I’m at.  And where that is is…back to the writing board with more conviction and tips for staying on track.

Tips for staying on track

Tips for staying on track : Joan’s husband Ken at the Cariboo Marathon






4 thoughts on “Surrey International Writers’ Conference 2015

  1. Thanks Joan for a great synopsis of your day. I looked at the program and considered going but the date conflicted with something else. Sounds very useful. Maybe I will attend next year! All the best with the memoir!

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