Monday, October 22, 2007

Surrey International Writers' Conference

Patty here…

I just got back from the Surrey International Writers Conference in Surrey, British Columbia.

There were 800 people in attendance and our indefatigable leader and organizer, kc dyer, did a superb job of keeping all of us entertained and on time for our events.

Friday I was on a panel with Hallie Ephron, Jan Burke, Phillip Margolin, Barbara Rogan, and John Brady, talking about—what else—crime fiction.

Saturday, the room was packed for my workshop presentation on Creating an Amateur Sleuth. That afternoon I met with several new writers in “blue pencil” sessions to discuss and critique three pages of their works-in-progress. Sunday morning I presented a workshop on Crime in Fiction: How to keep it real when the police enter the picture. I’ve gathered a lot of information about police investigations over the years from my association with the LAPD, but I also got some good tips from our very own James O. (Jim, you should have seen everybody in the audience trying to shoot that knife out of my hand!)

The best part about these conferences is making new friends. Over the weekend, I got to hang out with new BFFs Don McQuinn, Joan Johnston, Wendy Roberts, and Nancy Warren and to spend time with fellow SoCal writer, Jan Burke.

As you know, whenever writers get together we tend to over indulge. As a result, by Sunday morning my voice had dropped an octave or two. Here's some actual footage of me in the bar after my workshop.

Okay, that's not me. It's Lauren Bacall. But my voice sounded just like that. I swear.

Voice change or not, if you’re new at this game and looking for a well run and welcoming conference that offers maximum opportunities to pitch your work to authors, agents, editors, and publishers, check out Surrey. It's one of the best-run writer’s conferences I’ve ever attended for all the above reasons and one more: they make every presenting author seem equally important. That counts for a lot in my book.

Do you have any good/bad conference experiences to share?

Happy Monday in rainy but beautiful B.C.


  1. Patty,
    Sounds like fun. I would've liked to see your panel.

    I'd also liked to hear that new voice.


  2. That sounds like a terrific conference, Patty.

    I like the Book Passage Mystery Conference (Corte Madera, California) for the same reasons. It's a lot smaller than the Surrey weekend -- maybe 150 people -- but great comraderie, great presentations, and a good time for both authors and soon-to-be authors.

  3. Jim, the voice is still very very deep. Too much talking perhaps?

    Louise, I've never been to the Book Passage Mystery Conference but I've been to other workshops at that store and have always had a great time. Maybe some day...

  4. "You know how to whistle, don't you, Jim Born?"

    Patty, I always thought you bore a resemblance to Lauren Bacall with just a hint of Veronica Lake thrown in.

    As for her singing in "To Have and Have Not," yes, that's Bacall's husky voice. For many years, movie buffs claimed that a very young Andy Williams dubbed the song.

    Conferences are good for budding writers as a way to learn and make contacts. They're good for veteran writers to get out of the house.

  5. Andy Williams? Yeow! Honestly, Paulie, you always have the most interesting tidbits. Maybe next year the entire list of NakedAuthors can breeze into Surrey.

  6. I have too many good experiences to count. in fact, I can think of only two times I've been annoyed or disappointed at a conference.

    1. A reviewer said some really snarky things about my publisher and first novelists in general.

    2. Another writer interrupted when I was being interviewed by a magazine and hijacked my time to talk about himself.

    Small things, both. But the positive experiences, including the SC Book Fest with your own Mr. Born and Ms. Read were some of my favorite times as a writer, no question.

    It makes me want to finish this damn book just so I have an excuse to do it again.

  7. David, it's always distressing dealing with rude people like that. The thought I hold in my head is "what goes around comes around." At least I hope so.

  8. I think the Book Passage conference is outstanding--I learned so much there as an attendee, and have had a great time as a member of the faculty, as well. It's great for aspiring crime writers as the focus is specifically on mystery.

    The South Carolina Book Festival was also wonderful--especially getting to meet Born and Terrenoire in person (and terrorize some poets). Wonderfully run and great fun, all around, though it's less a nuts and bolts writer's conference than a general literary extravaganza.

    Great post, Patty, and I hope you're enjoying the rain up there before you get home to the fires in your neck of the woods! I'm a little worried about Malibu.

  9. Don't I wish I was at a writing conference at the moment. Sigh. Instead of cramming all night for a surprise deadline for my editor on the kiddie dinosaur book. It's due in the morning. Urk.

    I snuck away and wrote about a new character for my mystery universe thing late last night. As a basis, I used the physical appearance of the lovely older lady - aging hippy style with grace - who sat two seats up from me at the Loreena McKennet concert Saturday night. There will be NO dinosaurs in this epic.

    Most of my con experiences have been good. Most of the time I get ignored by people, as I'm the spouse of a "famous person". These days though, I'm making my own deals, and don't suffer fools gracefully. :-D Dang, I'm going to have to polish off my throw-away one-liners for the next convention. It's been awhile.


    PS: David! You'm writing another book?? Get to it, man!! I want to read it.

    PPS: Patty's just gorgeous anyway. :-)

  10. Hi Patty,

    I'm with Louise and Cornelia - Book Passage is just terrific. It's all go, for the faculty and the "students" - and we love every minute of it.

    And your conference up there in Canada sounds just great.

  11. Marianne, have a Dark and Stormy. You'll feel better :o)

    Miss C and Our J--you need to think Surrey for next year. Wouldn't it be fun?

  12. I can drive you all to Surrey--no fringe benefits on top, however.


  13. Be careful Groupie. We're going to put some miles on that car of yours...

  14. It was great to meet you at Surrey, Patty. Can't wait to party, erm, I mean WORK at another conference with you!

  15. Thanks Wendy. It was so much fun meeting you.