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Monday, October 24, 2011

#SIWC2011 Recap!

I had a great time at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. It was the 19th year, and you know what that means. Next year is the big 2-0, which promises to be a huge celebration. The theme will be Roaring 20's, and there will be a big dress up gala on the Saturday night. Write it on your calendar now: October 19-21,2012.

But I'm getting ahead of myself! What about THIS year? I went to some great workshops and took oodles of notes. I'll have to spend a bit of time sorting through them and figuring out what will make sense to you, but here are a few of the highlights:

On Thursday I took in Donald Maass's Master Class: Impossible to Put Down: Mastering the three levels of story to construct a gripping novel. Don talked about the iron skeleton, upon which the big problem of the novel is built, the scene by scene tension, and the micro-tension.

 My biggest takeaway phrase from this class was: "What would you do in your story if you were a braver writer?" Don spent a lot of time helping us wrap our mind around pushing the boundaries and our characters further in our novels.

One of my favorite workshop presenters was my friend, Eileen Cook (and I'm not just saying that because I like her, either!) She came prepared with notes and jokes (she goes everywhere with those), and even movie clips. One of her workshops was on tension (Make War, Not Peace) and talked about how we can take the rules of counseling on how to resolve conflict and reverse them to put our characters into some entertaining situations.

Eileen's other workshop was on the stages of change. Her made-up character "Stan" went on a hilarious and though-provoking journey throughout the class as she took him through the stages of change - starting with getting hit by a bus. If you ever get a chance to take a workshop or writing class from Eileen Cook, I highly recommend it!

 I also enjoyed taking a screenwriting class from Luke Ryan, and even though I'm not a screenwriter, I've always found the principals of screenwriting extremely helpful with novel-writing. He talked about appealing to the four quadrants of viewers: under 25 year old men, over 25 men, under 25 women, and over 25 women, as well as what producers are looking for and why.

Hallie Ephron is another great teacher. Several years ago I took a mystery-writing workshop from her, and I still refer back to my notes from that class. This year, I was able to glean some insight on beginnings and endings, and suspense-writing.

There were lots of other wonderful workshops, and I'll be back later this week with some notes. The food was awesome. The company was even better (*waves hello to the Calgary ladies and all the new folks I met this year*) but probably a highlight for most people was seeing Donald Maass strip an auctioned T-shirt off of Robert Dugoni. True story.

Any of you who were not fortunate enough to attend this year's conference, I highly recommend listening to this inspiring (and funny) keynote by Robert Dugoni:


  1. I'd love to hear that agent story! #whowasit?

  2. I'm going to be making the rounds, gleaning highlights from everyone's blogs! Thanks for this, Denise. I wish I could have been there this year, but I enjoyed following comments on Twitter, and I listened to Robert's keynote as soon as the clip was posted. I also have @kimmydon's video of the shirt-stripping posted on my site. That must have been hilarious in person.

    I'm aiming for #siwc2012 already. There is so much to be gained from conferences... especially these ones. I'd also like to be able to take in the ACFW one, but it's never within my range.