One month till Surrey International Writers’ Conference 2014!

SiWC 2014For the fall and winter months (Yes, they’re here, wail!), I’ve decided to resurrect Déjà vu Thursdays. Exciting, right? I knew you’d think so. To kick it off, and because I just realized that it’s exactly a month until I leave for the 2014 Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I give you a happy pre-conference blurt that I wrote way back on June 10th, 2009 just after I paid my registration fee and booked my hotel and flights for SiWC 2009.

I didn’t attend last year’s conference because I was (Oh, poor me!) in London. The year before that (so 2013) my father had just passed away, and the conference was a blur. To say I’m excited about this year, but also a bit unsettled, worried that it will trigger unhappy memories, is an understatement. I know he’d want me to attend, however, to have a great time, to share BIGGER THINGS, to refill my creative well, to encourage and be encouraged, etc. After all, in the hospital he told me, “You make sure you go to that conference, Ev, even if I’m not dead yet. You paid good money for it.” Which made me laugh because it was so typically pragmatic. And cry. And, of course, tell him absolutely no way was I going if he was still there to visit with. Anyway, I’ve kind of gotten off track. Back to my old but still relevant pre-conference thoughts. I’d love to hear yours on the subject!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

So I just did something very exciting—booked a four-night stay at the gorgeous Sheraton Guildford in Surrey, BC. It seems unbelievable, but it’s already time—really time!—to start planning my favourite annual indulgence: The Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

I normally try to rein in my freakish enthusiasm and exuberance while blogging, so I don’t scare readers away, but allow me one, YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

I know some writers are sceptical of the advantages of writing conferences. They think they’re nothing but a money grab. They feel you don’t learn anything that you couldn’t from a book or a bit of research. They’re sure everyone’s just there for their egos—I’m a writer, look at me. They’re convinced you’d be better off spending the time writing, not talking about writing.

I confess I don’t understand conference bashers.

1. Yes, attending a conference is a financial commitment. That it costs you something is part of its value. Say what? Just that: Putting money into your craft, saying in essence, “I’m serious about my writing, and it’s worth not just my time, but also my material resources to pursue,” is like giving yourself a big ol’ permission slip to take your goals more seriously. It’s also a big cue to family and friends—Oh, she’s serious about this little writing thing.

Professional development (Yes, a little FYI, conferences are P-D, not just wonderfully social times where everyone sips wine, talks about their favourite things—books and storytelling, of course—and comes away absolutely inspired) betters the quality of your work and boosts your word counts. Being with other people who are excited about the same things you are is motivating.

2. Books on craft are great, and yep, you learn a lot reading them, but—and gasp, I can’t quite believe I’m saying this—there are some things being alone with a book can’t do. Reading alone in your study doesn’t give you the experience of being with 1000 other souls who love what you love—ideas, words, stories. It doesn’t give you the chance to laugh along with one of your favourite authors. It doesn’t provide the opportunity to stick up your hand in the middle of the information to say, “Gah—I don’t get it!” or “Yay—I love how you put that!”

Hearing authors talk about their personal experiences, reassure you that it’s an achievable dream (they’re living proof, after all), and answer every-question-you-can-imagine is invaluable. As is getting to learn face-to-face from agents and editors who accept books (maybe even one like yours!) for their livings.

3. As for the complaints about “egos” . . . I don’t see it. I’ve met people I don’t click with, sure. I may have (it’s terrible) even cringed or grimaced inwardly a time or two on behalf of a cornered agent or author, yep. But people are people wherever you go. The great, the bad, the meh—they’re everywhere. And for what it’s worth, I think writing conferences having a higher per ratio capacity of hilarious, generous, kind, and witty people than most public groupings. The feeling of community and camaraderie is almost the whole reason I go. I work alone day after day all year (Yay for the Internet, but that’s an aside). Even the most reclusive of us benefit from and need human company sometimes.

4. Four days of conferencing and sushilizing does not, in anyway, take away from my productivity. I write almost every day—and that’s in addition to my business writing, editing, and workshops. Surrey energizes me for a whole year. If I have a day where I feel kind of unmotivated, I look at the calendar and recall the goals I’ve set for the next conference . . . Speaking of which, I’m on track, but not ahead of where I wanted to be by this month, so I should go.

Happy writing, everyone—and if you’re heading out to Surrey this October for SiWC, let me know.

I’m also interested in any comments about why you love writing workshops or conferences—or really mix things up and tell me why I’m out to lunch and they suck!

~ Ev

SiWC 2009 or bust!

So I just did something very exciting—booked a four-night stay at the gorgeous Sheraton Guildford in Surrey, BC. It seems unbelievable, but it’s already time—really time!—to start planning my favourite annual indulgence: The Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

I normally try to rein in my freakish enthusiasm and exuberance while blogging, so I don’t scare readers away, but allow me one, YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

I know some writers are sceptical of the advantages of conferences. They think they’re nothing but a money grab. They feel you don’t learn anything that you couldn’t from a book or a bit of research. They’re sure everyone’s just there for their egos—I’m a writer, look at me. They’re convinced you’d be better off spending the time writing, not talking about writing.

I confess I don’t understand conference bashers.

1. Yes, attending a conference is a financial commitment. That it costs you something is part of its value. Say what? Just that: Putting money into your craft, saying in essence, “I’m serious about my writing, and it’s worth not just my time, but also my material resources to pursue,” is like giving yourself a big ol’ permission slip to take your goals more seriously. It’s also a big cue to family and friends—Oh, she’s serious about this little writing thing.

Professional development (Yes, a little FYI, conferences are P-D, not just wonderfully social times where everyone sips wine, talks about their favourite things—books and storytelling, of course—and comes away absolutely inspired) betters the quality of your work and boosts your word counts. Being with other people who are excited about the same things you are is motivating.

2. Books on craft are great, and yep, you learn a lot reading them, but—and gasp, I can’t quite believe I’m saying this—there are some things being alone with a book can’t do. Reading alone in your study doesn’t give you the experience of being with 1000 other souls who love what you love—ideas, words, stories. It doesn’t give you the chance to laugh along with one of your favourite authors. It doesn’t provide the opportunity to stick up your hand in the middle of the information to say, “Gah—I don’t get it!” or “Yay—I love how you put that!”

Hearing authors talk about their personal experiences, reassure you that it’s an achievable dream (they’re living proof, after all), and answer every-question-you-can-imagine is invaluable. As is getting to learn face-to-face from agents and editors who accept books (maybe even one like yours!) for their livings.

3. As for the complaints about “egos” . . . I don’t see it. I’ve met people I don’t click with, sure. I may have (it’s terrible) even cringed or grimaced inwardly a time or two on behalf of a cornered agent or author, yep. But people are people wherever you go. The great, the bad, the meh—they’re everywhere. And for what it’s worth, I think writing conferences having a higher per ratio capacity of hilarious, generous, kind, and witty people than most public groupings. The feeling of community and camaraderie is almost the whole reason I go. I work alone day after day all year (Yay for the Internet, but that’s an aside). Even the most reclusive of us benefit from and need human company sometimes.

4. Four days of conferencing and sushilizing does not, in anyway, take away from my productivity. I write almost every day—and that’s in addition to my business writing, editing, and workshops. Surrey energizes me for a whole year. If I have a day where I feel kind of unmotivated, I look at the calendar and recall the goals I’ve set for the next conference . . . Speaking of which, I’m on track, but not ahead of where I wanted to be by this month, so I should go.

Happy writing, everyone—and if you’re heading out to Surrey this October 22, 23, and 24 for SiWC, let me know.

I’m also interested in any comments about why you love writing workshops or conferences—or really mix things up and tell me why I’m out to lunch and they suck! 😀

~ Ev

The Internet in all its glory – friend or foe? Time well spent or time lost?

For all my going on about how I spend too much time on the Internet, I really don’t (spend too much time)–and the time I do spend is valuable.

I’ve already shared my love for how technology has enabled formerly unheard of methods for professional development, so I won’t go on that tangent again. But I wonder if I’ve ever voiced my appreciation for the community and connections my Internet life brings me? As I’ve also said before, I live in a small town–quite fortunately, it’s a vibrant place with a varied and talented arts community. As great as that is, the sheer lack of population still dictates reality. Often if you have a specialized niche up here (or in other small towns across the province), you are the niche, and while you can find friends and colleagues in similar or complementary areas of work/interest, chances are, you’ll be the only one doing _exactly_ what you do. When I go to big conferences, I hear numerous writers complain about isolation being one of the biggest problems in their writing life.

On one hand, I’d argue that for writing (or any other creative endeavour, be it painting, building websites, fly-tying, whatever), a lot of alone time is not only the norm, it’s a necessity. But on the other hand, humans, even the most introverted of us, are social beings. We can’t survive, stay motivated, inspired, stay sane in a vacuum. It’s this other hand that itches to slap the face of the complainer (lightly and kindly, of course–for drama not meanness 😉 ) and say, “Get thee to the Internet!”

I don’t think the Internet matches the benefits of meeting up with like minds face-to-face, but it can foster community and connection nonetheless, and for the writer-for-hire or freelancer, it can build a great support network of working writers and people in related fields that you can turn to for information, advice, and job leads. And more and more, being online is a boon to your actual earning potential.

Today geography has very little limiting effect on those offering creative services. It’s expected and assumed that most, if not all, communication and work will be done and transfered via e-mail. Forums, chat rooms and online video conferencing allow for business meetings, brainstorming sessions, and collaborations. Things like Twitter, Facebook, etc., make promoting yourself and your services inexpensive (free!), with a unheard of reach (global!).

I confess, I mostly use the Internet for its personal connection/inspiration aspects. I’ve made close friends with other writers over the years, and unlike say, The Inklings (Lewis and Tolkien and their crew), we can’t meet up with weekly for port, good cigars, and writerly chat. However, we can get together whenever we like and have, I flatter myself, similarly interesting, growth-inspiring conversations online in the forum we created for that very purpose. I can’t see this primary benefit being subverted by another, but in recent months I’ve been very impressed and excited by how my online obsession has helped my business grow and led to opportunities I might not have had if not, for example, for this blog. Yes, personally and professionally, the Internet = two thumbs up.

And guess what? As often happens when I’m excited about something–I suddenly hear/see things about it everywhere–I was just notified about an upcoming seminar being put on by Small Biz BC (who else? ;-)). Guess what it’s about? Oh, you did guess. Good for you! Social Media – what it is and how it can build your business. They’re covering tools like Blogs, Facebook, RSS, Twitter, and social bookmarks, and I’d love to attend, but unfortunately I have prior commitments. I’m going to see about shuffling things, but I’m not sure I can. You, however? Nothing’s stopping you. If it’s not advertised as being available in your region, contact them and see if they can contact the Community Futures in your area–Terrace isn’t on their list of available places, but it is available here!). And if you do go, do me a favor and let me know how it went and what you learned.

Now go, pour another coffee, and spend a bit more time online before you get down to work. It isn’t time-wasting; it’s a powerful networking strategy for your small businesses. 😉