Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Home again from the SiWC

Once again I had an incredible experience at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. I think this was my 9th time at the conference, and every single year without fail, I return home with new insights, some clever tricks to apply to the craft of writing, a better understanding of the business of writing, some new friends and more than anything, a renewed sense of why I do what I do.

Some highlights?

1. Discovering an amazing presenter named Ivan Coyote. I honestly can't say enough about her. Truly, whatever I describe here will not do her justice. She must be seen live to be fully appreciated. It's like talking about a great chocolate cake. You have to taste a piece for yourself to get it. She. Blew. Me. Away.

2. Dinner with Anne Perry my first night there. We met at the conference way back when, and we've stayed in touch ever since (she's one of the few people in the world who still believes in the handwritten letter.) This year, I had a blast watching the interaction between her and my friend Jo, while I (and my friend Kathy) looked at each other and smiled, happily adrift in the vortex of Anne and Jo's shared interests and massive intellects. (I actually speak for myself here, not Kathy.) You see, Anne is the special brand of genius that makes it difficult for mere mortals to have a simple conversation. You won't be discussing the weather but questions like, "So who's journal from the French Revolution would you most want to read?"

(Answer: Fouquier de Tinville*, which Jo figured out instantly, and to which I said "Well, of course it is. Old Foucher." "Fouquier," said Jo. "Right, that guy," followed by a quick glance at Kathy that I'm sure projected, "outofmydepthOUTOFMYDEPTH!"

*At least I think that's who they were talking about. In any case, that's who I would pick. Thank you, Wikipedia.

Then the next question, "What year do you suppose had the most profound influence on the history of Spain?"** (Hint: it's not 1920 or anytime thereabouts nor had anything to do with their civil war, which was my guess.)

**According to Anne, it's 1492, when they created the Kingdom of Spain after the unification of the Kingdom of Castile and the Kingdom of Aragon, but most importantly, it's when they expelled the Jews and financially, went downhill faster than Picabo Street. And of course, old Chris Columbus, the explorer, not the director of Home Alone, was discovering the new world. Of course, it's so obvious now...

3. Purdy's chocolates. Shallow I may be, but Purdy's is and always will be sublime. I don't think about the French Revolution or Spain when I eat them.

4. Being with my best buds in the world, kc dyer last year's coordinator, and Kathy Chung, this year's coordinator. (Sorry I put you after Purdy's. It's random order. Honest.) I was afraid I wouldn't have enough time to see either of them as during the conference, they're likely to be moving about like a couple of whirling dervishes (and given kc's proclivity for crazy coloured striped tights in those long legs of hers, looking directly at her has the same effect as looking directly into the sun.) But in the end, we found some time to schmooze. It only makes me miss them more.

And congrats on the launch of kc's newest novel, Facing Fire at the conference with full fanfare and much excitement. It sold out!

5. The keynote address by Robert Dugoni where he recounted his own struggles to get published, and he used THIS SPEECH from Lord of the Rings and substituted a few writerly words. Picture a ballroom filled with hundreds of writers who stood, hands raised in a unified fist pump, yelling "THIS DAY WE WRITE!!" Awesome.

6. RCMP Corporal, fellow writer and my SiWC "son" Tyner Gillies who won honourable mention in the writing contest. I recounted the high praise for his writing by his "uncle" and mentor Jack Whyte. Just like an overheard compliment, it was all the sweeter this way. Those words will carry Tyner through to the next step in his writing life. Plus he looks damned handsome in that red serge. Mother of pearl, but that uniform is a charm.

7. Diana Gabaldon, generous, kind and truly a one-of. Thank you.

8. Driving back to the airport with Robert McCammon. He is a deeply soulful, kind and very talented individual with depth and compassion and great humour. Not to mention a southern accent that sounds like warm syrup on hotcakes, which made all the women swoon. "Wait'll I tell the old boys back home in Alabama that the Canadian gals loved my accent," he said, shaking his head and laughing.

So many memories, too many to include here. I can't wait until next year!


Deniz Bevan said...

Ah, 1492 - when my novel takes place! Darn it, *someday* I'll get to Surrey...
Thanks for sharing these highlights!

(word verification: ousninge. Sounds like a whisky)

A Novel Woman said...

It's worth it. A special place indeed. We can knit together in the bar. Knit one, drink one, purl one, repeat.

Deniz Bevan said...

Mmm, knitting with a dram... Perfect!

JSL said...

It really is fantastic isn't it??
The highlight of my year (which seems to overshadow my birthday, as they constantly fall on the same weekend: it's like a gift from the Universe.)

I also have to tell you:
"a southern accent that sounds like warm syrup on hotcakes"
That line is a true masterpiece. Many of us spend a lifetime fishing for lines like that, and here you are pulling it out of a Unicorn's skewered hat. Bravo!!