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L.T. Suzuki

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Blogs by L.T. Suzuki

Kathy Chung & the SiWC Part Twp
7/20/2010 7:27:25 AM    [ Flag as Spam or Inappropriate ]

The Coordinator of one of North America's best writers conferences (as voted by Writers Digest) returns to share more tips and insight into this fabulous event!
LTS: Welcome back, readers! The lovely and talented Kathy Chung is here to share in more information about the oh-so popular SiWC and how to get the most out of this conference. Letís start with one of the popular features of this conference, the Blue Pencil sessions!
One of the highlights for me last year was having a Blue Pencil editing session with Jack Whyte, author of Arthurian legends and tales of the Knights Templar. After introductions, his first words to me were: ďAre you ready for this? Because Iím going to be brutally honest!Ē
For me, it was an absolute thrill having Mr. Whyte read the pages of my fantasy aloud with his Scottish brogue. It was even more of a thrill and so humbling when this respected author concluded the session with: ďThis is very good! Keep it up!Ē
For writers wishing to take advantage of these Blue Pencil sessions, what advice do you have that will allow a writer to truly benefit from this appointment?

KC: Have an open mind. You could get the best writing advice youíll ever hear during those fifteen minutes, but only if youíre open to hearing it. Itís wonderful to get kudos, but if you get critique, soak it in, let it sit, and then decide whether you agree with it later. And, just like with the pitch appointments, relax. It can be terrifying to hand over your ďbabyĒ for someone Ė a successfully published someone! Ė to critique, but what a rare opportunity. Enjoy it!

LTS: Excellent advice, Kathy! Now, each year, there are wonderful success stories coming out of this conference. Is there one that immediately comes to mind that you can share with our readers?

KC: There are so manyÖ we get emails all the time telling us about new success stories that started at Surrey. SiWC has more than its fair share of good news stories: writers have met their agents at SiWC, publishers have found their next book there, too; requests to send pages to an agent have come to triumphant writers during workshop sessions like SiWC Idol; agents and editors regularly send us follow-up emails to let us know the authors they found at Surrey have their books coming out. Very exciting! And of course, not everyone who comes to SiWC is ready to or wants to publish. Sometimes the most touching success stories are the personal ones, like when an attendee finally realizes, right in the middle of the conference, that s/he is a writer, not a wannabe. Itís a thrilling moment, and one Iíve been extraordinarily lucky to share with a few attendees over the years. I think the inclusive, welcoming atmosphere at SiWC lends itself to those private successes as well as the publishing ones. If you attend our banquets this year, youíll hear our MC relate good news stories through the weekend of agents found since last year, books published, and the like that attendees share with us. Listen for them!

LTS: There are also Master Classes available prior to the weekend event. Can you tell us whom they are suitable for and if these workshops are included in the conference registration fee?

KC: Master Classes Ė eight of them this year, in three time slots! Ė will be held on Thursday, October 21, the day before the conference begins. If youíre a conference registrant, the fee for each class is $89 +HST, for which you get an advanced, three hour class with some of the best writing teachers we know. Master Classes are suitable for anyone who is not a beginning writer and is ready to take his/her writing to the next level. If you think youíre ready, you probably are. That being said, the master class teachers will assume all attendees at these classes have a solid working understanding of the basics of writing and some significant writing practice under their belts, so beginners wonít get as much out of them as those who have more experience will. These are meant to be advanced classes.

LTS: What advice would you like to share with the first time conference attendees to help them from being overwhelmed once they arrive at the Sheraton hotel?

KC: Remember that SiWC is a very friendly place, with lots of people ready and willing to help if you feel lost or overwhelmed or just donít know where to go. ASK. Thatís what weíre there for. You can spot board members and conference assistants in red SiWC vests, and volunteers have tags identifying them, too. The registration desk, right in the middle of the lobby, is the place to start. Arrive a little early if you can to give yourself some time to check things out and pick up your registration package.. And definitely consider following our blog and our twitter feed in the coming months so youíll have a pretty good sense of what to expect even before you get there. And remember that weíve all been first-timers, too, and remember just what it felt like, so donít ever hesitate to ask if you need help.

LTS: Iíve been attending this conference since 2002 and Iíve been so impressed by the work the board members and volunteers do to make this conference a success on so many levels. This year, for the first time, I will be participating as a volunteer. Are you still looking for more volunteers to help with this event? If so, is there someone the prospective volunteer should speak to?

KC: Thanks for volunteering, Lorna. We rely on our volunteers to help make the conference run smoothly. Our volunteer coordinators, Camille and Shilo, tell me there are still openings for enthusiastic, flexible, friendly volunteers. Interested in finding out more? Contact Camille and Shilo by filling out a contact form on our website at www.siwc.ca/contact/index.php

LTS: One event that draws big crowds is the Book Fair hosted by SIWC. Itís been a wonderful venue for my book launches and I am hoping to do the release of the ninth and final novel in my fantasy series at this event. One of the things the fans of my books enjoy about this event is that it is open and free to the public and itís also a chance to get their books signed by some of their favourite authors taking part in this event. Can you tell the readers about the when, where and if books must be purchased at this event for the Book Fair attendees to have them signed by participating authors?

KC: The Book Fair runs from 5:30 to 7:00pm on Saturday, October 23, in the Fraser Room at the Sheraton Guildford, the conference hotel. You can bring your own books to have signed by our presenters and other local authors, and books will also be available to purchase from our onsite bookseller. You do not have to be a conference attendee to come to the Book Fair, which is open to the public, but of course attendees are also welcome.

LTS: Iíve read horror stories from agents blogging about their previous conference experiences and one mentioned having a conference attendee trying to pitch to her while she was in a bathroom stall. In my case, Iíve been with my agent in the hotel elevator when she was cornered by a woman trying to pitch to her even after my agent politely asked this woman to book an appointment. Anything youíd like to share in the way of conference etiquette to make this event a pleasant experience for all concerned?

KC: As I said earlier, agents are people. Most are more than happy to talk to you casually in the bar or the elevator (but perhaps not the bathroom stall!). But talk, donít pitch. Casual settings are your chance to make personal connections with people, not to try to sell them something. Put yourself in those shoes. Would you rather buy something from someone who treats you like a human being or a moving sales target? Save the pitch for your appointment unless an agent asks you Ė of his or her own volition Ė youíre working on.

LTS: Young writers are invited to register for the Friday sessions. How young is too young and are these young writers restricted from participating in certain workshops dealing with mature topics?

KC: Our young writers program is a special registration opportunity for teens offered on the Friday. Kids younger than 13 are probably too young to enjoy a full day of workshops unless their parents are convinced otherwise. We donít restrict our young writers from attending any workshop offered; theyíre able to choose same as any other attendee, but none of the Friday workshops deal with mature topics.

LTS: Not only does this conference offer the attendees an opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry, but it allows writers to network and socialize on a grand scale. One of the highlights is the Saturday night banquet. Can you divulge what the theme is this year or is it still under wraps?

KC: Our theme this year is still a mystery, but will be carried through to our Saturday Night Owl event this year. For those who havenít attended before, I should mention that the Saturday night banquet is traditionally a chance to dress up a little bit, though thereís absolutely no requirement to do so, and whatever youíre comfortable wearing is perfectly fine. For some, dressing up means pulling out the high-heeled shoes, but the last couple of years, others have taken our theme seriously and have come in costume. For this year, all will be revealed eventually, but for now, watch for little hints here and there wherever I or SiWC board members pop up online.

LTS: What are some of the advantages of registering early for this event?

KC: There are several advantages to registering early. You get the best choice of blue pencil and pitch appointments, which you are able to select during the registration process. A couple of our master classes have limited registration and those will fill up fairly early. (In fact, there are only a handful of spaces still remaining in Joanna Bourneís master class on advanced POV.) And, of course, we offer an early registration rate, too, so you can save some money by registering before October 1.

LTS: Is there a deadline or cut-off date to register?

KC: We will cut off registration if we sell out, but otherwise, our online registration will stop just before the conference. Our early bird deadline, though, is October 1, after which our rates go up. We have sold out in past years.

LTS: Where can our readers go for more conference information and registration details?

KC: All the conference information, from registration details to presenter bios to writing contest information and workshop schedules and more, is available on our website at www.siwc.ca. There youíll also find our blog and our newsletter sign up so you can keep up-to-date on all the SiWC news.

LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time from your hectic schedule to talk about the Surrey International Writers Conference, Kathy! Iím looking forward to another spectacular event and being a part of it! And for you readers tempted by what the SIWC has to offer, do visit their website. Itís not too late to register and if youíre serious about your writing, itís the best place to be!
You can also follow Kathy on Twitter .KathyChung and get conference updates .SiWCTweets.


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