Typewriter Keys by Peter Lewicki c/o Unsplash

SIWC 2019. The Surrey International Writer’s Conference.

I was a first-time attendee at SiWC this past weekend. It was the second full-weekend writer’s conference I have attended. Let me tell you, if they weren’t so darn expensive I’d be going to them all the time. I get the value for my dollar, don’t get me wrong, but education doesn’t come for free!

You can find a recap from my first festival here.

Back to SIWC 2019. To sit amongst fellow writers, listen to the same words and breathe the same air. We walk away with knowledge that is all our own and ideas that will flow aplenty, exuding inspiration as we exit the building for the final time at the end of the weekend.

It is so priceless.

I went for such a long time before I even realized that there was this community out there. A community of writers to which I belong.

There are so many people that write in the world! Published authors, self or traditional, aspiring writers, those that have written for years and never pursued avenues to get their words out there.

SIWC Surrey International Writer's Conference 2019 - Notebook and Nametag

Adventures of a Notebook at SIWC 2019

I opted for the conference basic package, which didn’t include the SIWC 2019 Master Classes or lunches with speakers. I did, however, make it to the conference hall every morning to hear the key note speeches. My favourite was given the morning of the last day by an author named Sonali Dev. Her name and her work were new to me, her books now on my to-read list very soon.

By her own description over the weekend (I attended three different sessions in which she spoke) of her novels, she writes exactly what I want to write. What I anticipate my next books to be. I hope they will be as successful one day! I want to give people hope in love, comfort with happiness and a giggle while I’m at it.

I found Sonali’s keynote speech on the closing day of the conference to be so moving. She started by speaking of Diwali, the Indian festival of lights and how she was not home for this occasion, and was missing time with her family.

Her own father had told her that SIWC 2019 was a great place for her to be if she couldn’t be home. For her work, her passion, her second family. Sonali’s words moved me, as she helped me discover why I write. Why I read. And how words tie us all together.

We write because we refuse to be silenced.

We read because we refuse to allow others to be silenced.

- Sonali Dev

I cried twice during her speech.

It’s been an emotional few months for me. There has been so much going on in my world, I found that I was easily moved to hear the validation I needed for my writing. The validation that I have never been able to find elsewhere, that I’ve searched for, asked for and yearned for over many years. Before I even knew I needed it.

My writing is just that. Mine. My words will always belong to me, especially when they are found between two covers.

But, I have learned, at the very same time I can claim the name on the front of a book or at the bottom of a blog post, my words are also everyone else’s. And I am thankful for that. For my readers, my family, my followers. That take the time out of their days to like a picture or read a post.

I am forever grateful. And I would be nothing without any of you.

That’s not true–I would still be me. And I would still write. But you know what I mean.

Forever a Writer,


My SIWC 2019 Sessions

Where the Hell is Your Conflict - Sonali Dev

Summary: Sonali encouraged everyone to think about our own main characters of our current works in progress. To dig deep and ask the questions about what describes them and discover how to write about someone you care about. To translate the care for our characters through the page to our readers. We asked "What is the wound we are trying to explore?" and were encouraged not to lose sight of that at any point during our story.

Revision: The Biggest Pitfalls Writers Miss - Steven Salpeter

Summary: Steven, an agent based out of NYC, went through his top seven most common manuscript mistakes and how to avoid/fix them.

The Mistakes:

  1. Entering your story from the wrong place.
  2. Characters not on the page as fully imagined as they are in the author's mind.
  3. You have yet to develop a physical sense of setting in your novel.
  4. You need to raise the stakes.
  5. You don't follow through on your promises to your reader.
  6. A major plot point doesn't feel earned.
  7. Your story is uneven (sequentially or otherwise).

The Solutions:

  1. You didn't think I was going to share all the secrets here, did you? 🙂
So You Wanna Write A Series - Crystal (CJ) Hunt

Summary: I have attended Crystal's sessions before, which is why I chose this one in particular. I love her approach and the way she shares her knowledge. In this session, Crystal shared her tips for linking series together, building backstory (even if you don't share it in your book) and even suggested going so far as to prepare house plans and town maps! We also discussed the ever-controversial cliffhangers, whether they belong in a series and how to handle them if you include a big fat WTF in one of your series books.

Endings: How to Wrap Things Up - Mary Robinette Kowal

Summary: This was a big one! Mary gave us lots of information about how to strategically approach an ending that you might be struggling with. It took me a few minutes to pick up what she was putting down, so I'll spare you the details and just say that it was pretty brilliant over all! I had a big takeaway from this one and have an idea of how to close my issues out, and in what order, if I'm ever struggling with the ending to a book.

Character Arc - Elizabeth Boyle

Summary: I snuck out of this one to present a pitch to an agent (it went well, but since it was not the original agent that I was set to see, she wasn't looking for something exactly like my books. Still, it was good practice and she gave me some really helpful information!), but I really didn't want to leave! Elizabeth was a wealth of knowledge. She taught us about Self-Definition and how to handle the changes your characters need to go through over the arc of your book. Who wants to read about someone that doesn't change?

50 Ways to Sell Your Writing - Jason Brick

Summary: Jason was a great presenter! He shared his wealth of knowledge about how to make a writing with your words. Spoiler alert: He didn't list out 50 ways, but rather walked us through the different types of Traditional Publishing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, Work for Hire and Self-Publishing and how we can earn a living doing them.


I also attended three panels: SIWC Idol (where authors submitted their first pages, which were read out loud anonymously and commented on by a panel of agents), Love is in the Air (a panel of women discussing romance novels and women in fiction) and Unforgettable Characters (questions about our favourite characters, their pets, cars and secret pleasures were discussed).


  • I’m glad you got so much value from the weekend! Sounds like it was great 🙂 There is something special about being with other writers, learning, and growing. That is an awesome quote from Sonali Dev. I love how you said your words are your own but they are also everyone else’s too.

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