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Best Conference Evah!

When you go to a conference, in my case, The Surrey International Writers’ Conference, you never expect to arrive and have to undergo four security checks by RCMP just to get into the hotel, dodge past a couple hundred protesters, as well as having been pre-screened by the Secret Service.

View from inside the hotel. Once I got inside.

Nothing like a friendly, “Welcome to Canada” arrival with the hotel surrounded by RCMP.

All because former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are speaking at the conference hotel that day for a separate economic meeting. And even with all this security you discover a few days later, one attendee arrived with an ax in a garbage bag and blithely walked into the hotel with it. But that is an entirely different story.

Meanwhile, as I settled in, protesters took over an intersection:

The lively view from my room.

Aside from all the hullabaloo that welcomed me, I have to say this was the best conference, evah. Truly. I had so much fun. Met so many truly interesting and talented writers (Ivan Coyote, Micheal Slade (here-forthwith known as, Man with an Axe), Eileen Cook, Susanna Kearsley, Margaret George (Yes, I got to meet Margaret George!) and Anne Perry, whose opening address was in a word: breathtaking.)

Had a total fangirl moment with Margaret George, where I was gushing over how much I loved the Autobiography of King Henry the VIIth to several other writers, only to discover Margaret George was standing right beside me. I was completely embarrassed and in total awe. I read that book when I was like 20 and was mesmerized by it. I recently reread it and it still, 20 some years later, her writing holds the same power.

What is it about Canadians and sharp, deadly objects?

The amazing part of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference is the tremendous draw it possesses. Writers of all genres, bloggers, poets, artists, wordsmiths, humorists, you name it, you will find them. And you will find inspiration in their love of words. A deep abiding love of the power of writing. It was like stumbling upon a big family reunion wherein everyone spoke that unique language that whispers to you. As a writer, you spend so much time alone writing you forget that others hear those words as well. But here, the language of storytelling was alive and well.

Loved it.

My advice: If you love writing, go next year for their 20th anniversary conference. And if you go and you meet a wild crew of women from Calgary, hang with those chicks. They are too much fun.

And then sit next to Mary Robinette Kowal, and ask her about Sting. Or about Sleeping Beauty. Either story is wonderful. Or do what I did, download her book, Shades of Milk and Honey.

RCMP. Hero material if ever there was one.

And yes, I did bid on a Mountie. At least I tried to bid on one. But that again, is another story.

22 comments to “Best Conference Evah!”

  1. heidi
    October 25th, 2011 at 12:41 pm · Link

    Wasn’t Anne Perry amazing? You’re right – she was breathtaking.
    Loved this post.

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 9:36 am · Link

      She was so captivating. As Robert Dugoni said later, she demonstrated perfectly the meaning of “Show, Don’t Tell.”

  2. Amy Valentini
    October 25th, 2011 at 1:48 pm · Link

    Elizabeth, it sounds like it was completely worth the cost of admission. You had excitement, a little danger with the “axe guy” and wonderful insight as well. You got to be professional in manner but got to be all out fangirl, too. Love to hear the untold stories of that ‘best conference evah’! : )

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 9:39 am · Link

      Amy–it was just a hilariously fun weekend. I came home with absolutely no voice!

  3. Eileen
    October 25th, 2011 at 2:22 pm · Link

    It was the best conference ev-ah. I’m in for next year. I’ll even bring my knitting.

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 9:39 am · Link

      You bet, bring the knitting. I want to see how we balance our wine and our knitting. πŸ™‚

  4. Shari Green
    October 25th, 2011 at 4:50 pm · Link

    I missed the conferenced this year (but I know the wild women you speak of!). Surrey conf is awesome — I will def be there next year! I’m glad you had a great time. πŸ™‚

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 9:38 am · Link

      Love those girls from Calgary! Just amazing!

  5. Shari Green
    October 25th, 2011 at 4:51 pm · Link

    *conference* (if I HAD made it to Surrey, one could say I’d conferenced, but sadly, it was just a typo)

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 9:38 am · Link

      We all do that! You don’t know how many times I go back into my blog to correct typos and still miss some. Sigh.

  6. Leanne Shirtliffe
    October 25th, 2011 at 7:33 pm · Link

    I love that you tried to bid on the Mountie. I had Tom Jones’ “Leave Your Hat On” should we (the Calgary wild women crew) win. Alas, $300 was too much for our table.

    Too fun to meet you.

    And you’re a wild woman yourself. And that’s a compliment!

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 9:37 am · Link

      And why wouldn’t I have? I am a romance writer after all. And did you not SEE that Mountie? Meow!

  7. terri patrick
    October 25th, 2011 at 11:38 pm · Link

    I SOOO want your lifestyle.

    Yeah, yeah, first I have to get a great book out there… Someday soon…

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 9:37 am · Link

      Also came home exhausted to a sick kid and a frazzled husband. So not the glamorous life.

  8. Susanna Kearsley
    October 26th, 2011 at 9:40 am · Link

    Great post, Elizabeth, and thanks for the mention — I really loved meeting you, too.

    And I loved how the Mountie ended up standing BEHIND Bob Dugoni, for protection… πŸ™‚

    I’ve been going through SiWC withdrawl (what, no buffet?) for the past few days myself, but what I miss the most is just the energy and simple generosity that flowed from having all those writers, published and unpublished, sharing that hotel.

    Hope we can do it again.

  9. Tricia Barker
    October 26th, 2011 at 11:07 am · Link

    Luckily for you Donald Maass stood between you and the “axe-swinging” Michael Slade!

    I wish there was a way to get a transcript of Anne’s speech. It would not be as stunning as hearing her voice but I would love a copy.

    Great to meet you!

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 1:04 pm · Link

      Tricia, Bob was asking her how she does that speech (because she gives it regularly) and she said she just starts with the abyss and goes from the heart–at that moment. Wow!

      • Tricia Barker
        October 26th, 2011 at 4:53 pm · Link

        I was lucky enough to have a long chat with Anne at lunch and she did say she just “does it”. Impressive beyond belief!

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 1:05 pm · Link

      Yeah, I wasn’t too worried. Donald Maass is an Eagle Scout, so I am assuming disarming mad Canadians is a merit badge somewhere.

      • Tricia Barker
        October 26th, 2011 at 4:54 pm · Link

        And I suppose Diana Gabaldon could have grabbed him from behind LOL!

  10. Trish L
    October 26th, 2011 at 1:45 pm · Link

    It was the Best. Conference. Ever.
    As an attendee, it’s amazing to hear so many great speakers and better yet to have a glass (or two) of wine with them. Thanks for sharing our fun and I hope you come back next year! (I need to take that class of yours)
    BTW, I thought you should know that you’ve caused me to lose sleep with your damn book. I have little kids. I can’t stay up until 2 in the morning reading. Sigh. But I do love it.

    • Elizabeth
      October 26th, 2011 at 2:02 pm · Link

      Trish, you are most welcome for the late nights. I have you all to thank for the copious amount of wine I drank with you all. Consider ourselves even. I do hope they invite me back!


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