SIWC Friday Afternoon

I will probably move my letters about Will to Letters On The Wind soon. Until then, here is a brief update. He is in Kuwait. He called me last Sunday from Maine. They were waiting on their flight to Germany. From Germany, they went to Kuwait and will be there ten days before going to their permanent base.

I miss hearing his voice. He has a deep, melodic voice that brings joy to my heart every time I hear it. Even more so now.

He’s going to get a calling card when he gets to Iraq since it’s so expensive to talk on the cell phone and the signals from cell phones can ignite the EIDs the terrorists plant. They are doing convoy security, so these things are important to observe. He’s sending his cell phone home to Katie once he gets to Iraq.

Stress level: Pancakes three times a day. Eleven pounds gained.

Depending on how things go, I will most likely start applying for jobs with KBR again this spring and hope for a job in Iraq. He should be home in October and I will need to find another place to live. I’ve decided time is running out for me to find a way to have another home and, of course, another horse or two.

A few of you may have noticed the little cartoon at the bottom with the word counter. That is actually my reverse NaNo prompter. Those are chapters I have looked over and rearranged in an effort to get Paladin down to 130,000 words as opposed to 165,000 words. Then I will have to find a proofreader for those chapters again. I may never be finished with this thing. On the plus side, I should have two more chapters finished this weekend. They are basically done, but I need to do some revising. Three more to go and those three are partially done.

Back to the Surrey International Writers Conference adventures.

Somewhere in the mix Thursday, I met Diana Gabaldon in person for the first time. She took my hand and remarked about how soft it was. Shocking, since my hands look horrible. She was as gracious and lovely in person as she is on the forums and far more beautiful. Yes, I do like her very much.

Friday lunch, as you have already heard, was fun. It was buffet style with large, round tables filling a massive ballroom. Desserts? Oh, yeah. They have a local chocolate bar that is delicious and I had copious amounts of those with a side of fruit just to shut my conscience up. You don’t have to actually eat the fruit, just put it on your plate so it looks like you’re making an effort.

Janet Reid, really did make the conference so much fun for me. She keeps telling everyone she is a bitch, but actually, she’s a cuddly teddy bear and I love her dearly for her humor and her expertise. If you get a chance to go to one of her workshops, run, don’t walk. You won’t be disappointed.

Anyway, this is the lunch where she hissed at me. Books and Writers’ forumites normally had three to four tables captured and she was in the mix since one of her clients, the talented Susan Adrian, is also a forumite. If you haven’t heard me wax poetic about that forum before, take it from me, it is brimming with talent and quite amazing at the number of published authors it spawns.

After lunch was the second session. I’ve heard before you should choose three workshops you want to attend and highlight those because things will happen to make you want or need to change your original plans. This is absolutely correct.

I decided to go to Jack Whyte’s Grabbing the Reader, but since I had a blue pencil appointment, I didn’t hear much of it. What I did hear was another caveat on details. Details make the characters and world real. The trick is to feed them out in such a way that you don’t slow your story down with them.

I wrote down my times wrong for my blue pencil appointment and missed Bob Mayer. Yes, I was kicking myself. I did get in to see Bernice Lever, who is a poet. Now, you might say what good is that going to do me, but frankly, she was awesome. She read over my first five pages and made some word change suggestions and sometimes shook her head. “Bernice, this isn’t poetry, stop that.” However, her suggestions were great. I’m not so sure looking at your work through the eyes of a poet is a bad thing.

She wasn’t familiar with this genre, but she was familiar with language and that was wonderful. I bought a book she put together for her college students entitled The Colour of Words. It had some very helpful suggestions about how to find stronger words or ways of saying things that make your writing more powerful.

I would definitely visit with her again. She’s a lovely lady and quite knowledgeable.

Even so, I hate that I missed Bob Mayer because he is a military man and I really did want to pick his brain. I will be buying his book.

I had five classes picked out for late Friday afternoon. Yep, that was a tough decision since I needed them all.

Character in Action – C.C. Humphreys

From Opening Chapter to Query Letter – Getting an Agent to Say ‘Yes’ – Robert Dugoni

Why They Say No (Panel)
Hallie Ephron, Janet Reid, Julie Scheina

Prestidigitation, Sleight of Hand & How to make Readers Look Where You Want Them To – Diana Gabaldon

Unlike me, Julie K. took wonderful conference notes on the workshops she attended, including Diana’s

The Science of Inspiration (Panel)
Carol Berg, Vicki Pettersson, Robert J. Sawyer, Paul Stevens, Sorche Fairbank, James McCann, Don McQuinn (Moderator)

I decided to go with Why They Say No. Not in small part because I felt bad about missing Janet’s query workshop. However, as it often happens, this was the perfect place for me to be for several reasons.

Number one, I got to play with Janet more. I walked in and she said, “Julie Weathers, the one who dumped me for Jack Whyte.” It was funny to hear her going on and the class laughed. I went up to the front, got down on one knee, took off my hat and lowered my head to beg forgiveness. I think she has forgiven me.

This is the class where I was completely astounded by the rudeness of some people.

You know how there is always someone in a large group, like a conference who stands out because of their abrasive personality and attitude? She was in this class.

Hallie Ephron, is an absolute dear. She is polished, refined, knowledgeable and a fount of valuable advice. She began the class by asking how many people wrote this or that genre etc. Her purpose was to determine the audience. Obviously, if there were no non-fiction writers there, it served little purpose to dwell on that aspect.

She began with, “How many people here are romance writers?” She was making notes as she spoke and after about the fifth classification, Blondie stood up and said, “How many people here would like to know who you are?”

I’m sure I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. She, in essence said, “You’re wasting my time and get on with it because I’m important.”

The panel looked at each other and Hallie’s eyebrow shot up. I know I overuse this action in my work, but that is the only way to describe it.

She was very polite and said, “Now that we know who we are speaking to, let me introduce the panel. She introduced everyone, ending with Janet. Janet, being Janet, held up her name tag and introduced herself. “I’m tall, thin, beautiful and my name is Rachel Vater.” Everyone in the room laughed. Janet, as I have said before, is a short little munchkin like me. Sorry, Janet, it’s true. You are not tall.

They started out saying something about personal preferences and things that drive them nuts. Hallie said, “Janet, what do you really notice?”

Janet began to speak and Blondie stood up again and interrupted her. “I thought you said your name was Rachel, why is she calling you Janet?”

Everyone blinked in surprise. Janet replied, “Umm, it was a joke. My name is Janet Reid and I’m….” She gave her information and agency.

The woman said, “So you aren’t really Rachel Vater? Who is Janet Reid? I don’t even know who you are. I’ve never heard of you.”

Helloooo! You signed up for the class and it clearly stated who was on the panel and the website gives the biographies of each of the presenters. Plus, if you had a modicum of sense, you would have done some research before you went to the conference.

Janet said, “Well, it was just a joke, but I will try not to be funny any more. I’m an agent.”

I said, “Please just be yourself and we prefer the humor.”

Just a side note here. Most of these nitwits I’ve met at gatherings are always peroxide blondes. They’ve escaped the house and for whatever reason assume that makes them a celebrity. They normally have very loud voices and no manners.

Escaping from Alcatraz makes you special. Escaping from 3501 Alder Street? Not so much.

I’m convinced the peroxide has some kind of disastrous affect on some women that removes the respect, common courtesy and intelligence brain cells.

It’s just a theory, but watch at the next large gathering you go to and see who Obnoxious Nettie is. You can send your findings to me and we’ll write a book.

I was really pretty amazed at the self control of the ladies. Janet shrugged it off later, which is a huge bonus to her. She said you just have to ignore people like that and not think about it. That makes me believe this rudeness is more common than I thought. Sadness.

As for the advice given at the workshop, most of it is common sense stuff that you read in many blogs if you will just take the time to do some research. It was good to hear it put into words and why it’s important, though.

Another thing that resonated with me. Be professional. Agents and editors are in a business. If you wish to be published, you are entering a business. The days of the diva writers are over. If you’re a pain in the butt, your days are numbered. You don’t have to fawn over agents and editors, but you do need to be pleasant to work with.

The dinner was lovely, as always. Desserts were great. *contented sigh*

The keynote speaker after dinner was Robert Sawyer, a Canadian. He started off well and then launched into a political speech, informing the Americans the last good president they elected was John Kennedy and how we needed to vote correctly in this election.

Excuse me, the way to vote correctly is to vote your conscience and it is not a speaker’s business at a writer’s conference to tell me how to vote.

I left and went back to the room without staying for the program afterward, which was supposed to be quite good.

Lisa bought tickets for both nights so we got to enjoy her company at the dinners.

I put on my “I’m in your bathroom, stalking your agent” tee shirt and went to the bar. Rachel Vater wandered in later and we had a few drinks together. She laughed at the tee shirt and we discussed LOLcats and she told me about a new one they had featuring dogs. I said I didn’t know about that one and had something else to spend my time on rather than writing. She told me to forget she said anything and get the book finished.

Once again, we just shot the bull and some of the other forumites joined up in the bar later.


  1. Julie,

    Next time you expect to encounter a terrible person at a conference, remember to swing by Arkansas and take me along.

    Okay, so that wouldn’t help, and it isn’t feasible. Regardless, I’ll continue to complain to myself about obnoxious people getting to take part in interesting discussions.


    P.S. You speak so often of the Books and Writers forum that I will probably visit it soon.

  2. Justus, Books and Writers is an interesting water hole for writers.

    I am actually hoping to make it to two conferences in 2009. One of them will be Surrey, which is probably one of the best conference bargains around and well worth the money.

    Not sure about the other one, though I have always wanted to go to Pikes Peak.

  3. Julie,

    I’ll probably go to the Arkansas Literary Festival in April. Other than that, I’m not sure where I can show up for conferences.

    I’m registered on the forum, and I’ll add it to my links. If nothing else, it will make it easy for me to access the site. I tend to forget the URL.


  4. Justus, I noticed one of the conferences was free. Some of them also offer scholarships or you can be a volunteer. Volunteers can’t attend all the workshops, but you can sometimes arrange your schedule so you can attend some you particularly want to go to.

    I’ve been wanting to go to Surrey for ten years and this year I finally made it.

  5. Julie,

    Surrey is in England, right? I can see how you might have a difficult time attending a conference there.

    What would a volunteer do at a conference: set up tables with snacks and drinks, kick out the rowdy punks, or something more relevant to the conference?


  6. Of course! You meant the Surrey southeast of Vancouver. Actually, I had never heard of it when I read about it on your blog. Someone told me they thought Surrey was in England. I looked it up, and it is a county in England; but I guess conferences are held in specific cities rather than all over counties or states…oops.

  7. Re: Will…

    This year, for the first time in 16 years, I may be able to “visit” NJ at the holidays. And won’t have to leave FL to do it.

    One magic word: webcam (an investment of somewhere between $25 and maybe $200). That, plus gmail accounts at both ends — or Skype — means you can indeed see the distant beloved as you talk to them!

    I don’t know why it took me so long to latch onto this!

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