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Meet your muse in Surrey and Vancouver

Writers and readers have plenty to look forward to in October, columnist Ursula Maxwell-Lewis writes.
Ursula Maxwell-Lewis, Ed Griffin, Carol Monaghan 2011
Ursula Maxwell-Lewis

Surrey International Writers’ Conference kicks off on Oct. 19 to celebrate 20 successful years of service to writers, poets, and playwrights.

Seattle author Robert Dugoni inspired this year’s theme with his rousing 2011 closing keynote battle cry: “Today we write!”

The popular conference was the brain-child of Surrey author, Ed Griffin.

Griffin suggested the idea at a Surrey coffee shop writers’ group meeting at a Cloverdale Starbucks in 1993.

Armed with a small group of volunteers and no money, the group approached the Surrey Continuing Education Department with the idea of a one day writers’ conference.

By October, a one-day Saturday mini-conference was ready to roll at Johnson Heights Secondary with a few workshops and Vancouver Sun columnist, Denny Boyd, as keynote speaker.

Attendees were delighted. They wanted more of the same.

Encouraged, the group made the giant decision to move to the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford. Additional days were gradually added, SiWC’s reputation consistently grew, and one-day Master Class workshops were added on pre-conference Thursdays.

Today, Canadian, American and British writers flock to Surrey to connect with editors, agents and publishers. SiWC is now an independent non-profit society with sponsors like the City of Surrey, the Arts Council of Surrey and the Surrey Board of Trade.

Best-selling authors Diana Gabaldon, Jack Whyte, and Anne Perry are among the regular workshop presenters and speakers. Others have included Bernard Cornwell, Anita Rau Bedami and Jean Auel.

Avid readers drop in to the “Book Fair” early Saturday evening to have books autographed, and to chat with favourite authors. This part of the conference is free and open to the public.

A Trade Show throughout the event features authors, or related writing services promoting books and writing-related products. Chapters/Indigo (Strawberry Hill branch) sets up a mobile bookstore with a wealth of writing related books and popular titles. It’s a good time to shop for Christmas gifts.

But – what if you’re not a writer…yet? What if you’ve contemplated writing your family story, sharing your own saga, or have the germ of an idea for a Young Adult thriller? SiWC is the place to explore the possibilities. With a one-day pass to whet your writing appetite (although folks invariably regret not taking the whole conference pass), the deceptively casual conference surreptitiously connects all genres. Full details can be found at

Equally popular is the venerable Vancouver Writer’s Fest taking place Oct. 16 to 21. Extensive events, readings and lectures take place around the city as well as on Granville Island.

This vibrant, cosmopolitan event attracts readers and writers. This year Margaret Atwood, Jian Ghomeshi, and Martin Amis are included in their extensive list of authors reading at the event. For the full schedule go to

If reading and writing are your passions, bookmark the cities of Surrey and Vancouver this October.

SiWC founder and author, Ed Griffin, has been named a 2012 Surrey Civic Treasure for his dedication to the craft of writing in the Lower Mainland. The award will be presented on Oct. 2 at the Surrey Arts Centre.

– Ursula Maxwell-Lewis established the Cloverdale Reporter and is a founding director of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Reach her on Twitter @YouTravel, or by email at