Surrey International Writer’s Conference: A Volunteer’s Perspective

August 30, 2013 0 Comments

In 2012, I had a special opportunity to volunteer for the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, helping out with photography and social  media. I wrote this blog about my experience. It first appeared on

The SIWC Weekend Begins

When I stepped into the ­­­­main ballroom on the Friday morning of the 2012 SIWC conference for Jane Espenson’s opening keynote, I saw an amazing sight: a crowded room with hundreds of writers talking about the ups and downs of the writing life, their latest writing projects, their favourite books, their hopes and dreams.

I had never seen so many writers together, never seen so much energy and passion for the written word. Ever since I attended the 2008 SIWC on Young Writers Day, I have wanted to become more involved with the conference. Finally, after years of procrastination (and regretting after each conference weekend passed), I took the plunge and returned as a volunteer, assisting with social media and shadowing Ursula-Lewis Maxwell as a photographer.

Conference Highlights

Over the next three days, I strolled around the conference rooms and hallways, drifting from workshops to events, observing, learning, and recording everything with a camera and pen. I cheered with attendees at the SIWC idol, watched writers step forward excitedly to pitch their projects, heard the delighted cries of attendees as they got their books signed by favourite authors.


As the conference begins, the banquet room is filled with writers chatting about their favorite books and latest works-in-progress.

Donald Maass

Donald Maass gives a workshop on Standout Characters.

A panel discussion about humor in science fiction and fantasy.


Evelyn Lau gives feedback to a writer in a Blue Pencil Session.

Writers wait eagerly for a chance to pitch their work to agents and publishers.

Volunteer Experience

The highlight of my volunteer experience was meeting many friendly writers. I ran into writing friends and met others from across North America and the UK. I shadowed Ursula, who gave me insightful tips on event photography and introduced me to various speakers. I attended panels on the writing craft and publishing industry, chatted with writers and volunteers.

Jane, a front desk volunteer, said she also liked the environment at SIWC. “I enjoy networking with writers and being with people who are likeminded.”

Sarah, another volunteer, agreed. “It’s one of my favourite weekends in the year. I love the energy and helping the writers.”

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Bernice Lever, one of the poetry judges for the SIWC Writing Contest and an avid volunteer over the years. “Especially for people who are writers themselves or as readers can meet favourite authors. You can see international people from North America and enjoy talents from people beyond your local group.”

Three of the many volunteers involved in various aspects of the conference, from running the front desk to assisting with banquets to introducing workshop speakers.

Three of the many volunteers involved in various aspects of the conference, from running the front desk to assisting with banquets to introducing workshop speakers.

If you’re passionate about books and writing, please check out the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, taking place on October 25-27, 2013 in Surrey, Canada.