It’s a wrap!

There is so much more to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) than I wrote about.

Yes, there were a tonne (that’s metric, eh?) of sessions that I couldn’t get to, everything from self-publishing, to social media and platform maintenance, from screenwriting to non-fiction sessions, and marketing sessions.

And yes, I may have mentioned things like the blue pencil and pitch sessions with the agents. Those keen on these could sign up for multiple sessions.

There was a professional photographer there to take head shots as well.

Where would I fit it all in?

But I didn’t mention the Master classes that preceded the conference. They required an extra fee, but I hear they were well worth it.

I didn’t mention Michael Slade’s Theatre of the Macabre, in which Anne Perry, Jack Whyte, Diana Gabaldon, and KC Dyer did a dramatic reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart,” replete with music and sound effects.

I didn’t mention the book fair, author signing, or writing group get-together.

I didn’t mention the excellent food served at the lunches and dinners.

I didn’t mention the annual tradition of Jack Whyte singing the Hippopotamus Song.

Really, this is a conference you need to put on your writer’s bucket list.

We’re all time travellers

Since British Columbia is three hours behind the Eastern Time zone, I thought I would experience jet lag. I did, but not until I returned.

While I was in Surrey, I typically stayed up late to check on social media and do a bit of transcription of the notes I’d taken during the day. Although I stayed up until about 11 pm (2 am, my time) I woke up every morning around 5 am. Again, I used the time to prepare for the day and get in a little transcription.

When I flew back, I did so by the “red-eye” flight. It departed Vancouver at 10:30 pm. I tried to sleep on the way back, but I should have spent some money on one of those neck cushions. I woke up every hour or so and attempted to ease the pain in my neck and find a more comfortable position to sleep in.

When I finally got home, after an early morning layover in Toronto, the connector to Sudbury, and a hectic shuttle ride back to town, it was about 10:30 in the morning.

Needless to say, I spent a good portion of that day in bed 😉

I thought about time zones and jet lag again the following weekend when Daylight Saving Time ended. I’ve described the time change as self-imposed jet-lag, and I’ve never agreed with the continued practice. While it’s not so bad in the fall, it’s murder in the spring when we lose an hour again.

Really, though we can’t leap forward or back, we’re all time travellers. We all travel through time as we wake, work, eat, and sleep our way through life.

It was a philosophical moment 😛

Thanks for following my reportage of the conference, and I will be getting back to my regularly scheduled ramblings forthwith.

Research panel

This panel was a question and answer session.

Panelists: Anthony Dalton, Jack Whyte, Anne Perry, Diana Gabaldon, Susanna Kearsley

Q: Is it okay to use unusual names? e.g. in a historical novel set in Poland, the names are strangely spelled and not pronounced how a North American audience would be familiar with.

JW: If it’s appropriate to the historical setting, keep them.

DG: Find out how the names are treated in the time and culture you’re writing about.  e.g. Black Brian, or Mac Dubh.  Use nicknames or short forms.

AP: Are they named by profession, by an attribute?

SK: Have an outsider character learn how to pronounce the name.  Readers will remember after.

Q: How do you organize your research?

DG: I’ll have sticky tabs in the books I use for research and refer to them when necessary.

AP: I do much the same.

SK: I get documents from the archives (note: Susanna Kearsley used to be a museum curator) and organize them into binders, probably because I’m the daughter of an engineer.

AP: I find that most of the research I use in a first draft is later redacted.

JW: I recommend Scrivener (about $40).  It’s excellent for organizing your research, though it does fall down a bit in the final formatting of a manuscript.  Simply export to MS Word.

Q: How do you get translations?

SK: Try French translators, call your local university, see if they have a translation department, etc.

AD: French immersion teachers are also a good resource.

DG: Is it critical to the story?

AP: Don’t tell people what they don’t need to know.

Q: What gets questioned?

DG: Once you are immersed in the time period, you know what is likely to have happened.

AP: Research is often borne out.  In some cases, my educated guesses have later turned out to be correct.

SK: Historians can leave holes – they are bound by facts, or the lack of them.  Writers have to fill in the holes.

JW: Historians cannot speculate.

Q: Would it be okay to spell Welsh phonetically?

SK: Have an outsider character to help interpret.

DG: Language consists of three things: accent, dialect, and idiom.  For the Outlander series, they are conducting Gaelic classes.

AP: In practice, though signs might have Gaelic and English, few people actually speak Gaelic anymore.

JW: Rhythm is important.  Cadence.

AD: I researched an ocean crossing and read three accounts by three London travellers.  They were all different in spelling, etc.

Q: How do you pick out the pertinent bits?

SK: History is curated.  People save what they think is beautiful, or what has value to them.  Go back to the contemporary record, if possible.

The Daughter of TimeJosephine Tey.

Q: What if you’re dealing with several different languages?

DG: You bring in a translator.

SK: You use a dictionary, or you bring in an outsider.

JW: Tarzan of the Apes is an excellent interpretation of what it might be like to teach oneself a language.

SK: Another great example is The 13th Warrior.  There is a campfire scene where the camera pans around the Vikings and Antonio Banderas’s character catches a few words each round until suddenly, he understands what they’re saying.

Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve researched that you haven’t written about?

AP: Torquemada.

SK: John Thomson.  He almost bankrupted Britain in the 1700s.  He told everyone a different story about what happened.

DG: Joseph Brant.

JW: William Paterson.  Founded the Bank of England and a Panamanian colony for the Scottish.  The colony was blockaded and eventually disappeared, though there is a native group who still paint themselves in tartan patterns.

Q: Whose diary would you like to fictionalize?

JW: Casca, the first man to stab Caesar.

AP: Faucher (?) He had albino genes. French Revolution.  The Butcher of Nantes.

DG: Thomas Paine.

SK: Geoffrey Plantagenet.

AD: Sir John Franklin.

Q: How do you find your research?

JW: Get to know the librarian in charge of the humanities section of your local public or university library, and ingratiate yourself shamelessly.

SK: Google Books.

Q: What are your favourite books to read?

SK: Diana Gabaldon and Nevil Shute.

JW: Roger Zelazny.  Really, it depends on how I feel when I get up in the morning.

AP: G. K. Chesterton’s poetry or crime writers like Michael Connelly.

DG: Celtic crime writers like Ian Rankin and Phil Rickman.