The best, the bad, and the ugly

For writers, one of the greatest worlds to drop in on is a writer’s conference. One of the best on the North American continent is held each year in a suburb of Vancouver, BC, called Surrey. The Surrey International Writers Conference is an annual event that draws writers of fiction and nonfiction, agents, editors, and luminaries from the publishing world. It’s earned its ‘international’ status, as writers come from Canada, the US, Europe, and farther. Many years it’s a sellout. This year, its 23rd annual installment, was one of those, with about 600 in attendance for 3 days of sessions geared to beginner and advanced, fiction and nonfiction writers, with opportunities to pitch to agents, and have your work vetted by published authors and editors.

It’s always an engrossing conference, rich in opportunities for polishing skills, deep-diving into new elements of craft you’ve been dying to explore, and flexing creative muscles that are just itching to be worked.

Most first timers are agog at the variety of offerings and the bonhomie of other attendees. Most repeat attendees relish the creative atmosphere, the opportunity to meet other writers and talk craft, books, and shop, and to renew friendships face to face.

The Surrey International Writers Conference is certainly the best.

The bad is, well, seeing it end and having to leave, knowing your batteries won’t be charged as well until next year.

The cost of attending a conference isn’t cheap but it’s always worth it. The cab ride to and from the conference, however, isn’t so lovely. About $80-85 Canadian. But that’s not the ugly.

The Ugly is having your flights delayed both ways, and worrying if you’ll make your connecting flights, and in some cases not making them at all. I’ve learned over the years to seek connecting flights at least 90-120 minutes apart… just in case. (And yes, I’m snobbish enough to wonder why there aren’t any direct flights from my home town. It’s NYC for Pete’s sake!) And I am appreciative of the flight info updates I get on my phone. I understand flight delays or paths changed due to bad weather.

But when an outbound flight is first declared to be 60 minutes, then 90 minutes, and finally 2 hours late, and the reason given is that ‘debris’ got in the way of a door closing and ruined the seals so that a new plane had to be put into service, well, <sigh>.Maybe I give them a point for originality.

I know airlines realize we are captive audiences. They also want our business. Without it, they have no airline. Likewise, all the cutbacks have forced patrons to expect and settle for less, but it doesn’t mean we are content with less. Altered flight times are unacceptable to everyone–business people with meetings to make, families on vacations who have paid for hotel rooms and theme park tickets going unused because of delays, conference presenters who miss their speaking and session engagements.

Ugly. Purely. I won’t name the airline. I tweeted about it from the airport so they’ll go un-noted here. But as they say, ‘vote with your feet’ or in this case with your wings, I’ll not book with them next year.

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