Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Robert J. Sawyer Shows Not Tells At Surrey International Writers Conference


In a room packed with rapt would-be, beginning and established writers, Robert J. Sawyer (“the dean of Canadian science fiction”—Ottawa Citizen) gave a great last workshop at the SIWC: “Show and Tell” (okay, that was telling, wasn’t it, Rob?). Every creative writing teacher (and Chapter T of The Fiction Writer by Pixl Press) will tell you that “showing is a lot more effective than telling”. But do they SHOW it? LOL! Rob did, with panache and humor.

The SIWC, held in Surrey, British Columbia, is an impressive writers conference, this year hosting over fifty authors, agents, editors, publishers and film makers from New York and beyond (yes, there is a beyond): the likes of Sarah Lovett, Diana Gabaldon, Bob Mayer, Mary Jo Putney, Jack Whyte, Meg Tilly, Deborah Ellis, Robert J. Sawyer and so many more congenially talked craft with students of writing, as they wandered the halls looking for their venue or ducked outside for a smoke. Writers who are serious about their craft can sign up for master classes. They can show their work to professional writers for advice. They can pitch their stories to editors and agents during scheduled times or, if they’re a little more adventurous (like me) they can do two things at the same time: have a drink and give a pitch to an agent at the bar. Much more efficient. And enjoyable (mischievous satisfied grin).


A madcap ten-track workshop/panel schedule offered provocative titles like: the 90 Minute Novel; Get Over Yourself—and Get Writing; Intimacy Reporting; Real Criminals I Have Known; SIWC Idol

New York Times best-selling novelist Diana Gabaldon (author of the Outlander series) provided both very entertaining and instructional workshops on anything from characterization to "Prestidigitation, Sleight of Hand & How to make Readers Look Where You Want Them To". One of her most memorable presentations was conducted entirely as a conversation she had with herself as she constructed a story out of a single scene. Super agent, Donald Maass, grappled with "tornadoes" (plotting) while Jack Whyte breathed life into minor characters. Elizabeth Lyon, editor and author of several writer's guides, offered some very erudite workshops, including one on movement.
Which brings me back to Rob’s “Show and Tell” workshop. One of Rob’s most effective ways of illustrating the benefit of “show” rather than “tell” came through his humorous and dynamic interaction with his audience. He engaged directly with someone in the front row (take note) to demonstrate different ways of greeting someone and used his own physique to give an example of “show” and “tell”:
Tell: “Rob is bald.”
Show: “the light shone off the top of Rob’s head.”
Because of other commitments that weekend (see my previous post) I was zipping across town between the conference and the writers’ festival. Serendipity seemed to intervene each time, and I collided into old friends and colleagues at the most opportune moment. For instance, I met up with Lois J. Peterson—who is launching her new YA book, Meeting Miss 405 (Orca Young Readers), Saturday, November 1 at the Newton Library, 13795-70 Ave at 12 noon—and she was just heading to the bar as I walked into the hotel. We settled in with drinks and snacks to discuss matters of deep importance such as why lemons float in a gin and tonic but olives don’t in a martini. Oh, you know the answer? Well, you didn’t just spend two hours in the bar consuming the source of the question either, did you?

Another special someone joined me at the bar…my old friend and trusty companion … Toulouse! And wouldn’t you know it, he made more friends than I did! Somewhere between my fourth and fifth trip to and from the con, he’d slipped into my backpack and wouldn’t take no for an answer at the bar; Toulouse knew a good time when he smelled it.

I am next driving to Calgary to participate in the World Fantasy Convention (at the Hyatt Regency) Oct. 30-Nov 2, where I will be doing book signings and several readings. If you're nearby, come over. I'd love to see you. Guests include David Morrell, Barbara Hambly, publisher Tom Doherty of Tor Books, Tad Williams and Todd Lockwood, among many others.

I am giving a reading Thursday, October 30 and Saturday, November 1, both at 8pm. I am signing my book at the Edge table at 5pm on Saturday. Hope to see some of you there.

10 comments:

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A fine write up. Wish I was visiting the Convention this weekend.

SF Girl said...

Well, World Fantasy Conventions happen all over the world... :)

Princess Haiku said...

Hi Nina,
You are looking good and hope your book sales increase due to your efforts. It must be tiring to be as successful as you. lol Cheers

Shari said...

"Prestidigitation" was an excellent workshop! :)

Baby Brie said...

Can't wait to hear how things went at the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary!

SF Girl said...

"Prestidigitation" was an excellent workshop! :) ... Any workshopt that Diana gives is bound to be, isn't it, Shari? Glad you enjoyed it.

SF Girl said...

Hey, Baby Brie! I just got back from the con and will post shortly. I have some great photos. It was a blast! :D

SF Girl said...

Princess Haiku, thanks for your kind comments. Yes, it would be tiring if I needed any sleep... Luckily, I don't! LOL! More crazy adventures in Calgary will follow shortly...

RobertJSawyer said...

It was a real pleasure seeing you in Surrey -- and again at World Fantasy! I hope our paths will cross again soon and often, Nina! :D

SF Girl said...

Me too, Rob! Fun times, dude...BTW What WAS that interesting-looking desert you got for free at the restaurant during WFC?...(perks of being a great and well-loved writer... :)