“To inspire, educate and motivate aspiring and experienced writers alike” has been the goal of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference since its humble beginnings. It is a goal that everyone involved with the conference today continues to embrace.
The Surrey Writers' Conference began in 1993 as the brainchild of Ed Griffin, Ursula Maxwell-Lewis, Carol Monaghan and Surrey Continuing Education Principal Elisa Carlson. Ed had attended the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference in Washington State and passionately wanted a similar event in Surrey . Ed had previously established the Creative Writing Diploma Program through the Surrey School Board’s Continuing Education department. A Surrey Writers’ Conference seemed the natural way to grow. Ed drafted a proposal and presented it to Elisa, who in turn went to bat for sponsorship from the Surrey School Board, again under the banner of Continuing Education. This was not the type of event the School Board usually sponsored, but they too saw potential for such an event and agreed.
The first Surrey Writers’ Conference took place at Johnson Heights Secondary School and was attended by just over 100 people. The organizers considered it a success and began planning for an even bigger and better conference the following year. Ursula Maxwell-Lewis suggested holding the second Surrey Writers’ Conference at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel, which was subsequently arranged. The second conference also featured best-selling author Maeve Binchey as a keynote speaker, arranged in cooperation with the Vancouver Writers’ Festival. The Surrey Writers Conference continued to grow in its third year but really took off in its fourth year when Diana Gabaldon contacted the organizers through a web information group. She liked what the conference was attempting to accomplish and has remained its champion ever since, as have many other best-selling authors and noted editors and agents across North America and beyond.
In the years that followed, the Surrey Writers’ Conference continued to grow into the event it is today. Each year the conference attendance grew by 50-100 attendees. Extra days were added. In 1997, the 5th conference assumed the three-day format of Friday, Saturday and a half-day Sunday. In 2001, the 9th conference saw the addition of Thursdays as a pre-conference day of Master Classes. On the 10th anniversary of the conference in 2002, the amazing growth and reach of the conference was recognized by including ‘international’ in the official title to become the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Presenters have come from as far away as Japan and Scotland while attendees hail from as far away as South America and Europe . In 2003, the 11th conference saw attendance numbers climb for both the Master classes and the 3-day conference that featured over 70 workshops conducted by over 40 presenters including best-selling authors Diana Gabaldon, Anne Perry, Terry Brooks, Jack Whyte, John Saul, and Susan Musgrave. Every year the conference continues to enjoy exciting changes and wonderful new people.
For many years the SiWC operated as an extension of the Surrey School District’s Continuing Education department. In 2011 it became independent, now operating as a registered not-for-profit society. The conference is planned, organized and run by a volunteer board, a conference coordinator and an administrative coordinator. There are also a number of volunteer conference assistants who take on various tasks throughout the year and many amazing and loyal volunteers who help during the conference itself. The Surrey International Writers’ Conference has been called the best writers’ conference in North America by presenters and participants alike.