Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Decision Making Time

Dear readers,

I have a bit of a dilemma on my hands. This year I find myself with not one, but two opportunities that could give my writing career a real boost. Great news, right? Well, it would be, except for the fact that I only have the time and financial resources for one.

I’ll spell out the pros and cons for you. Please let me know which one you’d select.

Choice One: The Surrey International Writers’ Conference

  • Agent pitch sessions, which provide writers with a rare opportunity to talk about their work with actual agents, in the hopes of securing representation (or at least starting the process)
  • Chance of learning something helpful about the industry through workshops and panels
  • The opportunity to meet a ton of other writers of every genre imaginable. I’ve made at least three great friends at this conference, and I’ll be able to see them again.
  • Source of inspiration
  • There is some question about whether or not work samples obtained from conference attendees are taken as seriously as cold queries. This is a huge concern, since a lot of people attend conferences in order to give themselves an edge. Here is one agent’s take on it: Most agents do ask to see whatever you’re pitching because they don’t want to hurt feelings. I am not one of those agents but most are. However, if an agent truly likes your work – she/he will say so and will remember talking to you. I can’t say whether the meetings will be worth your while but it can’t hurt to talk to agents or editors for feedback – can it? From personal experience, I can say that, while many agents requested my work at the conference, when I finally got an agent, it was through a cold query.
  • It’s expensive. Taking into account airfare, cab to and from Vancouver, conference fees, food (only some meals are included), and hotel room, SIWC winds up costing me around $3,000.
  • Many of the workshops and panels are repeated each year, and most of the presenters and agents in attendance are the same year after year.
  • No actual writing takes place.

Choice Two: Writers’ Retreat in the Catskills with Susie Moloney

  • Um…it’s in the Catskills. With Susie Moloney!
  • A rare opportunity to talk about writing and work on writing with a very select group of writers (four per genre; two genres total)
  • One-on-one guidance from a bestselling author
  • Assuming I can get a good deal on the flight, the cost is pretty reasonable
  • Source of inspiration
  • No pitch sessions with agents (or is this a con? See above)
  • You have to apply to be accepted, and there’s no guarantee I would be
  • If people didn’t get along (a small risk, I think), it could be the week from hell
So, what do you think? What is the best possible option for me? I have to decide quickly–the deadline for applications is June 1!

Making the Cut: Day one was tough. Had a craving for nacho chips, but I resisted and followed the eating plan to the letter. Had a horrible headache by the end of the day and (warning: TMI ahead) had to pee constantly due to all the water consumption. The workout kicked my ass. Kicked. My. Ass. Mountain climbers are brutal!
In bed at: 10:30 pm
Awake at: 6:00 am
Novel pages written: Four
Exercise: Jillian Michaels kicked my butt for about two hours.

Thanks for reading!
1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.


  1. Elspeth Cross

    As an unpublished writer, I would have to say go to the Catskills. Here’s why:
    1. I think you’ve already gone to Surrey, no?
    2. Agents can be great, but I would like to introduce you to my internet guru Dean Wesley Smith, who has changed how I’m going to view my writing career: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=860
    He doesn’t say don’t use an agent, but to take charge of your own career.
    3. I’m jealous and I want a workshop. You will still get some networking but you will also get a ton of writing done.

    If you apply for the Moloney retreat and don’t get it, can you not go to Surrey at all?

  2. Story Teller

    Hey Elspeth,

    Thanks for voting!

    1. Yep, been to Surrey three times. That’s how I know it’s very similar from year to year.

    2. Dean Wesley Smith sounds like a guy who spoke at SIWC, interestingly enough. I’ll check out the link. Thanks for sharing.

    3. Uninterrupted time where there is nothing to do but work on my novel is pretty rare. Internet access is limited, so I won’t be tempted to check my email and write Facebook messages and blog posts instead.

    If I don’t get accepted to the retreat, I could go to the conference instead, as long as I find out in time.

  3. Brandy Lynn

    The Catskills! That’s my vote. I just happen to be in a one week School of Writing poetry course right now at a local university. I had no idea what I was getting into. I am unpublished at this point but have made a lot of great connections. On this 2nd day of workshops, classes, one on ones, and esteemed guest speakers I have been so inspired that I’ve written six poems in 2 days. The speakers have not only read excerpts from their published works, but they have all read bits of new yet to be released top secret stuff. It’s been hilarious and engaging. We’ve seen everything from first published books to writers 30 years in. I am slightly overwhelmed and a bit giddy at times which can prove embarrassing when you catch your jaw aching from a silly cheek to cheek grin. But I am thoroughly enjoying myself. And this is just a tiny, city central university…probably nothing like the Catskills. Go for the one on one guidance, the alone time, and the inspiration.

  4. Story Teller

    Hi Brandy,

    Welcome to my blog! And thanks for your comment/vote. I really appreciate your input, especially since you’ve experienced the benefit of retreats like these. Good luck with your poetry!

    @ Elspeth – Dean Wesley Smith is indeed the man I met at SIWC. At that time, I didn’t want to listen to his “you don’t need an agent” spiel. I thought he was full of it. Wow, do I have a different outlook now!

  5. Ev Bishop

    Tough one–If you came to SiWC I’d get to see you and I’d really like that. Writing-wise though (and thinking of your needs), Catskills. It sounds amazing.

  6. Story Teller

    Thanks for commenting, Ev. I agree – I’d really like to see you, too. It’s been far too long. I think I will let fate decide by applying for the retreat and seeing if I’m accepted. That’s the first step.

  7. evbishop

    Good luck on your application! Have you sent it in already then?

  8. Story Teller

    Thanks, Ev! I did send it in and should hear by June 1. 🙂


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