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


Welcome back, Dear Readers.

Sorry today’s happy list is a little late. I’m a bit fried from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference–so much information to take in during such a short amount of time. But I’m very happy I went.

Here’s what is making me happy this week. (You may notice a theme.)

1. Making new friends. I met some amazing people this past weekend. There is one girl in particular who has become a true friend that will make the effort to stay in touch. A few of us were wishing that real life could be like the conference–nearly everyone was friendly, and you could say hello to and find yourself in an interesting conversation with anyone. We were all cheering each other on and genuinely happy about everyone’s success. Imagine never feeling alone again–in a good way.

2. Reconnecting with old ones. Old as in “been friends with for a long time”, not as in elderly. At my very first Surrey masterclass back in 2003, a nice woman named Jan sat beside me. We struck up a conversation and have been friends ever since. I was sad to hear she was going to be traveling at the time of this year’s conference, but she got home the night before I left and made it to the hotel in time for us to spend a couple of hours together. Seeing her made the week for me. It was the perfect way to end my conference experience.

3. Jack Whyte’s voice. Epic fantasy writer Jack Whyte has been recovering from lung cancer over the last two years. He had part of one lung removed, and I was so sad to hear it. Jack is a Surrey regular-the conference wouldn’t be the same without him. People have said that it would be enthralling to hear him read the phonebook, which is true, and the conference always closes with this wonderful man singing the hippo song–“Mud, Glorious Mud”. I was nervous about whether or not he’d still have the same power in his voice after all he’d been through, but he didn’t disappoint. His strong Scottish brogue soared over us, opera-style, resonating around the room through every verse. It brought tears to my eyes.

4. Learning there’s a purpose to all this. In his keynote speech, writer Jim C. Hines said that our stories matter because someone out there needs them. It’s easy for writing to feel frivolous. We’re not curing cancer. We’re not putting out fires. But Hines had two poignant examples from his own life–writing the first book a troubled boy ever read and enjoyed; and being able to make someone dying from cancer laugh. I have experienced moments like this in my journalism career, where I was able to walk away knowing I had made a positive difference. Now I have hope that one day I’ll be able to do this with my fiction as well.

5. Coming home. No matter how wonderful the trip, there is something even better about coming home and seeing the person you love waiting for you at the airport. I don’t think there’s anything better than knowing you were missed and that someone is happy you’re back.

What’s making you happy this week? Have a great one!

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


  1. shawnbird.com

    Last year, I was really worried about Jack, he sounded so worn out, but this year his voice was in powerful form! It was wonderful. I told him after that he’d been ‘in fine voice this evening’ and he just smiled. I think he was sending us an intentional message. 🙂 I was glad to receive it.

  2. Holli Moncrieff

    Thanks for your comment, Shawn, and welcome to the blog! It’s been so lonely around here since I got back from the conference–I’m really glad you spoke up.

    I’d gotten my book signed by Jack that evening, and asked if he still sang the hippo song. He said, “you’ll find out tonight,” and I was SO excited.

    Wasn’t his voice amazing? It was as strong and powerful as ever. It brought tears to my eyes. I really hope someone at SIWC makes a good recording of him singing that song so we will always have it. The only versions I can find on YouTube aren’t that great.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.