I spent a lot of time thinking about the Surrey International Writers Conference this week after attending 20-22 October. It’s been a long while since I last attended. I always thought it was a great opportunity for writers of all kinds to get together and discuss art, craft, technique – the beauty of writing and the blunt facts of earning money at it. If I were asked to give a quick evaluation of noticeable changes in the event, I’d say it’s even more nurturing than ever. I’d really like to name all the board members here and compliment them – and their corps of volunteers – in order to thank each one specifically. In truth, however, that would defeat the massive teamwork involving all hands who create the structure; everyone deserves full credit for all of it. Nor is that team alone in providing such a welcoming environment. The presenters are unique in their accessibility. Maybe the usually glint-eyed attendees are instantly afflicted with acute polite canadianitis when they register; one can only wonder. In any case, they treat the presenters as mentors and advisors, not as ogres hoarding all access to treasure and fame. I’m sure there are fevered pitches delivered in obscure corners, but not once did I hear the grisly squeal of agent/editor tendons being twisted. As a result, the presenters are affable and helpful and the attendees seem to respond by discussing their writing reasonably and sensibly. When you see authors of such talent (and fame and there are plenty I’m not naming, unfortunately) as Diana Gabaldon, Bob Dugoni, Rhys Bowen, Jack Whyte, and Mary Robinette Kowal standing around in impromptu discussions, encouraging the newbies, you realize this outfit’s different. And, in my frequently-wrong-but-never-humble opinion, the best.