Tracee: We’ve all been there, planning our year, wondering which conferences to attend. Earlier this week I wrote about MWA, Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, and Thrillerfest among others. I feel like they capture the swath of big gatherings – from award focused, to craft, to fan based. However, there are many other worthwhile conferences going on throughout the country (and, of course, the world…. Alexia you need to head over to one in the UK where you might see ghosts in the neighboring castles.) I’ve attended several based on geographic proximity, including Killer Nashville, Murder in the Magic City, and the Virginia Festival of the Book.
Do you have any conferences you’d like to recommend? And what makes you choose?
Robin: I’m a big fan of the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference in Corte Madera, CA. I attended as an aspiring writer for a couple of years and it’s my honor to now be a member of the faculty, starting last year. The conference is special because the faculty members commit to being accessible. Not just during the panels and talks but also during the breaks, at lunches, the dinner buffet, and a wine and cheese reception. Did I mention they have good food? I learned so much as an attendee and appreciated the generosity of the authors, editors, agents, and various experts who took time to answer questions and offer encouragement. I love being able to give back at the same venue. It’s also a fabulous way to meet and mingle with members of MWA, one of the event sponsors.
Susan: I’ve already written about the New York Pitch Conference, so I won’t belabor that point. Though I love it. But another conference I enjoyed was the Writers’ Police Academy, which was in Wisconsin. This was a hand-on, interactive conference designed to help mystery writers get their facts right. So there were police officers who explained how to view a crime scene. A psychiatrist lectured on serial killers. There were all sorts of forensic experts. I took tons of notes and bulked up on hand outs and at some point a helicopter swooshed over and a SWAT team jumped out. Really exciting and useful.
Cate: I really enjoy Thrillerfest. They have a workshop with the FBI before the actual book panel part of the conference that is incredible.
I think conferences are great as long as writers go there without the expectation that they will sell a lot of books. They’re good for meeting other writers and sometimes talking to publishers and editors, perhaps putting in Face time with one’s own publisher and agent.
I’ve never found them to be filled with writers looking to cart home a suitcase full of books—so many books are given away at these conferences any way. But I love them for meeting my peers, many of whom I’ve done promotional panels with at bookstores at later dates that did sell books.
Tracee: That’s a great point, Cate, managing sales expectations.
Alison: This is my first year attending anything other than ThrillerFest, which is local for me, so sort of a no-brainer. I like the conferences for two main reasons: I learn something about how to be a better writer and I get to meet other writers. I suspect that when the shiny newness wears off, I’ll develop a taste for certain conferences. At this point, I enjoyed my first visit to Bouchercon and am looking forward to Malice, Thriller and (probably) Killer Nashville. I plan to come up with some kind of excuse for Bloody Edinburgh sometime soon because I was born there and it’s such an unbelievably wonderful city.
Tracee: You were born in Edinburgh???? We need to hear more about this at a later date. Maybe we do a tour of places we’ve lived at some point.
Michele: Of course I love, love, love Crime Bake (which I am honored to chair for the third consecutive year) where I was welcomed into the bosom of the writing community. Each year when I return, it is a warm reunion with old friends and where I meet new ones.
My favorite memory is about attending my first writer’s conference when I attended Robin’s favorite, Book Passage in northern California . I knew no one, had no idea if I could write, and ventured to that other coast all by myself. I was enthralled by the classes, energized by the encouragement, and felt I had finally met “my people.” When I read aloud my entry to a Flashwords contest, I was thrilled by applause and cheers to what I feared was just a passable entry. Afterward, author Gillian Roberts (Judith Greber) pulled me aside and told me, “Now you know you can write. All you have to do is do it.” I think of that all of the time when I’m tempted to procrastinate.
Robin: I feel the same way about Crime Bake. The New Englanders made me feel like one of their own, regardless of geography. I’m planning on returning again this year.
Alexia: I recommend SleuthFest, especially if you’re near Florida. I attended for the first time last month. It’s sponsored by the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America. The focus is on craft, featuring several days of writing workshops. There are also keynote speakers, fun trivia contests, and fellowship with writers, many aspiring or early career. Two women who met at Sleuthfest, Cathi Twitero and Christie Bunting, created a podcast, Game of Books. They record some episodes during Game of Books so there’s an opportunity to watch a podcast being recorded.
Tracee: Great list! And SleuthFest is sponsored by the Florida chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, a reminder that they host events across the country. I’m going to check the calendar right now and see about attending Crime Bake. Everyone who attends loves it, and I believe that Anne Cleves is the guest of honor (really that’s all the reason anyone needs to head north). I’ll call that a great note to end on.