I spent last weekend at the New England Crime Bake, which is a small mystery conference in Massachusetts. By small I mean intimate, by which I mean that you could sit down at a table with mega-best-selling author Lisa Gardner and ask her questions. (I did not ask a question, but I did make a comment. An introvert’s triumph!) There were so many craft lectures on topics I wanted to learn about: Lisa Gardner talking about Character Development, Jane Cleland talking about Mastering Suspense, fabulous agent Paula Munier talking about Practicing Your Pitch, Susan Reynolds talking about how to Fire Up Your Writing Brain. Then there were “Drop in and Ask the Expert” panels, including our own Miss Demeanor Robin Stuart teaching about cyber crime and Bruce Coffin explaining police procedurals. One of my favorite panels was titled “The Survivors Club: Career Strategies for the Long Haul.” On the panel were moderator Lisa Haselton and panelists Lea Wait, Stephen D. Rogers and Toni L.P. Kelner. Listening to them speak, honestly and humorously about a career in the writing business, was like going to therapy. There were the horror stories about editors departing suddenly and writers being jettisoned. Stephen Rogers has had 800 short stories published, which sounds fabulous, except that in order to reach that number he had to get 4,000 rejections. They shared stories about changing their names to get more sales, trying to adapt to the times, compromises they had to make or didn’t make. At the end, wrapping up the session, Toni said something wonderful that I didn’t write down, so I’m paraphrasing it, but it was something like, I’m so happy with what I do. I can’t complain at all. Agreed. Then there was the final banquet, and the Miss Demeanors (among them Michele Dorsey, who co-organized this fabulous conference) and an assortment of wonderful people, were honored for our achievements. As everyone cheered, I thought how blessed I was to be part of this wonderful community.