Of Conferences and Writing

Confession time – I have never attended a writers’ conference. I tried to, last year, I signed up for Bouchercon, even was appointed to a panel. It was in Raleigh that year and I was looking forward to it. Then health problems intervened. Had to cancel at the last minute. Dang. I was upset.

I have attended the Writer’s Police Academy. Lee Lofland, a former cop, natch, and a current writer, started it because the sound of books hitting walls when cops read them was getting deafening. He figured the best way to stop the noise was to offer training to writers. YES! It was wonderful. I loved it. The lessons were invaluable, and when used correctly give that subtle nuance of integrity to stories. For example, every police show on the face of the earth uses the term “perp.” Cops laugh. They use subject, or individual, or occasionally, bad actor, or actor. Not as glamorous as “perp.” So now, when my lay protagonist refers to the perp, my cop characters roll their eyes, hide smiles, flick glances between each other, or gently correct her. It’s a detail, and I learned it at what is basically a conference.

There is something else that I discovered at WPA, discovered is the wrong word. Had reinforced would be a better choice. As a member of both Sisters in Crime and Guppies, I know how generous other writers are to writers. Outsiders often think that writers must be insular given that we all write and the pool of readers and time to read is limited. Nope, not true. Ask a writer a question and the writer will bend over backwards to respond. Who does their publicity, where do you get the best prices for bookmarks, can I poach your webmaster, will you read and blurb my upcoming title? It’s the rare writer who will refuse those requests (the blurb request excepted if the asked writer is on deadline—or writes for a house that prohibits blurbing non-house writers). Writers genuinely want to see other writers succeed. It’s a warm and accepting community.

When I attended WPA, I had my husband with me. The event was held in Greensboro, NC and we have friends in the area. As an outsider, he had a very different view of the conference. You see, he spent time in the conference hotel, and at the bar, and he quickly discovered that mystery writers have some unusual discussions. Face it, we’re always talking or thinking about murdering someone and how to get away with it until you get caught. Now since my husband lives with a mystery writer, he’s accustomed to that and as a black belt in one of the martial arts that I can’t spell, he had a certain popularity among the writers. Other civilians at the hotel were not as sanguine. When I would return from the learning center, he would delight in telling me how many people he’d seen casting sidelong glances at chatting groups and finally leaving. Apparently hanging out around mystery writers is not for the faint of heart.

The sense of community is what I miss by missing conferences. I’ve promised myself to attend at least two this year. I’m thinking Sleuthfest in late February in Boca Raton, and Malice Domestic in late April.  Bouchercon is in Toronto this year. Far from my Florida home, but a great town and a fun place to visit. It’s in mid-October. Hum…maybe.

What about you, have you ever been to writer’s conferences? Would you go to one? Malice is geared toward readers and Bouchercon is a writer/reader conference—as a reader, would you attend a conference?

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12 thoughts on “Of Conferences and Writing

  1. I love the UK ones. We have quite a wide selection. This year I attended 2. Crimefest at Bristol and Theakstons crime at Harrogate. Next year I’m planning on doing both of those plus Bloody Scotland in – Scotland 🙂 They’re great places to mingle with readers and fellow authors. Generally great weekends. One year I’d love to do Bouchercon!

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    1. Rebecca, the mention of Bloody Scotland has my Scots-Irish blood stirring. My private eye protagonist, Mac McClellan, is named after my paternal grandmother’s people. I’ve longed to visit Scotland for years. Being a lover of fine Scotch doesn’t help curb the desire, either.
      Alas, I have an aversion to flying, especially since the advent of the black booted TSA here in the US, which I despise with every bone, sinew, and brain cell in my body!. I was blessed with the temper handed down by my ancestors, and my wife says I’d never make it through the pre-flight inspections. So, unless I go by ship I doubt I’ll ever lay eyes on the beautiful land of the Scots. Thanks for visiting MMO, and come back often! 🙂
      –Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Rebecca, Bloody Scotland! Where is that being held this year? It sounds delightful (how macabre, but you know what I mean). The UK is the home of mystery to my mind. Attending a conference there would be spectacular. Just to sit in and listen to the panels would be like soaking up the mother tongue! Thank you for visiting..

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  3. Ah, Kait, thank you for showing me the error of my ways. I’ve used the dreaded “perp” a couple of times in my mysteries, but I’ll now be careful not to “perp” my future stories. So far I’ve mostly attended small-scale conferences. I did attend a big one a few years back in Nashville (can’t recall the name; maybe the Southeastern Writers Conference? or something like that). I’ve been hearing about “Killer Nashville” a lot of late. I might be tempted to make that one sometime if the scheduling works out. Sleuthfest sounds enticing. I might read up on it. Bouchercon is too far away for me. Do you now need a passport to visit Canada?
    All-in-all, an interesting post. I’ve been a “lone wolf” writer for the past decade and a half. I used to have a wonderful weekly critique group, a local writers’ guild (monthly), and a yearly writers/readers conference nearby. Now I’ve become an old and grumpy curmudgeon. I think I need a break! 🙂
    –Michael

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    1. I too have heard wonderful things about Killer Nashville. The Toronto conference is distant, but I’m trying to get back to Maine. I figure a left at Lake Ontario and I might be on my way. Yep, passport required these days.

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  4. Thanks for making sure none of us write “perp.” I strongly recommend Malice, especially if you’re a Guppy and Sister in Crime. You will meet up with so many “friends” that you’ve only known from the groups and feel so at home.

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