Writing conferences

I signed up today to attend the writers conference Magna Cum Murder in Indianapolis, Oct. 19-21.  When I first started writing mystery short stories and thought about trying my hand at novels, I went to quite a few conferences.  My first was Midwest Writers in Muncie, Indiana, not far afield.  I met a lot of talented people, but the workshops, at that time, covered a wide range of genres and topics.  Once I knew I wanted to write mysteries, I decided to go to conferences that specialized in crime novels of all types.

That’s when I discovered Of Dark and Stormy NIghts in Chicago.  Oh, how I loved that conference!  It was held in the oldest building on the Northwestern University campus–complete with creaky stairs and hideaway cubbyholes.  Perfect for nefarious deeds.  And the writers there were so friendly and generous!  They made every newbie feel welcome.

Sadly, Of Dark and Stormy finally ended, and then I ventured to bigger conferences, like Bouchercon and Malice Domestic.  After a while, though, it was time for me to take a break from them.  I just didn’t mean for the break to be so long.  Once I stopped going, I filled my summers with other things–like trips with my family and going to see my kids when they moved away.

Conferences were good for me, though.  The panels, made up of four or five authors, covered topics from poisons to creating series characters to explaining how to build tension.  Experts shared their hardwon knowledge.  Most importantly, though, I learned that writing wasn’t just about arranging words and ideas to tell a coherent story, hoping to hold a reader’s interest.  It was also a business, and good writing wasn’t enough to guarantee you a sale.  Then conferences became a way of meeting people, learning about markets, and making connections.  Eventually, you graduate from attending panels to hanging out in the bar or lobby to meet more people.

Most conferences, these days, make agents and editors available for pitches.  That doesn’t guarantee one will want to sign you, but your odds are better if they meet you in person.  Just do your homework.  Go in prepared.  Know what type of work that agent represents and why your novel would be a good fit for him/her.

I always come home from writing events exhausted.  My mind hits the saturation point and wants to shut down for a day or two.  But I also come home excited, full of new ideas and plans.  The first time I went to a conference, I was so nervous, I thought I’d make wallflowers look like extroverts.  But I did better than I expected, and after that, I looked forward to meeting fellow writers and readers.  Because the readers are full of information and enthusiasm, too.  I always enjoy listening to which author is a person’s favorite and why.

The first time I was invited to be on a panel at a conference, I said yes–thankfully–before I could freak out.  But even then I enjoyed the experience.  It was fun talking writing with fellow writers and answering questions from readers.  And everyone was NICE.  Overall, most writers and readers are easy to like.  It will be fun to be a part of a conference again.

Happy Writing!



8 thoughts on “Writing conferences

  1. The last conference I attended was the one in Chicago with you. We had a terrific time, so much to do and learn, and so fun to meet Lauren Abramo. Her smarts impressed me. Was sorry not to meet J.L. Burke, one of my faves. I’ve become stuck in the mud and really don’t like leaving home. Have you signed up for a panel? I love participating in those.

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  2. You work so many hours, you have to cherish “home” time. Working and writing is working two jobs. I put in for a panel, but I don’t know if they’ll pick me. My mystery doesn’t come out until Nov. 27, after the conference. And I’ve been out of the mystery loop for a long time.

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  3. You certainly do describe how it feels to attend writing conferences! When I went to my first one, I too was nervous. At a subsequent conference, I became acquainted with one of the presenters, and he turned out to be a great friend. I got to know his family, with whom I’m still connected. From him, I learned much about the business of writing. When he died, I had to sort out my feelings about attending conferences. Could -would– I attend another one with the expectation that I would again be so fortunate or would I be disappointed? It was a strange reality. I think every serious writer should attend at least one or two conferences because getting acquainted with others who understand the writer’s world, is a stimulating experience.

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  4. I think attending at least one or two conferenes expands your horizons so much, they’re worth it. I can understand how you’d worry you woudn’t have another good experience, though. Making a lifelong friend doesn’t happen that often.

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  5. I’ve never been to a conference. I think the biggest drawback for me is that I don’t want too attend alone. I need to find another author in my area to connect with. I’m sure they’re amazing, and one day hope to actually make it to a conference. Fingers crossed it isn’t that far off in the future!

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  6. You do everything so well, you don’t really need a conference, but it’s fun to experience at least one of them. Wish you lived closer. We could go to one together:) Our states are a decent drive apart, though.


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