Conference weekend

When you read this, I’ll be in Indianapolis at a mystery conference, Magna cum Murder.  It’s been a LONG time since I’ve attended a conference, so I’m looking forward to it.  And I’m a little nervous.  I’ll be on two panels, and I haven’t done that for a long time either.  The last time I did a workshop was here in Fort Wayne with my writer friends M. L. Rigdon (Julia Donner), Les Edgerton, and Kyra Jacobs.  It’s always fun to talk writing with them.  Heck, it’s always fun to do anything with local authors I know.

I hope to learn a lot and come home energized with all kinds of new ideas swimming in my head.  Swimming is the right word.  After listening to panels for three days, my mind’s so full, it turns to mush for a while.  A few authors from Kensington whom I’ve never met will be there, too, one even has the same editor I have–the wonderful John Scognamiglio.

When I first got serious about writing, I tried to attend one writers’ conference a year.  Published authors pushed me to look at writing from a business angle.  They talked marketing and trends, things I didn’t think about that much when I first decided to try my hand at novels.  I’m constantly surprised by how generous other authors are with their hard-won experience and advice.  Eventually, though, after enough conferences, authors don’t go to learn new things.  They go to promote themselves and their books.  So I’m hoping to get better at that part of writing, too.

Even when I only sold short stories, though, I learned how wonderful readers are.  The very first time I was ever on a panel, readers came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the stories I had in WomenSleuth anthologies and Alfred Hitchcock magazines.  It’s hard to beat the joy of having readers like what you’ve written.

My first mystery for Kensington, THE BODY IN THE ATTIC, doesn’t come out until November 27, so I’m not expecting many people have read it yet.  Some have from NetGalley and the giveaway on Goodreads, but I doubt many of them will be at Magna cum Murder, so I’ll be pretty much an unknown quantity.  I had postcards made for my book with the cover on one side and an excerpt on the other.  That’s about all I could do this time.  But it’s exciting to get back into the mystery buzz again.

I should be having a good time when you read this.  Hope you have a wonderful weekend, too, and happy writing!

P.S.  I’m starting to post new chapters from a YA novel I wrote and never did anything with on my webpage.  It has a little paranormal element in it, but back then, I’d decided I’d rather write urban fantasy, so tossed it in a drawer.  If you go to my webpage to take a look at it, I hope you like it!

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!