Last weekend I attended my fourth Crime Bake, New England’s mystery-writing conference. Each year I wonder if the fare will be a repeat of the previous year, and each year I am pleasantly surprised. The selection of workshops at Crime Bake usually reflects the rapid changes in the writing industry, and the list of successful authors sharing their knowledge varies with each conference.
The guest of honor this year was Meg Gardiner, whose thrillers, beginning with her Edgar-winning novel, China Lake, have delighted readers for years.
Classes this past weekend included: The Attack of the E-Book: The Book Business Goes Digital, Creating & Sustaining the Series Character, Practice Your Manuscript Pitch, How to Create a Career That Lasts, and High School Murder: Writing the Young Adult Mystery.
One of my personal favorites was The Plot Conjurers. This workshop which included Robin Cook, Hallie Ephron, William Martin and Julia Spencer-Fleming, had the authors using their expertise with a little help from the audience to conjure a plot. The audience-suggested names along with those from the panel had everyone laughing. It was inspiring to watch the authors weave in plot, background, possible motives and red herrings. As I watched their creative process, their explanations sparked all kinds of “Ah Ha” moments in my head. Although the “What if’s” from authors and audience ran from the bizarre to the ridiculous, each piece of the puzzle had to fit. Who was murdered? Where was the murder? Who found the body? What were the motives? Why was he murdered? Who were the suspects and why would they want to murder the victim?
The other area of the conference that I love is the Flashwords competition. The challenge is to write a crime story in 150 words or less in one week, using ten of twenty words taken from the titles of Meg Gardiner’s books. I was one of the winners last year and, I’m proud to say, I’m also a 2013 Flashwords winner! Imagine, standing before two hundred and fifty of your peers and reading your winning story. It was awesome.
All through the conference, authors, agents, and editors took the time to speak to anyone who needed help, and I found my fellow writers to be not only generous with their experience and knowledge, but also full of encouragement. Schmoozing was lots of fun and it helped me discover new tricks of the trade. Whether published or unpublished, it’s important to talk to writers like yourself, who have the same aspirations and dreams, the same insecurities and fears.
I spend so much time alone in front of the computer that I sometimes get discouraged. Attending a writing conference like Crime Bake as a member of Sisters in Crime brings home what I have a tendency to forget. I’m part of a huge group of writers, men and women who are either striving to make it or who have already succeeded.
At home again, staring at my computer, I glory in the fact that I’m not alone. Leftover energy pulses through my body. Positive vibes ground me, giving me new insights and expectations. I’m back and my fingers itch to touch the keys.