Sunday, May 3, 2009

Why I go to writers' conferences

The twenty-first Malice Domestic mystery conference has just concluded and I'm completely charged with enthusiasm.

I met some wonderful new friends this weekend. People who share my love of reading and/or writing and who get excited talking about plots, dialogue, and creative ways to kill people. I went alone, didn't know a soul, but could confidently walk into a room of 400 people and be chatting within 30 seconds: "So. Who do you like to read?"

There. Conversation rolling.

I met charming writers whose names were new to me, but who I'll definitely read now. My shelves and to-be-read list are already full of books waiting for me, but (this always happens) now that I've met and gotten to know these folks, their books will skip to the front of the line. Writers I'm excited to try after this weekend: Maggie Barbieri, Sara Rosett, JoAnna Campbell Slan, Mary Burton, and Vincent O'Neil. From my own publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, it was nice to finally meet Ann Littlewood and Ann Parker in person. We spent a lot of time talking about writing and publishing. . . the kind of good conversation that I think falls short in e-mails alone.

I also like to go to writers' conferences (or in this case, my first fan conference) to see how other writers are promoting their books. There are a few promotional ideas I'd told myself I'd never use because they aren't effective when used on me. My assumption is that other people respond to marketing techniques the same way I do. But then at the Agatha Award banquet, I sat with Carole Ann and Susan from Maryland, two dedicated mystery fans who have read more books than I even knew existed. They like and respond to the same marketing techniques that don't work on me, and that made me reconsider. Conferences are a great place to learn stuff.

I had tea with Josephine from Florida who gave me a list of about ten authors I need to read ASAP. In a way this is stressful. (When will I find the time?) But in a different way, it's exciting. I love book recommendations and when I see Josephine next year we will have tons to talk about.

Kate from New Jersey is a new writer like me. She just finished her first manuscript, a story with a protagonist that has the same job my mother-in-law had before she retired. I love to hear what people are writing and how they fit writing into real life. I also really like nice people. That's Kate.

I met lots of other people too, and that's my point. Conferences are a wonderful networking opportunity and an information goldmine. Most importantly--for me--they make me want to run to the keyboard and write. If you're a new writer, consider attending a writing conference in your genre to learn more about writing and the publishing world in general. Prepare to have a heavy suitcase, full of books, on your way home.

I'm already registered for next year.


  1. Wow - what a cool thing to do! You sound totally fired up and I am excited for you.

  2. Rachel-

    You hit on an important point here. One of the most important things about writers conferences is meeting other writers. It seems that all too often writers spend too much attention trying to meet agents and editors, i.e. sell their books, than meeting other writers.