Today, I'm happy to host multi-published mystery author, speaker, and more, the amazing Marilyn (F.M.) Meredith, who offers valuable insights on conferences and conventions. - Morgan Mandel
Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America.
ABOUT MYSTERY CONFERENCES AND CONVENTIONS
by Marilyn Meredith
Probably everyone who reads this will know the difference, but just in case, here’s my explanation. Conferences are more of the “how to” variety, how to write a mystery, how to create convincing characters, how to make sure you get your forensics right, how to kill someone off in a new and innovative manner, and so on. A mystery convention is geared to fans, those wonderful readers who love to read (and buy) mysteries and actually enjoy listening to authors talk about how they came to write their mystery, or how they did the research for it, or how they created their characters, and so on.
Many mystery writers attend both. At a mystery conference there might be one of the presenters telling how they do all of the above mentioned how-tos and of course, they will figure out how to talk about their own book in a subtle manner so those listening will be curious and want to buy their books.
At the convention, the mystery writer hopes to sparkle and entertain in the hopes that those listening will be eager to buy his or her book.
I’ve gone to lots of both types of mystery confabs. The biggest of course is Bouchercon. This one is held all over the country and has the biggest attendance of both fans and mystery writers. This is the place to see some of the biggest and most popular mystery writers in the business. It can be pretty overwhelming at times. You might make a new friend and never be able to find them again among the throngs of people. Long Beach, CA is the location for 2014.
Left Coast Crime is the second largest mystery con and always held on the left coast (though once that left coast was in Britain and another time in El Paso TX, and yet another in Hawaii. It’s smaller than Bouchercon, though many big name authors are always in attendance and lots of wonderful fans. This year it will be in Monterey, CA.
A fairly new one is Thrillerfest, always in New York, with lots of big name authors and opportunities to learn about the craft of writing thrillers.
Then there are other smaller cons and conferences like Love is Murder which is always in
Some big names attend this one too—just not quite as many because there just
aren’t as many people who go. It is also a writer’s conference as there are
lots of opportunities to learn about writing mysteries and there are usually a
few publishers and agents in attendance. Chicago
A writing conference that is rather unique is the Public Safety Writers Association. The organization was started by a law enforcement officer for law enforcement officers who write or want to write. Over the years it has embraced other public safety fields and people who write fiction and non-fiction about any of the public safety fields and have included mystery writers.
This is the smallest of all the cons that I’ve mentioned, but it has top-notch experts in forensics and all aspects of law enforcement as well as publishers and editors on hand. Because it’s small, there is ample opportunity to network. Anyone who wants to be on a panel is welcomed. To learn more about the PSWA conference go to: http://www.publicsafetywriter.com
Other areas of the country hold smaller conferences too, way too many to list here, but you can easily do an Internet search and find them.
Some conferences and the hotels they are held in are more expensive than others, if you’re on a strict budget, that might influence you too.
My advice to anyone wanting to go to any convention or conference, register early. If at all possible, stay in the hotel where the con is being held. Plan to get to the conference a day ahead of time so you don’t miss anything. While at the conference, be friendly, talk to everyone. This is the best way to meet people. If you don’t have anyone to go to dinner with, ask someone to go with you. If they already have plans, ask the next person. Hand out your business card to everyone. If you’re fortunate enough to be on a panel, smile a lot, be funny, tell about your book but don’t go on and on about it, and don’t hog the panel.
Go to the panels that interest you the most. Hang out in the bar in the evenings—you don’t have to drink—just get acquainted with folks. And again, talk to people. Find out why they’re at the con—are they a writer, find out what they write, are they a reader? Tell them about your book.
And on a practical note, wear comfortable shoes and always have a sweater with you, sometimes the conference rooms are way too cold.
What are your favorite cons and why?
Marilyn’s latest mystery is Spirit Shapes: Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree's investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.
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