Thursday, January 19, 2012

Writers' Conferences --Tips and Tricks

by Jamie Freveletti

I’ve been asked to comment on writers’ conferences. I’ll be attending a few conferences and I always enjoy them. I began attending as an unpublished writer and now attend as part of the industry, but I still enjoy just listening to the panels and talking books. Writing conferences are the something I didn’t attend as a reader. I would attend signings periodically, but had no idea that entire conferences existed until one year after I had completed a manuscript and was surfing the web for industry information.
Once I began attending I realized that I had been missing out. Conferences immerse you in fiction, provide a great weekend of interesting things to do, and let you rub shoulders with authors that you would have never met otherwise. Bouchercon  was in Chicago that year and Love Is Murder (also Chicago) popped up. It was a week before Bouchercon and I plunked down my Visa card and signed up. I arranged for childcare--the conferences generally run over a weekend so no depending on school to keep them busy-- and rode my bicycle down Lake Shore Drive to the hotel and….
Entered a wonderful world.
I remember reading the bulletin and circling the different panels that I wanted to attend. I listened to authors I had read tell about their books and writing process and what they love. I was enchanted. (The next is set for Cleveland in October and I’m registered to attend, but just haven’t added it to the website just yet).
By the time Love Is Murder rolled around I was on a serious mission to get some input on a new manuscript. I paid for a manuscript review and was assigned to the now New York Times bestselling author Julie Hyzy. She was just starting her career then and she was wonderful to me. Love Is Murder is a smaller, but very congenial conference that I adored and I have tried to attend every one since that first. It’s an excellent way to meet authors and industry professionals because it’s so intimate. I’d hit this one now or in the next few years because I suspect attendance will grow. (And this year Julie is a guest of honor!).

Sleuthfest  was the fourth conference that I ever attended. Generally set in Florida, this year it’s in Orlando! I’m really excited to go, because not only will the weather be superb but this industry-minded and fan conference usually provides something for everyone. I listened to my first forensic pathologist give a particularly fascinating lecture there and still use some of what I learned in my writing. This year Jeffrey Deaver and Charlaine Harris will be among the attendees and I look forward to hearing them speak. You really can’t beat the location and many people will tie it into a trip to Disney, I’m sure.
Thrillerfest  is the newcomer on the block. It started a few years ago and has grown steadily since then. I was present for the first and what a blast that was! It was located in Arizona and has since moved to New York City. This conference has really moved forward as an industry conference by virtue of its NYC connection. Heavy hitters in the thriller writer world are here: Tess Gerritsen, Ken Follett, Lee Child, John Sandford, Lisa Gardner and Jeffrey Deaver have all attended, to name just a few and this year Catherine Coulter and Karin Slaughter will be there as well.
There are definite tips to attending a conference. Here are some of mine:
1.       Book the hotel early. The conference rate is the best and goes quickly. BUT, if you miss out (as I have) sometimes you can score a room a couple of days before. Inevitably things pop up and some attendees will cancel and you can scoop up their slot.
2.       Check out the panel list and plan accordingly. There is a lot to do and you don’t want to miss out on something or someone you’ve always wanted to hear speak.
3.       Hit the hotel bar afterhours: You’ll see a lot of authors wander in and out there. In the early years I was too intimidated to speak to them, but it was really cool just to author watch. It still is.
4.       Buy the books you want with abandon and ship them home. I still look at my bookshelves and see the books that I bought at the conferences and they always make me smile. They’re all signed and they bring back great memories.  


John said...

Nicely written article, Jamie! See you in Cleveland at Bouchercon! Keep up the great writing!


Jamie Freveletti said...

Thanks John--see you there!

M.E. Anders said...

Thanks, Jamie. I met you at my first regional writing conference for the Evanston Writers Workshop "In the Trenches" Conference in 2011. I had such a great time there. I'm already registered for the AWP Conference at the end of February. Woohoo!

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robert keit said...

If you are an aspiring fiction writer, let me ask you a question. Have you ever entered a writing contest? If not, why not? On the wall of my office I have seven (7) framed certificates from various writing contests which I have won through the years. And oftentimes a judge in a contest will include constructive notes that will help you in your writing skills and techniques. One of the contests I won early in my career was in a teen novel category. The notes from the judge were invaluable to me. That novel eventually became my first published novel! What an exciting event that was!
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