Monday, June 12, 2017

So Many Choices

Q: There’s only so much time, and there’s only so much money, while the opportunities are plentiful. How do you decide which writing conferences and conventions to attend? (ie, what are your criteria?)

- from Susan

A: This is a good question. Attending an out-of-town event is always pricey, commands time and attention, and might mean you have to skip a day or more of real, paying work. Everyone’s going to have a somewhat different, nuanced answer based on their own circumstances, so filter what Minds say through the lens of your own goals, ambitions, and personal needs.

When I was getting underway, had taken a wonderful class with Judy Greber, aka Gillian Roberts, and had the beginning of what would be the first book in my first series, I went to two annual Book Passage Mystery Writers Conferences in Marin County. Pricey, yes. A serious time commitment, yes. But this was a writers’ event, full of talks, seminar-style classes, craft instruction, and immersion networking opportunities. There were somewhere around 100 students, a faculty with various kinds of expertise, and a lot of serious, pre-published writers. Each time I went, I made three professional goals and stuck with them. The first time, Rhys Bowen read my twenty pages and gave me an invaluable piece of advice and I found a handful of local writers and started a crit group.. The second time, I found an agent. In both cases, I paid a bit extra to have them read my first twenty pages – worth every penny and more!

It was there that I learned about Bouchercon, which is the international, large convention. While a writers; conference is for our kind and is aimed at providing us with tools, a convention includes readers and is pitched to expose our published work to them, as well as being an amazing professional schmoosing opportunity. At the first Bouchercon I attended, before I was published, I felt like a kindergartener on the first day of school. But Judy Greber was there, and she introduced me to Deborah Crombie. The next one I went to was in San Francisco and it helped that I didn’t have to pay for a hotel or airfare – I might have been too shy to go otherwise. But I met some Sisters in Crimes members there, met and chatted with Lee Child and Hank Phillippi Ryan (she was new to the crime fiction community then), and began some new professional friendships.

Someone from the West Coast told me I had to go to Left Coast Crime, another convention, which was terrific but not as intimidating as the size of Bouchercon. There are regional conventions like this all over the country, and I have heard great things about them, too. LCC is my “home” convention, as friendly and mutually supportive as it’s possible to be.

Since my new series is being marketed as a cozy, I am committed to going to “cozy central” Malice Domestic, another convention but aimed primarily at people who read mysteries, vs. thrillers.

 To answer this week’s question as specifically as possible, I recommend deciding first what you want to get from an event. Set some specific goals, not just ‘have fun and meet Louise Penny.” Are you in it to polish your writing with faculty like David Corbett, pick up FBI techniques from George Fong, or be a total fan girl or boy with Charlene Harris? Check the event web sites for past events, see if what they offer is going to get you to your goals. If you’re extroverted, the big cons will be fun. If you’re shy or exposing your writing for close to the first time, think of something small and aimed at writers. Then, go for it and good luck!


Paul D. Marks said...

I particularly thought this was useful, Susan, "To answer this week’s question as specifically as possible, I recommend deciding first what you want to get from an event. Set some specific goals..." One just has to know why they want to or need to go.

And feel better.

Unknown said...

Very helpful, thank you Susan!

RJ Harlick said...

Good advice, Susan. I'm rather partial myself to Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic. Both are easily manageable and don't swallow you up like Bouchercon tends to do. Plus Left Coast Crime is usually in fabulous places, like Hawaii this past year.

Cathy Ace said...

Great advice, Susan

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

So great! I love your idea of having a plan… Sometimes those conferences go by and you think wow, what did I do?