I am sort of a conference junkie. In my previous professional life, it was expected that I attend and present research at several conferences a year. I always loved it. The kissing, the hugging, the renewal of old friendships, the introduction to new friends! And the chance to learn! What’s not to like?
In my current professional life as author, I have total control over what my life looks like from work schedule to continuing education to purchased resources to conference attendance. No more mandates from on high. I take on-line and in-person classes. I buy every writing book on Amazon. And I attend conferences. (But not yet as a presenter.)
An editor told me a bit more than a year ago that I needed to stop taking general writing classes and attending general writing conferences. I needed to focus attention instead, spending my time and money, on genre-specific resources. To that end, I attended my first-ever Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA) conference last July. Spectacular. I learned so much, and I am returning this July to get more.
At that conference, I was told that I had to attend the Left Coast Crime (LCC) conference. So I did. I got home last Sunday evening from that conference. Again, I learned a lot, but it was different.
PSWA is a craft-focused conference. Public safety workers in a range of fields present their expertise so you can bring a level of authenticity to your mysteries. You learn about DNA and how that is used (and abused in TV shows), what a vice cop does on the beat, and how to spin out clues at the right pace.
LCC is primarily a fan conference. There are lots of writers in attendance, but the majority of registrants are fans of mystery writing and writers. Thus, the sessions were geared to fans and how authors do what they do in their books. It may sound like a subtle difference between writing craft sessions and sessions for fans, but it is huge.
For example, I attended one session on what makes villains memorable. The panelists all described their villains and what made them villainous. As a writer, it was my responsibility to translate that into a craft lesson to see what lessons I could learn to apply to my own books. My brain got a workout!
Of course, in keeping with my major interest, I ate up, so to speak, the session by culinary mystery writers! And I was shocked to learn that several don’t cook or enjoy cooking but they like writing culinary mysteries.
Also a thrill was seeing Mission Impastable for sale at a conference bookstore for the first time. That is a rush!
And spending the day before the conference in an all-day writing workshop geared to authors was a special treat, especially since the fabulous presenters, Jan Burke and Jerrilyn Farmer, surprised us with a special session with Sue Grafton.
Oh, and did I mention the great bonding time Oak Tree Press authors had with publisher Billie Johnson at our own special session one afternoon?
There is much to be said for attending writing conferences featuring both tangible and intangible rewards. So where are you headed for your next conference? Maybe I’ll see you there.