Writer's Notes

Conferences: Choosing A Writers Conference by Nancy J. Cohen

FacialsCanBeFatalFront2.jpgBy Nancy J. Cohen

How do you decide which writers’ conference to attend? It depends upon your purpose. If you intend to schmooze with fellow writers, attend workshops on craft or marketing, and soak up the wisdom of more seasoned authors, a conference geared toward writing is the one for you.

The next question to ask yourself is what genre do you write? Would you prefer genre-specific topics or are you such a beginner that it doesn’t matter at this stage? Or perhaps you wish to broaden your opportunities and meet other writers for cross-promotion purposes.

In Florida, we have the Florida Writers Association annual conference that’s for all genres. Here you’ll have a wide range of topics from craft to marketing to more specifics like staging fight scenes. Or you can attend SleuthFest sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. This three-day event focuses on mystery writing, although craft and marketing topics can apply to any genre. There’s a forensics track where you can increase your knowledge of crime writing details.

Or you can sail away on a biannual Fun-in-the-Sun cruise conference with Florida Romance Writers. Again, workshops appeal to any fiction writer while some may be specific to romance.

At the national level, Romance Writers of America ( holds an annual conference with so many amazing workshops it’ll blow your mind. This one rotates locations every year. Even if you don’t write romance, it’s worth the investment to go. The range of workshop topics and opportunities to meet publishing industry professionals can’t be beat.

Mystery Writers of America holds an annual seminar in New York. If you’re looking for a tax-deductible reason to visit the Big City, try this one or the bigger Thrillerfest. There’s Killer Nashville for mystery writers, as well as Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon.

Are you seeking an editor or agent appointment? For sure you’ll want a writers’ conference that offers this opportunity. Some of them also have paid manuscript critiques or writing contests if you’re looking for feedback on your work.

If you’re a published author with at least two novels under your belt, consider attending the Novelists Inc. annual conference. It’s a fantastic event for published authors focusing solely on the business of writing. Many industry professionals also attend this highly valued conference, but it’s not a place for getting an agent, promoting your book, or meeting fans.

There are many more offerings from other writers groups, so check your libraries and writing organizations for additional events.

On the other hand, perhaps you would rather meet fans and grow your mailing list (which you should be doing at any conference you attend). The RT Book Reviews annual conference offers many fan-oriented opportunities. So does Malice Domestic for cozy mystery writers. Look for conferences or group events that invite readers to participate.

Budget is always a consideration. The more meals offered, the more expensive the conference will be. Some of the registration fees can be pretty steep. Others are more budget-friendly but come with few perks. Choose wisely.

Here’s a summary of what to consider:

  1. Do you prefer a writer’s conference or a fan-oriented event?
  2. Do you want an editor/agent appointment?
  3. Are you a finalist in a contest where winners are announced at the conference?
  4. Do you want genre-specific topics or more broad workshops?
  5. Are you a published author going to learn more about marketing or to meet readers?
  6. What is your goal for attending a conference?
  7. How much money can you spend on conference registration, hotel, transportation, and meals? Don’t forget swag or printed promo materials to bring along.

If you mean to accomplish your objectives, conference prep is just as important as choosing which ones to attend.  Click Here for a checklist on what to bring. Once you’re there, relax and have a good time. Networking and making new friends should be your prime goals.




PubPinkNancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, been selected by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery, won a Readers’ Favorite gold medal, and earned third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy has also written the instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery. Her imaginative romances have proven popular with fans as well. Her first book in this genre won the HOLT Medallion Award. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, she is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and shopping. Follow her here:








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Writer's Notes

Conferences: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Conferences by Laurel S. Peterson

Peterson Shadow Notes Cover compressedBy Laurel S. Peterson

First, thanks so much, Thonie, for having me on your blog. I’m delighted to be here.

The number of conferences available to writers is legion, and figuring out how to choose among them can be overwhelming, especially if you’re at all like me: an introvert who prefers the company of close friends and family, work and the big brown eyes of my Labrador Retriever! I offer the following comparison among three types of conferences as a way of thinking about what might work for you.

The Literary Conference
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) holds the mother of all literary conferences once a year, usually in the spring. It has grown so large that it now takes a convention center to host, and it brings in major literary writers from all over the U. S. Recent featured speakers have included Jaqueline Woodson, Azar Nafisi, and Colum McCann.

Its size makes it both intimidating and approachable. As an introvert, you can get lost in the massive crowds, going from panel discussion to presentation to book fair without anyone noticing—which can be either lonely or a relief. On the plus side, the panel discussions are often intimate, and provide opportunities to talk with both the writers on the panel and the conference attendees. Large conferences also offer fabulous speakers; it’s fun to listen to writers talk about their own work and to get insight into their creative processes. AWP also has an incredible book fair. Focused on small presses, it’s a football field’s worth of interesting books to explore by wonderful writers you might never have heard of. If for no other reason, the conference is worth this.

In addition to on-site events, there are lots of off-site readings and presentations, frequently hosted by MFA programs or small presses. The conference fee is cheaper if you join AWP, and joining gets you access to a great website with interesting articles and resources about writing, job postings in creative writing, editing, etc., and places to send your work.

The Genre Conference
Genre-focused conferences, like Bouchercon or Thrillerfest, are useful for genre writers, in the same way as the literary conference. They provide an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise encounter, give you a chance to hear writers talk about their processes and publishing issues, and to peruse books by authors you might not see in your local bookstore or on Amazon. I have also found genre conferences to be much friendlier than literary conferences. The writers are more willing to talk to anyone—regardless of pedigree. Perhaps this is due to the difference in market; that is, the market for genre works is so much wider that genre writers perceive everyone as a potential reader.

Their panels are also focused specifically on the craft you are practicing, so the tips are immediately applicable to your writing efforts. while I’m often too tired to write during a conference, I do find myself jotting notes about how to approach my work once I recover!

The Working or Experiential Conference
My favorite conference is The Writers’ Police Academy, which is run by ex-police officer Lee Lofland. Everyone who attends is writing (it’s not a mixed fan/writer conference, like Bouchercon), so they are all interested in the information provided by the experts: firefighters, police officers, federal enforcement officers of various flavors—even canine officers—as well as forensics experts, psychologists, and so on. Because it is small and everyone stays in the same hotel and eats together, it is easy to make friends and to talk to the professionals, who join in with the festivities. Sisters in Crime (SinC) offers a discount to its membership, and SinC offers so many other benefits besides this that the membership is worth it whether you go to this conference or not.

Other conferences focusing on craft are also useful. Attendees are usually united in their desire to help themselves and be supportive of each other. My graduate alma mater, Manhattanville College, holds a Summer Writers’ Week that is grounded in a daily morning workshop. Afternoons are comprised of craft talks, publishing panels, and time to write before one returns to the workshop the following morning. Of the three, I find these working conferences the most useful, although I recognize that the other two are useful in terms of marketing one’s work once it has made its way into the world.

The other factor, of course, is money. None are cheap, and without employer support for professional development, I probably would not have attended nearly as many as I have. Even so, I always end up spending more money than I get back. So, the question is whether you get value for your money. I would suggest deciding beforehand what you want from the conference: is it to network? is it to connect with your market or a publisher? Go to AWP or Bouchercon (or its kin). Is it to work on your own writing or voice? Then an experiential conference is probably what you’re looking for. Being open makes a difference, as the surprise interactions, meet-ups, and discoveries are part of the fun. No matter which you finally choose, it’s an investment in your writing career.


Getting some great ideas about your next conference? Leave a comment, let us know!



www.utechristinphotography.comLaurel S. Peterson is a Professor of English at Norwalk Community College. She has written a mystery novel, Shadow Notes (Barking Rain Press), two poetry chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds (Finishing Line Press) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press), and a full-length collection, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You? (Futurecycle Press). She currently serves as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s Poet Laureate. You can find her at, on Twitter: @laurelwriter49, or on Facebook.
You can purchase her mystery novel Shadow Notes here: Buy and her poetry, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer? here: Buy.

Other useful links:
Writer’s Police Academy:
Sisters in Crime:
Manhattanville College Summer Writer’s Week:



Writer's Notes

Conferences: Where to go? Which to Choose?

SkinofTattoosCoverBy Christina Hoag

For crime fiction authors, the good news is that there are plenty of writing conferences. The bad news is that there are plenty of writing conferences. It can be hard to choose the best investment for your money and time.

I decided not to choose. I just went to a slew of them, although not all by any means. Not only did I have a great time at every one, I found value in all of them. Each offers something different, and from each I took away things I didn’t know before, as well as a host of new friends. Frankly for me, networking is one of the best reasons for attending conferences. I love meeting other writers, discussing, writing, publishing, reading. These are my peeps!

The two biggies are Bouchercon, held in a different city every year, and Thrillerfest, held in New York City. Both get well over 1,000 attendees. I chose to attend Thrillerfest this year, leaving Bouchercon for 2018. Thrillerfest is the most expensive con of the bunch, plus Manhattan is a pricey destination, which is something to keep in mind. But this is the place for networking and there’s plenty of opportunity to mingle and fangirl with the biggest names in the business from Lee Child to Lisa Gardner. Thrillerfest also hosts a separate event, Pitchfest, which attracts a ton of top agents and editors, a key advantage to being in the center publishing industry.

There are also a host of smaller regional conferences, usually sponsored by local chapters of the MWA and/or Sisters in Crime. These typically attract 200-300 attendees, including published and aspiring authors and fans, and cost $200-$350. Most offer authors a chance to participate as panelists and to sell and sign their books in the con bookshop, and make great promotional vehicles if you’ve got a new book out or are simply seeking exposure.

Cons have different requirements for panelists so that may affect where you choose to go if promotion is your goal. Sleuthfest, held around Florida, for example, requires panelists to be published by approved publishers. Killer Nashville is friendly to independent and pre-published writers while New England Crimebake in Boston does not allow authors to request panels and selects its own. Magna cum Murder in Indianapolis, California Crime Writers Conference, held biannually in Los Angeles, and Left Coast Crime, offered in a different western city every year, generally offer authors panel spots.

Another factor to look at is the con’s subgenre emphasis. Malice Domestic, held in Bethesda, Maryland, is geared to cozies and traditional mysteries while Thrillerfest is as its name suggests.

Finally, you may choose a particular conference simply because it’s in a place you want to visit or where you have friends or family. Whichever conference you choose, you can save by planning well in advance and taking advantage of early bird prices, usually starting the year before. Another cost-cutting tip: you can stay in less expensive hotels or with friends and Uber back and forth. I’m already looking forward to my next conference in 2018.


ChristinaHoagAuthorHeadshotChristina Hoag is a former journalist for the Miami Herald and Associated Press who’s been threatened by a murderer’s girlfriend, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Her noir crime novel Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016) was a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for suspense, while her thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice YA, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014.

Christina makes her home in Los Angeles and lives on the web at

Her novel Skin of Tattoos is available at


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