Lovely to be back at Left Coast Crime. There are a lot of different writers conferences around the country, but Left Coast Crime is one of my favorites. It’s also specifically a Mystery Writers conference, so it’s filled with my people.
Part of what’s fun about LCC, is that it’s in a different city every year. Last year was Honolulu, Hawaii, definitely tough to beat. This year it was in Reno, Nevada. Snow on the ground, but just as fun as last year, if a little less tropical.
Some writers conferences are geared toward learning the craft, some toward finding agents/editors, some are for the big names in the biz, and some are more focused on readers. LCC is a Mystery reader’s conference, with lots of opportunities to meet with, learn from, and listen to, favorite authors.
Here are some of the activities that make them so popular for readers and writers alike.
Panels: The heart and soul of a conference. They usually start early in the morning and go through to happy hour. Panels can range from writing tips to the business of writing to how to use social media to create a platform and everything in between. Typically there is one moderator and three to five writers. The moderator generally familiarizes themself with the authors and generates questions. The moderator keep the panelists focused, (not so easy to do with several smart, funny experts up on a dais in front of a crowd) fields questions from the audience, and handles giveaways. For Left Coast Crime this year I moderated a panel on Research in Fiction. It was very informative and we had a full meeting room – almost a hundred people turned out!
Author/Reader connections: These are wonderful extras that I’ve only ever seen at LCC. A writer or group of writers comes up with a fun event for a set number of readers. Readers sign up through the LCC website. These can range from lessons in something to sharing a meal to cocktails or anything else the writers can think up. For this year’s conference, I teamed up with Catherine Bruns to do a cake and chat event. We had a blast and the cake was delicious!
The second event I did was coffee, books, and chatting with fellow Pacific Northwest author Bharti Kirchner. We gave away books and discussed writing over coffee at the Starbucks. So much fun to discover our readers were working on first novels! Lots to talk about.
The Bookstore: Full of books from all the attending authors, the bookroom is sometimes also the location for author signings. Typically authors sign their books following a panel, though at some conferences there are additional times scheduled. I love the book room! So great to see all the books out (usually up to three titles for any given author). It’s a great way to discover new and new-to-you authors. (Yes! My books are on this table – can you find them?)
Banquet: Most conferences have a banquet the final evening of the event. LCC is no exception. The Nugget Casino did a fabulous job – the food was quite good and the service was excellent. The awards ceremony was short and sweet and all the speakers did a lovely job. Catherine Bruns and I teamed up again and hosted a table. We decorated it with crime scene tape and swag and books. You can read more about Catherine from my interview with her back in January. Click here to read.
Additional events: The Debut Author Breakfast. A popular event at various conferences, attendees join several debut authors for breakfast and listen as they stand up and give a quick (LCC gives roughly 2 minutes) description of their debut novel. I was a debut at last year’s conference. This year was much less stressful as I got to be in the audience to support the debuts. I had several writer friends up at the microphone, so that made it even more exciting. I sat at Debut Author Kathleen Valenti’s table. She did a great job with her talk. It’s not easy having to go last!
Speed Dating: Though I didn’t do speed dating this year, I have done it in the past. It’s a terrific way to meet a room full of readers. Readers sit at tables of roughly 8-10 people. Two writers team up and have two minutes each to “pitch” their books. Then a bell rings, the writers move to the next table and two other writers take their place. A reader might hear forty authors in an hour and a half! It’s quite thrilling as the writer – though it’s easy to start thinking … didn’t I say this already? right around table twelve.
Probably my favorite aspect of attending writers conferences is spending time with fellow writers. Whether it’s a writer I’ve known for years or someone I’ve just met, it’s always a delight to hang out, chat about the business, get to know each other in person (we often interact in the virtual world) and just spend time with other people who understand the difficulties of being a professional writer. I had an amazing crew to hang with at LCC this year – and I look forward to many more years of chatting about writing. Hope to see everyone next year when LCC goes across the border! Vancouver, BC, Canada … here we come!
Authors: J.R. Ripley, Sheila Sobel, (Me!) Cheryl L. Reed and Christina Hoag. Look for me and Christina Hoag in LA at Gatsby’s Books in Long Beach on April 14 and in San Diego on April 15 at Mysterious Galaxy! Click here for more information.