By Lori Rader-Day, Guest Blogger for the Femmes Fatales.
It's my pleasure to welcome award-winning author Lori Rader-Day, who won the Mary Higgins Clark Award and Anthony Award for her mysteries, The Black Hour and Little Pretty Things. If you haven't read these novels, order them as soon as you finish Lori's blog. Today, Lori answers the question that plagues so many writers: Which conferences are best for me? -- Elaine Viets
And now I go back to play.
That’s what these conferences are for me. Sure, they’re work, too. I can’t number the hours I have spent preparing for the workshops and panels I’ve done there and will do this week. Three to four days of social output takes its toll on this introvert. But in the mean time, I get to be what I always wanted to be. How many people get to say that?
This conference is my origin story. I went there before I knew much about writing and I went again once I had learned a little more and gotten more focused. In 2008, in a program held by the MWW in Angola, Indiana, I was put into the mystery group of a workshop before I knew I was a mystery writer. MWW was one step ahead of me, showing me the way. Lighting the way with torches, really, so that I couldn’t miss the path.
Now when I go, I’m one of the faculty. Going back to Muncie is returning home, and seeing how well home does without you while you’re gone. It’s humbling. “Going to church” is what another longtime faculty member, Matthew Clemens, calls it. It is that. It is going back to school, one last time.
If you’re looking to get to be what you always wanted to be, consider coming out to play at a conference sometime soon. Meet writers who have figured out a few things and are willing to share. Connect with other writers at the same stage you are, who constitute your peer group, your moral support, your beta readers-to-be. Spend time in a place where everyone you meet is someone who loves just what you do. It’s an amazing feeling to be among other writers. This kind of church is also good for the soul.
Here are some suggested conferences for writerly learning and camaraderie:
Magna Cum Murder
This conference is also put on by Ball State University but now held in downtown Indianapolis, a very friendly and drivable city. The content is all mystery, all the time, but more about finding new authors to read than hands-on content. Other places you can listen in on mystery writer conversation: Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic, Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee, and (starting in 2017, co-directed by yours truly) Murder and Mayhem in Chicago.
Yale Writers’ Workshop
All genres, hands-on workshops. This New Haven, Connecticut, workshop has a long, three-week option and a one-extended-weekend option. Don’t be intimidated; the program is for people just like you. You will need to have some pages polished to apply. Save costs by staying in student housing and really return to school.
New England Crime Bake/Sleuthfest
These two separate conferences are held by Mystery Writers of America chapters on the East Coast (Boston) and in Florida (Boca Raton) respectively. Mystery and crime genre-focused, but with a hands-on workshop approach, taught by some heavy hitters in the genre.
PHOTO: At Bouchercon Raleigh, from left: Lynne Raimondo, James Ziskin, Susan Froetschel, Susannah Calkins.
Colorado Gold Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference
A favorite among many of my friends, Colorado Gold features visiting speakers and teachers in a variety of genres. While definitely a good fit for those still seeking craft help, pitch sessions with agents and editors are available at extra cost.
Check out all the writing workshops and conferences for all genres (so so many) at Poets and Writers’ website. Or check your local library, bookstore, or university for offerings and resources they can suggest. The goal is to find the like-minded souls who can encourage you when the words won’t come and cheerlead for you when they do. Writing gets a bad rap as a solitary pursuit. It is not. You need your friends. A little time away gives you perspective, so that you can return to your manuscript energized with ideas and the support you’ll need to finish.
Besides, being a grown up is highly overrated.