by Paula Gail Benson
Going to a writing conference is a wonderful experience. Each has its own personality and focus. For me, Malice Domestic, which occurs near Washington, D.C. at the end of April or beginning of May, is a warm family reunion of readers and writers, all relishing the strategies for puzzling out traditional mysteries. Bouchercon--taking place this year in Toronto, Canada--gathers together writers from all the mystery genres, from cozy to thriller, in a huge celebration of variety and skill.
Killer Nashville is the one conference I’ve attended that consistently has the effect of revving my writing engine. Although it welcomes both readers and writers, its primary focus is on the writing craft and criminal process. It features experts discussing developing characters, structure, and marketing as well as accurately portraying poisons, police procedure, and protocols. Each year, a member of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sets up a crime scene and participants try to solve who did it. The lucky winner receives a free registration to the next year’s conference.
I have a lot of gratitude for Killer Nashville because it gave me the opportunity to be in the anthology Killer Nashville Noir: Cold Blooded (for “A Matter of Honor” written with Robert Dugoni) among such fabulous talents as Jeffrey Deaver, Anne Perry, and Catriona McPherson. This year, I delighted in being introduced by Guest of Honor Chris Grabenstein to publicly read the opening of the story.
|Reading from "A Matter of Honor"|
|Medical/Legal Thriller Panel|
|Short Story Panel|
Being at Killer Nashville led me to become involved with the board of SEMWA. We have an enthusiastic organization. Our president Maggie Toussaint is a dynamo and board members Stacy Allen, Nancy Sartor, Susan M. Boyer, Phil Hardwick, and John Gordon work diligently to organize programs and retreats to benefit our members. Past President Beth Terrell continues to provide us with wise counsel, and we were very proud and celebrating with her when she was honored with the Builder’s Award at this year’s Killer Nashville.
Over the years, those who have come as Guests of Honor or attendees have enjoyed the experience so much that they have created four scholarships to enable other writers to attend. Past scholarship holder and a Claymore finalist this year (and a writer to be watched), Kathleen Donnelly, spoke about what the opportunity to attend Killer Nashville had meant for her writing career. Her speech is published on The Stiletto Gang blog.
If you have an interest in a smaller conference that concentrates on writing skills and expert procedural information, please consider coming to Killer Nashville. I think you’ll find a place where you’ll want to return.
How do conferences enrich your writing?