What to do at Writers Conferences and Mystery Conventions

Many people get the two events confused—they are different.

Some things to remember for both: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Bring along a sweater or jacket because the meeting rooms are often freezing. Always carry a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. Tuck some easy to eat snacks into your bag. Bring some kind of tote bag in case you aren’t given one so you have a place to carry your notebook, pens, business cards, etc. Get enough rest.

A writers’ conference is intended to help writers learn more about the craft of writing and all that goes along with it. Some of these conferences may focus totally on writing mysteries.

No matter how many writers’ conferences I attend, I always learn something new.

A writer or aspiring writer should pick the type of writing conference that offers the topics he or she is most interested in. And it goes without saying, that taking notes at the conference will help you to remember what you heard.

Be friendly. Introduce yourself to others, especially someone who is all alone. Have business cards you can hand out. This is good advice for a mystery convention too.

Mystery cons are for anyone who loves the mystery genre—readers and writers. Though some famous writers who attend may sell lots of books, the mid-list authors and those from small presses probably won’t sell many at all. If you are one of the latter, you may have to bring your own books and ask an onsite bookstore to sell them for you. However, that shouldn’t be your reason for coming to a mystery con, if it is you’ll probably be disappointed.

Be sure to schedule your traveling so that you arrive early enough to be rested when the activities begin. I always try to arrive the day before for this reason and also if you’re flying, you never know what delays you might experience.

A mystery con is one place where everyone you meet shares the same interest that you do—mysteries. You should have no problem striking up a conversation with anyone—and like I mentioned before pick someone who looks lonely. You may make a lifelong friend. Over the years I’ve made many friends this way and some have become fans of my books too.

At a mystery con you’ll have the opportunity to meet your favorite authors. Don’t be afraid to tell them how much you like their books, they’ll love you for it. Just don’t interrupt them while they’re in the middle of a conversation or try to get an autograph while they’re using the bathroom.

Look over the program carefully and pick the sessions that most interest you. (Of course often the two things you most want to see are on at the same time, but there’ll be plenty of engaging topics throughout the conference.)

If you are on a panel yourself, do some homework ahead of time and read about your fellow panelists and their work. Don’t monopolize the conversations. Answer the questions asked and then let the next person have a turn. If you’re a moderator, try to read each panelist’s latest book so that you can ask relevant questions. If a panelist does try to hog the whole talk, speak up and ask the next person how they feel about whatever the question was. If you are the moderator some conferences don’t want you to do anymore than mention your own book and only focus on the other panelists. Other conferences expect you to join in on the discussion and they’ll usually tell you which it is.

In either case, don’t stress about being on a panel. Think of it was a conversation between you and the other panelists.

The most popular panels are those with “famous” or well-known authors on them. I’ve attended many, many mystery cons and sometimes the panels with the lesser known writers are the most fun.

No matter what, you’ve invested a lot to money in attending the conference or convention so enjoy yourself. I’ve gone to many of these events over the years and I always like to take some time to do a little sight seeing. I’ve been to many cities I’d have never seen if it hadn’t been for attending a mystery convention being held there. If the con is scheduling sight-seeing events, plan them into your schedule.

And my final bit of advice is relax and have fun.

Marilyn Meredith aka F. M. Meredith
Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Angel Lost
Bears With Us, Deputy Tempe Crabtree series


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