Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Some housekeeping first: my family came with me and had fun in the big city so I surrendered my camera to my daughter; ergo, I have no pictures. I will be posting for the next few days covering the entire event. Anyone who's read my report from last year knows I like to ramble on and include lots of details, so keep checking back!

The second annual thriller writers’ convention was another huge success. Rumor has it 700 people attended, and judging from some of the standing-room-only panels, I’d say that sounds like a good number. I’m waiting for the official stats and will post them when verified. But for now, let’s start with the beginning.

Welcome to New York. I was lucky enough to catch the last day of the heatwave, following by a torrential downpour. While waiting in the taxi line outside the hotel, I ran into Shane Gericke (pronounced "yerkey") who is a sweetheart who leaves his dark side to his thrillers. He bought an umbrella from the street salesmen who seem to appear out of the sidewalk when the rains start, and hoofed it to a "cage match" with a couple of other authors at a nearby historic library site. He told me it was raining so hard that within a couple of blocks the rain was coming in through the top of the umbrella. On the bright side, after the rain stopped it cooled off and we had glorious weather for the rest of the weekend.


The convention opened with a mini-pre-convention, if you will, called CraftFest. This was a day of workshops for writers, featuring some of the biggest names in the business sharing their writing secrets, where they get their ideas, how they got that first agent, that first book deal, etc. Their craft. I spoke to a wide variety of writers who attended, including a screenwriter-turning-novelist who was about halfway through her first book, a couple of writers with their first books just out, a couple more who have several books out (although not necessarily thrillers,) and a couple of well established thriller writers. I got some interesting feedback and as long as I don’t tell who told me what, I’m sure no one will mind if I share what I learned.

Best panel of the day was unanimous: “Eureka! Developing great Thriller ideas,” given by the NY Times bestselling author, Tess Gerritsen. When I asked which was the best panel of the day, Tess was mentioned by every single person I asked. She was extremely well prepared and organized, and shared what she knew along with the caveat that just because it works for her, that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Nonetheless, everyone was scrambling like mad to take down every word.

A close second was “Opening Thrill: How to hook readers and keep them turning pages,” given by James Rollins. I’ve seen Jim on enough panels to know that he’s completely entertaining, funny as hell and always prepared, so I was not surprised to learn that he was very organized and shared lots of good information. Honorable mention goes to Vince Flynn’s panel on “Self-Publishing: Fabulous or Foolhardy?” and David Morrell’s “Who’s in Charge Here? Find your subject matter and your voice through self-psychoanalysis.” I heard the Lee Child presentation, “The Reacher Way: Creating the continuing Thriller series character” was packed, but the few people I spoke to said that while his talk was interesting and entertaining, it would probably have been a better fit for ThrillerFest proper rather than CraftFest.

Everyone raved about “Dangerous Vegetables and the Simple Truth,” the agent and editor luncheon. Getting to spend some time with editors and agents seemed to make everyone’s day, and was apparently quite the learning experience. The M.J. Rose bonus panel, “Buzz Your Thriller” was also a hit. I was told by more than one writer that M.J. really knows how to teach writers how to market and publicize their books to their best advantage.

The first auction was held at CraftFest for the writers in attendance. About $9300 was raised for literacy, including approximately $1500 for the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with Lee Child, cocktails included.

So what are writers looking for in CraftFest 2008? They would have liked to submit writing samples in advance, especially to the agents and editors, for better feedback. They would like fewer, more in depth panels. Several people mentioned that they would have preferred just one morning session and one afternoon session that would run for a few hours instead of just 50 minutes, leaving lots of time for questions and answers. It was also pointed out that just because someone is a NY Times bestselling author, or isn’t one, has little bearing on how well they teach, and that should be taken into account as well.

The bottom line? Every single person I spoke with felt that CraftFest was an excellent program and well worth their time and money. Well done, ITW!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Stacy -- always great to see you!

Joe Finder

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