Saturday, February 28, 2009


If you're not familiar with Sleuthfest, it's the annual writers' conference sponsored by the Florida chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. This year's event is being held in Deerfield Beach, a stone's throw from my home so how could I not attend? Not to mention this year's Guests of Honor are two of my favorite writers, John Hart and Brad Meltzer, along with 220+ mystery writers, agents, editors and readers.

While the conference is geared towards writers, there are plenty of panels that fans would enjoy as well. My first panel of the day was something called "How to Read Like a Writer" and featured authors Vicki Hendricks, Caro Soles and Susan Froetchel. I found the discussion very interesting and for anyone who has an interest in writing, there was lots of good advice offered. Susan talked about outlining someone else's novel as a good exercise in how it works. Vicki talked about her experience studying with James Hall. He had her use a novel as a model to writer her own. She used The Postman Always Rings Twice and noted things like the number of chapters, pages per chapter, when characters were introduced, and so forth. It must have paid off because one of her reviews said, "Vicki Hendricks is Jim Thompson in a g-string." Finally, all the authors agreed that you should write a book that you'd want to read.

The next panel I attended was the Legal Eagles panel and featured recovering attorneys John Hart and Julie Compton, as well as prosecutor Jerry Sanford, Judge Barbara Levenson and was moderated by retired Judge Miette Burnstein. Hart didn't like his work as a criminal defense attorney, and the breaking point came when he was asked to defend a child molester a few weeks after his first child was born. With the support of his family, he quit his law practice and wrote the multiple-award nominated King of Lies. There was much more from John during his keynote address at lunch, post to follow shortly.

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