What To Expect From A Writers’ Conference, ThrillerFest A To Z

Last month I attended ThrillerFest in New York, a four-day writers’ conference for crafters of mysteries and thrillers. What a fantastic opportunity. So fantastic, in fact, that I’m slipping off the invisibility cloak of my blog break to enlighten you on my experience, in case a writing conference is in your future. Let’s proceed alphabetically. After all, without those letters, where would we writers be?

Image credit: thrillerfest.com

Image credit: thrillerfest.com

A is for Authors. Oh, so many authors. All sharing tips and techniques. Would it be name dropping to mention Michael Connelly, Michael Palmer, Anne Rice, R.L. Stine, and Catherine Coulter were there?

B is for Books. Lots and lots of books. A makeshift Barnes & Noble packed one of the rooms, and every presenting author held book signings.

C is for CraftFest. The first 1½ days of the conference.  Established authors lectured on a variety of topics, from story structure and setting to point-of-view and characters.

D is for Dyspepsia. The condition I suffered the last two days, compliments of a stomach bug. Just thought you should know.

E is for Ego. There were none. All the presenting authors, including the bigwigs, radiated friendliness and approachability.

F is for Free. As in free books. Ever the polite Midwesterner, I snatched only a few, one of which was NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son). Oh, yeah.

G is for Ghost. The one in my hotel room. Twice my bathroom mirror fogged up and oozed beads of moisture despite no use of the shower. Spoooooky…

H is for Hair. The ones I found in my hotel bed.

I is for Introverts. Introverts abounded at the writers’ conference. We interacted briefly. We made darting eye contact. And then we went our separate ways. It was really quite lovely.

J is for Juvenile Excitement. What I experienced in rooms full of authors and books. On the inside. See letter ‘I’ if you don’t understand.

K is for Killers. Discussions about killers and how to craft them. And when to draw the line, if at all. Creeeepy…

L is for Lust. Would love to have my own book poster line the lecture hall one day. Sigh.

Steve Berry Poster

M is for Membership. The International Thriller Writers (ITW) society hosts ThrillerFest. The group’s purpose is to “provide a way for successful, bestselling authors to help debut and midlist authors advance their careers.” Membership requires having a commercial publisher, and since Whiskey Creek Press is on the list, I might go ahead and apply.

N is for Nervous. Nerves fired and sparked before AgentFest (see P is for Pitching below). Conference volunteers consoled and reassured as nail-biting writers waited in line for the doors to open. This made me smile, as I was pretty sure we were not about to perform brain surgery.

O is for Odor. Grand Central Station was attached to my hotel. It was stinky.

P is for Pitching. AgentFest followed CraftFest. This 3½-hour session provided an opportunity to pitch one’s work to literary agents. I know, right? Here’s how it works: You research the agents beforehand to see if they represent your type of novel. You write your pitch. You practice. You sweat. When the doors open, you beeline to as many agent tables as you can within that timeframe (there are lines). Then, like speed dating, you sit face-to-face with the agent and pitch. Within three minutes, they will let you know whether they want to see your work or not. I squeezed in eleven agents before the afternoon ended. Ten asked for a partial or full manuscript of my novel upon its completion. To say I was thrilled is an understatement. But my glass half-empty soul knows better than to celebrate prematurely.

Q is for Quiet. Or the lack thereof in my hotel room. Hearing your neighbor belch is fun.

R is for Recording. Conference events occurred simultaneously, so in order to not miss a topic, all sessions were recorded and available for purchase in the bookstore.

S is for Suitcase. I should have brought a bigger one to lug all those books home.

Books from Thrillerfest

T is for ThrillerFest. Technically the entire four-day conference is ThrillerFest, but the conference is broken down into CraftFestAgentFest, and ThrillerFest, the latter of which is two days of author panel discussions and interviews.

U is for US Airways. Thank you for cancelling my flight AFTER I was checked in and seated at the gate.

V is for Victory Dance. The mental one I performed after the fabulous Rosa S. of US Airways got me booked on another flight lickety-split.

W is for Wide Variety. Writers of all ages, stages, and backgrounds attended the conference. If you are a writer, you belong.

X is for… Heck if I know.

Y is for Yearning. Oh, wait, I already covered that under L…

Z is for Ze End. I hope you have learned something. Goodbye.

Sorry to exceed my 700-word cap, but since I’ve blogged very little this summer, I figured you’d throw me a bone…

170 Responses to “What To Expect From A Writers’ Conference, ThrillerFest A To Z”

  1. ncbek

    This is very interesting. I find that the more I get into writing as I take it on as a hobby, I learn new and exciting things about it. Would you say that one of these conventions/conferences would be something a small writer like me should take upon themselves?

    “I fear the voices in my head have taken physical residency upon the page!”



    • Carrie Rubin

      I think a writers’ conference is appropriate for anyone who writes, no matter their level or experience. This conference is bigger and was more costly, but there are certainly smaller ones for a more reasonable price. Good luck with your writing, and thanks for stopping by.


  2. Mario Savioni

    If it hasn’t already been stated, I liked how you went with the structure the alphabet provides. Whenever we use some external list of objects we deepen and widen what might otherwise be fairly obvious and what happens is we think about the relationships of the employment and then about the content. If you succeed, which you have, we think of a complex mind and credibility is lent to the possibility that ten agents would be so inclined to receive your novel.

    I was able to envision the hotel near a transportation line. We have BART in the Bay Area of California, where you walk out and in to a lobby, for example.


    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks so much for sharing your insights and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate that. And I agree, breaking things down can facilitate understanding. Plus, I hope to make things less boring for my reader. 😉


  3. Christi

    Congrats on 10 agents requesting a partial/full manuscript! That’s fantastic!

    It also sounds really great how the authors and speakers were so accessible. I wonder how often that’s the case.


  4. Inion N. Mathair

    This is probably going to sound completely goofy to you Carrie, but as newby as me and mom are, we couldn’t help but jump up and down for you when we got this in our twitter mail. Hope you enjoy it or at least get a laugh at our silly ways! THE STORYKORNER DAILY, is an online newspaper of sort; or at least that’s what we could find out about it. Perhaps you’ll find out more. This is the link. Follow and scroll down and you’ll see your post!! http://paper.li/UlkuR


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