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”

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! But as we both know, getting one’s query and sample chapters read is only the first start. Let’s hope they still like the concept after they’ve read some of it!

      Like

  1. pegoleg

    Sounds like the conference got thumbs up, while the hotel was thumbs down. It’s fantastic that so many agents want to check out your stuff – whoot whoot!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I just hope it leads to something, but at least it’s nice to have an ‘in’ when I send off my query. Thanks!

      Like

  2. Lori D

    My word-cap is 500 words, but I’ve gone over to about 600 a couple of times. Anyhoo, I must comment on your thrilling thriller fest. I was really glad to read letter E. I haven’t attended my state writer’s conf. for more than one reason (money), ego is one of them. I thought it might be filled with egos, but it’s good to know that you didn’t find any at yours. Letter G, COOL! Letter H, ewwww.
    Congratulations on those agents. Hey, with 10 of them, someone is bound to come through. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      And thanks for stopping by! Yes, I was pleasantly surprised, everyone was very nice, and eager to offer advice, share tips, etc. Even the bigwigs signing their books were kind. Michael Palmer invited me to come hear him speak when he comes to Cleveland. 🙂

      But you raise a good point–some of these conferences are not cheap. I doubt I could go every year; hard to justify the cost. But it was wonderful to get the chance to attend this year.

      Like

  3. benzeknees

    I have missed your particular brand of humor Carrie! Thanks for the wonderful write up on Thrillerfest – a definite addition to my bucket list!

    Like

  4. philosophermouseofthehedge

    See all that intern/residency grilling were great preparation!
    Look – it’s very impressive that many asked for your manuscript. 10 out of 11. They’ve seen something there. YEA you. (Speed dating is the perfect description!)
    Join that group…today. It makes a difference when you talk with people of all sorts.
    You learned something important: always take an empty suitcase?
    Sounds like great fun (sorry about the feeling sick part – but still). As much fun as a magician’s conference – just a different sort of magic
    Really enjoyed this post – will reread as there’s plenty here to absorb.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. And what you said here: “Join that group…today. It makes a difference when you talk with people of all sorts.”—so true, I think. Some of the unknown authors there had only one book, but with advance reviews by some of the big-name authors. I suspect that was through their association in ITW.

      I’m glad the agents found my concept intriguing. I just hope they still do after I’ve sent them the manuscript…

      Oh, and you’re right. I think residency training (and my practice thereafter) helped me put the stress of AgentFest in perspective!

      Like

  5. Anne Chia

    Lovely sharing your writers’ conference experience. I think the P portion is my favourite! Congrats on getting those “send your manuscripts” out of that many agents. Good news in the future, am sure. Sounds like a good time all around, the ghost was also an introvert I see, didn’t want to play house at all 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Haha, I think you’re right! He kept himself well hidden. Had I started to see figures standing near my bed, then I would have been facing some very extroverted ghosts. 🙂

      Thanks for the well wishes. Let’s just hope those agents are still interested in a couple months when the book is finished…

      Like

  6. unfetteredbs

    J is for jealous… nice! Joe Hill rocks. I have not started this one yet– have it.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, good. If you get to it soon, let me know how you like it. I wasn’t initially planning to read it because I think it involves kids (that always bothers me), but when I passed by a free copy, I knew I had to take one. They didn’t last long!

      Like

  7. Elyse

    E is for Elyse’s Excitement over the agents dying to get at your book. C is for confidence that they will love it.

    Seriously cool!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Ooh, I like your positive attitude! I much prefer to think those New York literary agents are indeed ‘dying’ to get at my book rather than just take a peak at it and toss it in the slush pile.

      Like

  8. sheilapierson

    Sounds like you had an amazing experience, but I must admit the whole ‘pitching’ part made me break out into a sweat and I’m not so much an introvert as you (from the way you’ve described yourself). I can’t imagine being coherent enough in such a short time frame to get anything intelligible enough to come out that would result in a single agent being interested in my work, let alone 10! Good for you!!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you. I did indeed have my pitch practiced and polished, though it’s amazing how often I deviated from it based on the agent’s questions. I can put on my social mask and go for it when I need to. I was on a mission. But afterwards, I went to my room and crashed as only an introvert can. 🙂

      Like

  9. aFrankAngle

    Creative way for the report. Fortunately, your flight cancellation has only happened to me once. What a hassle! Glad you had a great time!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks! I had the honor of having my flight canceled both ways, but at least one of the times was before I checked in. Waiting at the gate is NOT when you want to see that cancellation email. Thank goodness I checked my inbox. If not, I could have been waiting to board a canceled flight like an ignorant putz. 🙂

      Like

  10. talesfromthemotherland

    So exciting Carrie! As you know, I just went through this myself and your A-Z is pretty spot on, including the hair in my bed. (what’s up with that!). Pitch sessions, eek. But sounds like we both held our own. Mazel! I’m so excited for you… it’s all such a whirlwind thrill(er).

    Like

  11. the curtain raiser

    Sounds like a terrific experience. And the pitching! Sounds like the preperatin well and truly paid off. Speed dating for authors, love the analgy. As for the mysterious fog in the bathroom, you sure it wasn’t a complementary sauna?

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Haha, that must have been it, because it was awfully toasty in the bathroom during the fog-ups. And given the tiny size of my room, it meant the whole room heated up quite nicely. Especially since it was 90+ degrees outside…

      Like

  12. diannegray

    Congratulations for ten agents asking for a partial or full manuscript. WOW – I’m totally impressed 😀

    Like

  13. whiteladyinthehood

    Letter “I” was so funny! This was an exciting post! It sounds like you had fun AND did a GREAT job!

    Like

  14. djmatticus

    It all sounds very exciting! Tempting, oh so very tempting to check out one of the local ones (as we’ve already discussed). Perhaps when the little prince is a little bit older and I won’t feel like I’m abandoning the queen I’ll check one out and see about making some connections and doing some pitching. I hope good things abound for you from the partial and full manuscripts you sent out!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you. Even if nothing pans out, at least I know my query will be looked at. I guess that’s the first step.

      I prefer this type of writers’ conference to one where we write and then submit our samples for critique and such. That would stress me out beyond belief!

      Like

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: