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. The Bumble Files

    Congrats, Carrie. What a huge success you had! I wanted to read this earlier, but got too side-tracked. I’m glad I came to read it because I did learn something. It seems well worth the trip!

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  2. notedinnashville

    “E is for ‘ego'”. Isn’t it cool how the best-of-the-best are usually sooo nice and encouraging? I’ve found it’s true of songwriters too. (Name drop here) Vince Gill is a super nice guy. No entourage. No limo. Just a dude looking for some good grub and good guitars.

    “P is for ‘pitching'”. I was nervous and excited just reading about it. Congratulations, that’s a major step. What a great conference!

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    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! And you’re right. It was a wonderful conference.

      Maybe the bigger names have nothing to prove and don’t fear competition so they come off as more accessible. Then again, maybe it’s just because they’re people like you and me. When you become a big name, I bet you’ll still be just as lovely to others as you are now, and you’ll still post wonderful recipes on your blog, right? 🙂

      Like

  3. jbw0123

    Hey Carrie, Glad to have you back among the bloggers. Pulling our legs about the belching neighbor, right? Congratulations!! Must have been some good pitching. Cheers!

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  4. Inion N. Mathair

    Congrats with the agents, Carrie. And, thanks so much for sharing your experience. Mathair and I have never been to a writing conference, so we try live vicariously through our networking friends. LOL. And, don’t sweat your glass half-empty soul. Mathair and I split our time between the land of cynicism and reality. (Though I think their both one in the same.) 😉

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Haha, me too. I find cynicism and reality have much in common. That’s why I like to call myself pragmatic. Sounds better than saying I’m cynical. 😉

      Thanks for the well wishes. Hope your book launching is going well. Always so much to do, isn’t there? And thank you for sharing this post on Twitter. Appreciate it!

      By the way, I downloaded an e-book copy of ‘The Perfect 7.’ I’m wondering, is it appropriate for a 16-year-old boy? Judging by the premise, I think my son would like it, but I wanted to make sure it was okay for his eyes.

      Like

      • Inion N. Mathair

        That’s a good question, Carrie, and one we’ve been asked a lot. Our first response would be to tell you that it’s absolutely fine because there’s nothing in that book that he or any other teenage boy wouldn’t hear in high school or on television. However, there is a fair amount of crude humor, violence and sexual vulgarity (though there’s no sex scenes just references). But, like we said, nothing that they wouldn’t hear from their peers. What we do manage to do in this book is an underlying moral lesson of the repercussions that come with a boundary-less world. Overall we would highly recommend a 16 yr old to read it because it teaches something positive by masking the lesson with something entertaining. The teenage characters in our book, are actually well rounded boys that just speak candidly with each other. Otherwise, they are good kids and we feel good role models for the youth, but it’s their journey that’s the real lesson. Appreciate your concern and hopefully more parents will be open enough to speak with us about this. Thank you for the opportunity.

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        • Carrie Rubin

          Thanks so much for the info. Depending on the length of my reading queue, hopefully I can get to it first, but it sounds like it would be okay for him. 🙂

          Like

  5. butimbeautiful

    I’ve never been to a writer’s conference! But wow, congratulations on having done so well with the agents, and I do think you’re terribly brave!

    Like

  6. Sheila

    Congratulations on sparking the interest of all those agents! My nerves would never be able to take such a thing as agent speed-dating. I just met with an agent for a whole hour and of course I sputtered and lost my train of thought over and over again while trying to describe the entire book and make it sound exciting. She was very nice about it but I’m sure she wondered about my general mental state. Conferences really do help with the agent search though – if only our nerves would let us talk normally. The ability to make any sense at all would help too.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Wow, an hour?! Good for you. I hope it turns out well for you. AgentFest wasn’t too bad. As long as you have your pitch practiced…

      Thanks for stopping by, Sheila. Hope your summer is going well!

      Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      It was a great conference. I spent the last couple days under the weather and not very social, unfortunately, but I hope to go again some time. Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  7. Andrea

    11 out of 12 agents asked for manuscripts! That’s great! It’s better than 1 our of 12, right? And the ghost… wow. So it was fun? I wish there were quiet rooms at conferences like that for the introverts to congregate and speak little… 😉

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    • Carrie Rubin

      It was wonderful. So glad I got the chance to go. And AgentFest really is an amazing opportunity. Let’s just hope it pans out…

      Like

  8. writerwendyreid

    Sounds like you had a great time Carebear and I think it’s great news that several of the agents asked to see more of your book. Contrats! 🙂 xo

    Like

  9. Madame Weebles

    I almost gagged at H. If it isn’t your hair, it shouldn’t be there. So you were at the Grand Hyatt then? Grand Central is particularly redolent this time of year. But I’m so glad you had a good time!

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    • Carrie Rubin

      I’d like to say it was my hair, but it wasn’t. Needless to say, I used the other bed. And yes, that was the hotel, but I should point out, despite these little issues, the service was wonderful. Very pleasant people working there. Even if GCS was stinky…

      Like

  10. Kourtney Heintz

    Sounds like the best conference ever! Getting to pitch 11 agents and getting 10 requests–damn you’re amazing. 🙂 LOL on the ghost in the bathroom.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Well, let’s just hope it amounts to something. We both know getting an agent to look at the manuscript is only the first step…

      Thanks!

      Like

      • Kourtney Heintz

        True, but you have to celebrate every victory on the road to an agent and an editor. Otherwise, it can get really depressing. Getting one request is cool. Getting that many tells you you have a solid pitch and a story that people are really interested in. 🙂

        Like

  11. Sandee

    You remind me of how self-contained, or how introverted writers can be. I joined a workshop a few years ago thinking — gee, maybe I’ll meet some like-minded folks who I can hang out with. Nope. After the workshop, like your conference, everybody went their separate ways — hahaha! It seems that this was a really good experience for you Carrie. Welcome back to the blogosphere!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      It was, and thank you. Yes, we writers like our alone time. But we should be careful. Too much solitude can make one weird, so we have to push the comfort zone every now and then. 🙂

      Like

  12. Valentine Logar

    Wonderful you have agents wanting to read!

    Loved how you did this, you can exceed anytime the word limit. Sounds like a wonderful time, despite bad hotels and cancelled flights.

    Like

  13. The Hook

    Clever post, Carrie!
    You always amaze me. You’ve taken the recap post and elevated it to another level.

    Like

  14. ellamedler

    I’ll stick with K… Did you know, I never was good at drawing lines… Mwahahahaha! (feeling murderous – mother visiting 😦 )

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Haha, have fun with the mumsy!

      It was interesting, because all the authors on that particular panel said they didn’t draw the line too much, but none of them would kill off an animal, particularly a dog or cat. They said they couldn’t go there. 🙂

      Like

  15. Kate is

    Fantastic. Thank you very much. I felt like I was there, and for an introvert, that’s the ultimate. This should be posted out to all attendees before hand.
    I hope you enjoy NOS4R2.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      NOS4R2 looks good, but it does involve children. I tend to avoid those types of horror novels because they upset me. But a chance at a free copy? I had to take it!

      Thanks for stopping by, Kate!

      Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks, Carol! By the way, are you on Twitter? I tweeted your post from yesterday, and someone retweeted it and asked me if you were on Twitter so they could follow you. I told her I didn’t think you were, but I wanted to be sure. You’ve always got such helpful articles.

      Like

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