Monday, August 05, 2013

The Organized Writer

Patty here

 I’ve volunteered for various organizations all my adult life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. For the past year and a half, as President of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles, I served as one of the co-chairs charged with planning and executing the 2-day California Crime Writers Conference, which was held on June 22-23, 2013 at the Hilton Pasadena to a sold out crowd. Managing 200 attendees and 67 faculty members was a huge amount of work but an equal amount of fun. I'm generally hesitant to toot my own horn, but in this case I'll acknowledge that I introduced new policies and procedures that added value to the conference and learned things I would never have been motivated to tackle. My fellow volunteers were smart, dedicated, and a joy to work with. Plus, I had the opportunity to spend time with two of my favorite authors, our awesome keynote speakers Sue Grafton and Elizabeth George. By all measures the conference was a spectacular success.

 Sue Grafton, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Patricia Smiley and Elizabeth George 
(Photo by Robin Templeton)

There’s one last thing I’m doing for the conference that hasn’t been done before: creating a 40-page “what-went-right-what-went-wrong” manual for the next group of conference planners so they don’t have to reinvent the proverbial wheel. If you think that sounds tedious, you’d be wrong. I have an MBA with an emphasis in Strategic Planning, so I've been trained to sniff out potential disasters and avert them before they happen. It’s exactly the sort of thing I love. More than that, it’s exactly the sort of thing I’m good at. Perhaps that's also why I write crime fiction—that internal detective.

Patricia Smiley with PR liaison Diane Vallere and fellow co-chair Jeri Westerson
(Photo by Robin Templeton)

For me, organizing is fun. Perhaps that’s why when I was writing my first novel I created a collage of photographs of people and locales and architectural drawings related to the novel that I pasted on a poster board. For all my subsequent novels, including my work-in-progress, I’ve made charts, graphs, timelines and beautifully formatted character bios.

Yes, I know what some of you are thinking: a time-wasting distraction to avoid writing. I say, au contraire. When you write, you should feel free to exercise all aspects of your creativity. If a collage or a manual makes you happy, I say go for it.

Now that the conference is over, I'm kicking back and wondering: What's the next big thing? Any suggestions?

 Happy Monday!


  1. A stunning effort for all involved - thank you.

  2. Thanks, Peter. The manual made its debut at a debriefing meeting yesterday. Hope somebody reads it :O)

  3. from Jacqueline (in England - so sorry about not posting on Friday, but I was in London and without immediate access to wifi).

    Well, what a great conference, Patty! I am sure your organizational skills made this conference not just good, but one of the best that anyone could go to. And what a line-up! I do hope I get invited one day! And as for what's next? Well, it seems that writing is calling loud and clear, and another book from you is always welcome! Get out those planning boards and start creating something else wonderful!

  4. Thanks, Our J. I already floated your name at the debriefing meeting on Sunday. We'll see if stars and schedules align! The next conference isn't until June 2015.

    Hope you're having a glorious time with your mum.