Monday, January 19, 2015

Why you should attend a writers' conference

Patty here...

Sometimes I think I’ve heard everything there is to know about writing and the publishing business but, of course, I’m always wrong because things change. Mystery fan conventions like Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime are fun, because you get to attend panels, listen to your favorite authors wax poetic, get books signed and mingle in the bar. However, if you’re serious about writing and you want to learn nitty-gritty tips to inspire your process, or learn about the latest trends in the publishing business from editors and agents, you should consider attending a writers’ conference.

The California Crime Writers Conference is a biennial, two-day event that began in 1995 as a one-day conference organized by Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. In 2007 after years of success, the conference partnered with the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America to become the even bigger and more comprehensive CCWC.

As 2012-2013 president of SinC/LA, I co-chaired CCWC in 2013, which featured keynote speakers Elizabeth George and Sue Grafton. The inspirational keynote speeches given by these two writers were worth the price of admission.

Sue Grafton, Hank Phillippi Ryan, moi, Elizabeth George (photo by Robin Templeton)

But, of course, there was more to discover. Attendees in 2013 chose from a host of workshops in four tracks (Craft, Business, Law Enforcement/Forensics and Nuts and Bolts issues) lead by bestselling authors, law enforcement and forensic experts, plus top agents and editors. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. One award-winning author told me the conference featured the best law enforcement/forensic track she had ever seen in all her years of attending conferences.

The 2015 CCWC is shaping up to be another winner. This year, I’m co-chairing the Law Enforcement and Forensics track, which will include homicide detectives, an FBI agent and firearms trainer, a forensic entomologist, an expert on serial killers in the medical field, a forensic psychiatrist, among others.

Too often writers collect information about forensics and law enforcement from watching TV and film. Many of those “facts” are fiction. CCWC allows a writer to learn firsthand from experts who will share their knowledge and answer questions about how homicide detectives handle a crime scene, what firearm a character might use and why, how insect activity reveals clues about a death, how a serial killer thinks and how to avoid common mistakes when writing about forensic evidence.

However, the most compelling reason to attend a writers’ conference is for the opportunity to network with fellow attendees. Writing is a solitary pursuit. Writers need to charge those batteries by basking in shared experiences. Whether you’re looking for an agent, a critique group, an independent copy editor or just some conversation with fellow scribblers, think about attending a writers' conference, especially CCWC, since I'll be there to hold your hand. Invest in yourself. Register. Learn. Share. Succeed. You deserve it.



  1. from Jacqueline: Just tried to post and it wouldn't do it - shame on the system! So, I'm trying again ... you're spot on, Patty - just the keynote speakers are worth the price of admission. I have been to such conferences and come home with a notebook bursting with good advice and new things learned - and that's when I've been one of the teachers! The camaraderie and exchange of ideas, experiences and information is priceless. Now let's try to post!

    1. Argh! Google has overwritten my settings and made it harder to comment. Not sure what to do.

      I was once on the faculty of the Jackson Hole Writers' Conference and was inspired by Janet Fitch's (White Oleander) talk. She endured so much rejection for 12 years and then HUGE SUCCESS.

  2. Thanks, Patty. BTW, the keynote speakers this year are international bestselling authors Charlaine Harris and Anne Perry. CCWC sold out in 2013 and had to turn a lot of people away. It's capped at 200 attendees to keep it intimate. Tickets are going faster this time around, so if you want to go, don't tarry.

  3. I am looking forward to attending this again in June. Great speakers, and great opportunities for writer-growth in many areas.

  4. Have you been to the book passage writers conference? There are three. One is geared towards mystery writing. It was my first conference.


  5. James O. Born1/21/2015 7:07 PM

    Patty, I've posted three times. This one will go through.

    I've nothing but great things about your conference.

  6. James O. Born1/21/2015 7:09 PM

    Then I screwed up the comment. It should be "I've heard nothing but great things about your conference."

  7. Diana, many years ago I attended Elizabeth George's 4-day (I think) writing workshop at Book Passage. She doesn't do it anymore, but it changed my writing. And, of course, our very own J. Winspear organizes the Book Passage mystery writing conference, which I attended several years ago and was wonderful.