Packing Checklist for a Writers Conference

SleuthFest 2020 is on the horizon March 26-29, and I’m already gathering materials for what I’ll need to bring. Writers’ conferences require advance preparation, especially if you’ll be speaking on a panel or giving a writing workshop. You’ve already determined your goals in participating, some of which may be referenced here: https://nancyjcohen.com/benefits-of-writers-conferences/

Aside from determining your objectives—i.e. attending specialized craft sessions, learning about new publishing options, meeting editors, making new author friends, greeting fans—there’s the physical prep. Here’s a checklist of things to bring. (Note – This is an update to a previous post.)

Writers Conferences

Prepare for your talks. If you’re a panelist, it can be easier because you might not have to do much prep other than jotting down some notes about the points you want to get across. Moderator-run panels in general mean more work for the moderator but less work for the panel guests, unless you are each expected to present your material for xx minutes.

If you are conducting a workshop on your own, you’ll need to compose or update your material, prepare a PowerPoint presentation if desired, and make copies of handouts. Sometimes the conference coordinators will offer to make the copies for you. Bring your laptop or thumb drive with these files and another flash drive for backup.

If you’re speaking on different topics, assemble each handout in a separate manila envelope to keep them organized.

Order business cards unless you have them already in stock. Consider updating them with QR codes or with your social network URLs.

Design, order, and pack brochures, bookmarks, and/or postcards about your books. Bring along display containers so they don’t get strewn across the promo tables. That’s assuming your conference has space available for this purpose. If not, you can hand them out at your workshop or as you meet people one-on-one.

Design, order, and pack swag for the promo tables or goody room. These are items such as magnets, pens, door hangers, candy, and other giveaways. If you are driving, toss a box of extra books into your trunk in case the on-site bookseller doesn’t get your books in time or is unable to obtain copies of a particular title.

Bring a checkbook in case the bookseller offers to sell you leftover stock at a discounted price. Bring cash for raffle tickets, drinks at the bar, gratuities and other incidentals.

Pack a book or two to display at your presentations and panels.

Bring a copy of your receipts showing your registration and any other special paid events.

If you’re donating a raffle basket, either get your materials to the coordinator ahead of time or bring the basket prepared and ready to go.

Bring a signup sheet for your newsletter to circulate at your workshop and to put out at signings.

Print out the conference workshop schedule and highlight your appearances. List these on your website and other online sites and include these papers in your suitcase.

Bring a highlighter so you can go through the conference schedule and mark sessions you want to attend.

Print out contact info for friends you want to meet at the conference.

Decide which outfits to wear to the different events. Business attire for daytime, dressier clothes for evening? Don’t forget matching accessories.

Determine which gadgets to bring along—iPad or Laptop? Kindle or Nook? Camera to take photos for your blog? Charging devices?

Pack a notebook to take notes if not using an electronic device for this purpose. Later, write blogs about the sessions you attended to share your knowledge. If you intend to paraphrase a large portion, ask permission of the presenter at the end of their session. Or send an email afterward stating your request.

Include Sharpie pens for signing books and ballpoint pens for note taking.

If you belong to a professional writing organization, bring along chapter brochures to hand out to potential members.

What else would you add to this list?

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March 2020

 

Malice Domestic 2019 – Day 2

Saturday at Malice Domestic mystery conference in Rockville, MD began early with the Sisters in Crime Breakfast at 7:30 am on May 4th. This is always a fun event with friends where we hear about what SinC is doing regarding its various programs. It’s a great organization to join for like minds and peer support.

Panels started at 9, but after sitting for a couple of hours, I needed to walk around. So I waited for my own panel at 10 am with the Agatha nominees for Best Nonfiction. Not all our candidates were present, but we had a nice discussion with Jane Cleland, myself, and Jane Ann Turzillo, with Judy Cater as moderator.

SinC breakfast
Maggie Toussaint and Nancy J. Cohen
nonfiction nominees
Nonfiction Nominees

More panels followed after lunch. Then it was time to get ready for the formal Agatha Awards banquet.  It was fun to dress up for this momentous occasion. Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but Jane Cleland is very deserving of the award. I am happy to be forever an Agatha Award nominee, which is a great honor in itself. I am humbled to think how many friends voted to nominate Writing the Cozy Mystery, and I am grateful for their support. Here are some of us in our fancy outfits:

Donna Andrews and Chris Grabenstein
Donna Andrews and Chris Grabenstein

Banquet Dessert

Banquet Table
Maggie Toussaint, Nancy & Richard Cohen
Nancy Cohen and Laura Durham
Laura Durham and Nancy J. Cohen
With Maggie Toussaint
Nancy J. Cohen and Maggie Toussaint

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Bouchercon: Day 3

Saturday at Bouchercon began with the New Author Breakfast. Anyone could attend, but each table ideally held one or two debut authors with a centerpiece of books. The authors were introduced one at a time, and each had a few minutes to tell us about his book. A list was provided on each table with the authors’ names and their debut titles. I checked off the ones which interested me, and I hope to add those titles to my TBR list.

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That afternoon, I attended a panel on Danger and Death in Suburbia. Speakers included Greg Herren, Mary Sutton, Meredith Anthony, and Lori Roy, with Katrina Nildas Holm moderating.

These stories involve a dichotomy, with beautiful settings where nothing bad should happen but crimes do occur there. We have expectations of people who live in suburbia. You’ll often hear, “He was the nicest man,” about a neighbor who commits a crime. Suburbs are not as peaceful as they appear.

People believe marriage is forever. Then you live together and experience the pressure cooker of constantly being with someone else. This togetherness can inspire crimes.

These types of mysteries often involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The highest stakes come from your loved ones. Romantic suspense involves things that frighten women. These are more internal stories.

Why do people keep secrets? Shame is often the motivator. People will kill to hide their secrets, so others will not think badly of them. There is also the pressure to succeed. If we all work hard, why aren’t we at the top? So we cast blame on others. We say, “She slept her way up the ladder”, or “He must be corrupt.” We’d like to believe successful people are not as perfect as they seem.

The Anthony Awards Ceremony capped the evening.

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As for the rest of the time, I hung out and schmoozed. Here are photos of my writer pals.

BeckOliveSuzBeckyCarla NortonCherylNanConSanNancyDirk WyleDon BrunsDonConSandyJamesJim NanHeather

Toni Kelner RickMaryLou NeilNan

From left to right, starting at the top: Rebecca Swope, Olive Pollak, Suzanne Baginskie; Rebecca Swope; Carla Norton; Cheryl Hollon, Nancy J. Cohen; Con Lehane, Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen; Dirk Wyle; Don Bruns; Don Bruns, Con Lehane, Sandra Balzo; James W. Hall, James O. Born, J. Kingston Pierce; Nancy J. Cohen, Heather Graham; Toni L.P. Kelner; Rick Wymer, Mary Lou Benvenuto;  Neil Plakcy, Nancy J. Cohen

Crime in the Keys

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

The last panel of the day at Mystery Writers Key West Fest was on Crime in the Florida Keys. Panelists included Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey, Key West PD Chief Donie Lee, U.S. Coast Guard Captain (ret.) Jim Filton, true crime writer and journalist Terry Schmida, and Jim Linder from the Joint Interagency Task Force (ret.). Moderator was radio news director Bill Becker.

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The report that follows is based on my interpretation of what I heard. Any errors are mine alone.

In the 80’s and 90’s, most crimes involved drug smuggling of cocaine and marijuana via boats. Now it’s alien smuggling. Often the instigators will steal a “go-fast” boat and charge the migrants $10,000 per head to smuggle them ashore. Once a Cuban refugee touches U.S. soil, they can stay. Today there’s also an influx of Miami-based crime such as burglaries and prescription drug abuse plus related crimes by addicts who need to buy their fix. There are more online crimes with credit card fraud and sexual predators.

Another panelist spoke about “amusing” crimes in Key West, such as the case of a cat abduction and custody battle over the animal. “The Keys have crimes that you can’t make up.” But serious crime is rare. It’s normal for law enforcers to greet crooks at the bar. He told more illegal migrant stories. Other crimes might involve animals or a piece of machinery being used in an unexpected manner.

Fantasy Fest is ten days long and about 80,000 people come down to Key West for this event. It’s difficult to police. People have sex in the streets, roam without their clothes on, do stuff here they’d never do at home. For example, there was the airline pilot who stole a pizza car because he was hungry. A bank robber was caught because he gave away $2 bills at a strip bar.

We heard about the ingenious vehicles that migrant smugglers used to cross the water from Cuba, like cars and trucks. When the Coast Guard approached one car plying the waves, the miscreants rolled up the windows so there wasn’t any way to board. The Coast Guard guy opened the gas cap and poured in sugar. When the vehicle stalled, the occupants surrendered.

Then there was the airplane modified with a bed in back for a “Mile High” club. Two customers tried to hijack the airplane to Cuba. A struggle with the pilot ensued, and he ditched in the ocean. You can read about it here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=92667 Since the customers didn’t survive and there wasn’t any paper trail, the speaker questioned the truth of the story. Was it for real or a case of insurance fraud?

Then there’s the “Yamaha Drift.” These are people who claim their boat drifted south toward Cuba. They should know the current doesn’t run south.

Crocodile poaching is another crime in the Keys. The Russian mob may also be an influence. The speakers told about the “gray-haired” burglar and the air smuggler who kept a parrot on his shoulder. Certainly the Keys are home to colorful characters.

We heard many more interesting stories from this panel of experts. After the panel concluded, we trooped to a room near the pool bar for a group book signing.

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Rather than attend the noir film at Tropic Cinema, my husband and I opted for dinner at La Trattoria, an Italian restaurant with a water view just down the street from the Doubletree Grand Key Resort.

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Coming next: Key West

 

Key West Mystery Conference

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

Last weekend was the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest. The festivities began at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon off infamous Duval Street in downtown Key West. We sat outside while the mayor and a police official greeted us. People came from all over the country to attend this debut event that was organized by Michael Haskins and Shirrel Rhoades. Multiple representatives from Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter attended. We listened to our musical members play on stage. Authors Heather Graham and Don Bruns took turns entertaining the crowd that included tourists and regulars, as well as our gang of writers.

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My husband and I ate dinner at the Smokin’ Tuna. As seven o’clock rolled around, we skipped the subsequent bar hop in favor of an early night. Others went along on a pub crawl to the Hog’s Breath Saloon, Fairvilla Megastore, Pat Croce’s Rum Barrel and the Schooner Wharf Bar. Regretfully missing this event, my husband and I caught the hotel shuttle back to the Doubletree Grand Key Resort. I took some souvenirs home, however: itchy no-see-um bites on my ankles. Remember to wear your bug spray in the evenings.

Early in the morning, I handed over my books to the conference bookseller and put out my bookmarks and pamphlets on the promo table. Then I joined my fellow panelists at 8:30 am for a talk on “Women in Mystery”. Our panel consisted of Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen, Miriam Auerbach, Carla Norton and Heather Graham. Moderator was Jeremiah Healy.

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The next panel was on the “Importance of Getting Locale Right” with Jonathan Woods, Hal Howland, Robert Coburn, Michael Haskins and moderated by Sandra Balzo.

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A buffet lunch featuring prime ribs followed with guest speaker William E. Butterworth IV (W.E.B. Griffin) on writing: “Each time you build a cabinet, it gets better. We’re cabinet builders. The first time, it’s a little crooked. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.”

Interruptions and the anticipation of interruptions can lead to writer’s block. Every day, you have to sit down and write until you get enough done.

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Does it get any easier? “No, it’s extremely difficult. You have to be focused, and you never stop working.”

After lunch, we listened to “Writing the Series” with Don Bruns, Mike Dennis, Heather Graham, Jeremiah Healy and moderated by Carla Norton.

This was followed by a panel on ePublishing with Neil S. Plakcy, Shirrel Rhoades, Wayne Gales, Sheri Lohr and moderated by Mark Howel.

Neil said about piracy: “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.” In other words, it’s your info that is being collected when you illegally download pirated books.

Coming Next: Crime in the Keys

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