Monday, May 16, 2011


Many people get the two events confused—they are different.

Some things to remember for both: Wear comfortable clothes
and shoes. Bring along a sweater or jacket because the meeting rooms are often
freezing. Always carry a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. Tuck some
easy to eat snacks into your bag. Bring some kind of tote bag in case you
aren’t given one so you have a place to carry your notebook, pens, business
cards, etc. Get enough rest.

A writers’ conference is intended to help writers learn more
about the craft of writing and all that goes along with it. Some of these
conferences may focus totally on writing mysteries.

No matter how many writers’ conferences I attend, I always
learn something new.

A writer or aspiring writer should pick the type of writing
conference that offers the topics he or she is most interested in. And it goes
without saying, that taking notes at the conference will help you to remember
what you heard.

Be friendly. Introduce yourself to others, especially
someone who is all alone. Have business cards you can hand out. This is good
advice for a mystery convention too.

Mystery cons are for anyone who loves the mystery
genre—readers and writers. Though some famous writers who attend may sell lots
of books, the mid-list authors and those from small presses probably won’t sell
many at all. If you are one of the latter, you may have to bring your own books
and ask an onsite bookstore to sell them for you. However, that shouldn’t be
your reason for coming to a mystery con, if it is you’ll probably be

Be sure to schedule your traveling so that you arrive early
enough to be rested when the activities begin. I always try to arrive the day
before for this reason and also if you’re flying, you never know what delays
you might experience.

A mystery con is one place where everyone you meet shares
the same interest that you do—mysteries. You should have no problem striking up
a conversation with anyone—and like I mentioned before pick someone who looks
lonely. You may make a lifelong friend. Over the years I’ve made many friends
this way and some have become fans of my books too.

At a mystery con you’ll have the opportunity to meet your
favorite authors. Don’t be afraid to tell them how much you like their books,
they’ll love you for it. Just don’t interrupt them while they’re in the middle
of a conversation or try to get an autograph while they’re using the bathroom.

Look over the program carefully and pick the sessions that
most interest you. (Of course often the two things you most want to see are on
at the same time, but there’ll be plenty of engaging topics throughout the

If you are on a panel yourself, do some homework ahead of
time and read about your fellow panelists and their work. Don’t monopolize the
conversations. Answer the questions asked and then let the next person have a
turn. If you’re a moderator, try to read each panelist’s latest book so that
you can ask relevant questions. If a panelist does try to hog the whole talk,
speak up and ask the next person how they feel about whatever the question was.
If you are the moderator some conferences don’t want you to do anymore than
mention your own book and only focus on the other panelists. Other conferences
expect you to join in on the discussion and they’ll usually tell you which it

In either case, don’t stress about being on a panel. Think
of it was a conversation between you and the other panelists.

The most popular panels are those with “famous” or
well-known authors on them. I’ve attended many, many mystery cons and sometimes
the panels with the lesser known writers are the most fun.

No matter what, you’ve invested a lot to money in attending
the conference or convention so enjoy yourself. I’ve gone to many of these
events over the years and I always like to take some time to do a little sight
seeing. I’ve been to many cities I’d have never seen if it hadn’t been for
attending a mystery convention being held there. If the con is scheduling
sight-seeing events, plan them into your schedule.

And my final bit of advice is relax and have fun.

Marilyn Meredith
aka F. M. Meredith
Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Angel Lost
Invisible Path, Deputy Tempe Crabtree series


  1. I love attending conferences. I don't get to as often as I would like. You've provided some great advice.

  2. Good advice, Marilyn--I really hope that you are one of the writers I can encounter at a future con!

  3. Attending conferences is my favorite thing to do, it just isn't in the budget often so you really need to "work" a conference to get your money back and I don't mean in book sales. (I don't sell a lot because I'm not a big name yet...) What I love are the friendships I've made. Marilyn was one of the first I met at my first conference, the Public Safety Writer's Association conference in Vegas. The conference is very friendly and focuses on writing and research. I've made so many friends at that one. Sunny, Holli, Madelyn, Rebecca...there are more but the post is getting long.

  4. If you'd like to know more about the Public Safety Writers Association's conference go to and we've extended the Early Bird Registration fee to June 1 but you have to print out the registration form and mail it in with you check or money order.

    Cheryl and Jenny, you are two people I'd love to meet in person at a writers conference or anywhere else.

    I'll be at the PSWA conference in July and going to Killer Nashville in August, and I'm an instructor at the Central Coast Writers Conference in September.


  5. Super advice, Marilyn. I feel a need to surround myself with fellow writers!

  6. Sometimes we just have to hang out with other writers, they are the only ones who really understand!