New England Crime Bake, the small but mighty writers conference held each year around the second week in November, is now in the books for 2016, and I’m feeling a little sad.
Author Dale T. Phillips posted that the Bake is “like Brigadoon—this magical kingdom that appears for a short time, changes lives, then melts into the mists of time.” He’s so right.
I’ve attended for eight years now—say what??—and each time I come home feeling revved up and ready to work. But I also miss all my Crime Bake friends. The conference draws a lot of regulars, but you’re guaranteed to meet awesome new writers, too. Here’s my new friend Patricia Berg from WIsconsin, polishing her agent pitch in the lobby. And yes, she got several invites to submit, yay!
Oh, and here’s a pic of soon-to-debut-author Shari Randall at the sign-in table. Her new series The Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack Mysteries launches in 2018—perfect, right? So much fun hanging out with you, Shari!
Each year the hardworking organizers (I think they call themselves Lobsters now) come up with fun twists to make each conference different, but the basic structure is the same. We love it that way. Attendance is capped around 320 or less on purpose, to keep the atmosphere intimate and allow writers, agents, editors, librarians, readers, and outside experts to mingle more easily. I didn’t get a pic of the Dedham Hilton bar this time, the hub of the Crime Bake social scene, but here’s a snap of the aforementioned Mr. Phillips getting into the spirit of this year’s Minnesota theme, in honor of Guest of Honor William Kent Krueger.
This intrepid Chick reporter couldn’t cover all the amazing events, but I’ll try to hit a few. On Friday afternoon I took a Master class with PR maven Nancy Marshall (literally, her Twitter handle is @MainePRMaven) called Tooting Your Horn: Publicity, Events, Social Media and More. She gave us all workbooks designed especially for us writers so we could formulate an actual P-L-A-N to market ourselves.
At the pizza welcome party, some lucky Crime Bakers participated in a game of major skill (trivia question PLUS rolling a disk down a tricky wooden maze) to win trusty Crime Bake survival kits. Mine included a nip of something warm and toasty and (kid you not) a personal towelette. Thank you to Tiger Wiseman for being the game hostess with the most-ess.
Afterward, many of us went to another terrific workshop with Chris Tieri of the Idea Agency to help us hone our individual writer brands. Other attendees hit the Practice Your Pitch session, where they received feedback and assistance in small, informal groups from published authors, editors and agents in prep for the next day’s pitch session.
Later in the evening it was time to celebrate our fabulous Debut Authors with yummy desserts and special blue ribbons. Last year I was thrilled to be fêted in similar fashion, and have the moment immortalized by official photog Mo Walsh. I tried to take my own pix of this year’s debuts and failed in spectacular fashion. (I am SO sorry, especially Mary Feliz and Kate Collier! What is it with hotel lighting, anyway?) At least our SinC National President Diane Vallere found my attempts amusing. Guess that’s why they pay Mo the big bucks (lol). But here the group pic (sort of) of our debuts surrounding our prez and Donna Andrews.
On Saturday I went to more great panels, including The Challenges of Writing Multiple Series (hint: There are plenty of them), followed by Navigating the New Waters of Publishing (hint 2: it’s difficult). After box lunches in the ballroom and an inspiring Guest of Honor Talk (William Kent Krueger once had a job testing baby spit—true story), I attended another fun panel, Traveling in Packs: Writers Band Together for Promotion. It was cool to hear how other writers work together on their group blogs—and everyone had a different system of organization, scheduling, coming up with topics, etc. We Chicks will be sure to put all of the suggestions to good use!
Below is a sneak look at the one-on-one pitch session. Everyone got three minutes with agents and editors of her or his choice. From the happy buzz, it sounded like there was a lot of good news being generated in that room.
I dropped in at the simultaneous Ask the Experts sessions, where we got personalized answers to our burning questions re: indie publishing, CSI/death investigation, police procedure/death investigation. (Thanks for all the help and those spellbinding stories, Maine detective and debut author Bruce Robert Coffin!).
At the always-eagerly-anticipated Saturday night banquet, there were plenty of ugly flannel shirts, de rigueur for the Minnesota “Let Loose with the Moose at the Pinewood Broiler” theme. Entrees included a “hot dish”—pot roast, carrots, cheese curds, mashed potatoes with MORE cheese—wowza! Admittedly, a lot of us are native New Englanders, so the costumes weren’t much of a stretch. Hank Phillippi Ryan and her husband Jonathan Shapriro, regular costume winners, showed up at the cocktail party as Rocky and Bullwinkle. Who knew they were from Minnesota? Oh, and the bearded bobby appearing below on the right is Connie Hambley. (Told you you couldn’t hide, Connie!)
And, of course, we can’t forget the hotly-fought Name-the-Dead-Moose limerick contest. The winning ditty featured the closing line of the Mary Tyler Moore theme song—you know, “You’re gonna make it after aaaaalll!” That moose was lucky, but our team’s was less fortunate. Grover met a Range Rover and ended up as “Red Grover, Red Grover and now he’s passed over.” Or something like that.
Sunday morning, we all arrived bright and perky after the late-night bar festivities to hear the three winners of the Flashwords flash fiction contest read their incredible entries. We were also treated to an expert Canine CSI session. Is this hardworking dog adorable, or what? He picked up the cadaver scent in front of the stage (yikes), pronto.
And of course no one could possibly pack up without attending a cutting-edge podcasting session and the Wheel of Why panel, in which six notorious authors (Team Police Procedural: Bruce Coffin and William Kent Krueger, Team Suspense: Hank Phillippi Ryan and Hallie Ephron, and the particularly evil-minded Team Cozy: Sheila Connolly and Jane Haertel ) spun the wheel of story elements and devised dastardly plots. Hilarious. And very…um, unique.
So only six more months til next year’s Crime Bake registration opens, folks—and it’ll fill up fast. November 10-12, with guest of honor Lisa Gardner. Be there or be square—costume theme to be announced!
Any comments or Crime Bake secrets to add in the comments section below? Lisa won’t be replacing the Emmy and Murrow award-winning Hank Phillippi Ryan as an investigative journalist in New England (or anywhere else) anytime soon.