- Jul 16, 2013 6:46 pm
Each year we travel to New York City for ThrillerFest, the one indispensable writers’ conference for us. During that week in the city we meet with our publishers, editors, agents, old friends, and other writers. Nights are late and mornings come much too early. The conference is a curious mixture of business and fun–a reaffirmation of our identity as writers and a chance to communicate with our professional peers. Writing, especially in Wyoming, is a rather lonely business. Worse, we can’t just wander down to Butch’s for a burger and the chance to talk to other writers.
Um, there are no other writers who hang out Butch’s. Even in a state with the highest per-capita percentage of published authors in the nation, we’re pretty much on our own.
For that one week in June, however, we bask amidst the brethren. Not just writers, but other blooded professionals, many of whom have built their careers into international sensations. As well as many aspiring novelists desperately trying to sell their first book.
Which leads us to CraftFest, the two day boot camp in writing offered by the International Thriller Writers. We go every year and buy a membership; and every year we sit among the ranks of the novices. There we dutifully fill the pages of our notebooks with copious notes. Ninety-eight percent of what we hear, we already know by heart. Ah, but hidden in words of Michael Connelly, David Morrell, Heather Graham, Philip Margolin, Steven Berry, or the dynamic duo of Doug Preston and Lincoln Child, are nuggets of wisdom that make us better authors. And where else, in what other venue, can we have the exclusive pleasure of listening to the likes of Michael Palmer, Alexandra Sokoloff, Gayle Lynds, and T. Jefferson Parker talk uninterruptedly for an hour about plot, pacing, setting, character, and structure.
Additionally, every year we’ve been working on a book. This year it’s PEOPLE OF THE SONGTRAIL. And every year, while listening to our professional peers discuss their secret tricks, we have that moment of epiphany as it relates to the book we’re working on. And indeed it struck again! On the plane trip home we spent a couple of hours ignoring the cattle-car reality of modern air travel by re-structuring SONGTRAIL. It will be a better book because of something Alexandra Sokoloff mentioned in her session. Thank you, Alexandra. The fans thank you, too. They’re going to get a lot better read because of that pearl of wisdom you imparted.
This year Michael taught a session on research, and why getting your facts right was critical in maintaining the willing suspension of disbelief. That’s the contract between an author and a reader: I’ll tell you the following story, and do the job so well that you’ll agree to believe it. But you’ve got to have your facts right! How many of us have been in that tight, tense, final chapter when the bad guy pulls out his revolver, checks the magazine for bullets, and takes the safety off?
Hopefully we were able to give something back, and hopefully Doctor D.P. Lyle, who administers CraftFest, will have Michael back again next year.
But no matter what, we’ll be there, signed up again, our notebooks open, pens in hand as we jot down other writers’ observations and discover more gems that will allow us to hone our skills even finer. After all, it’s our readers who reap the benefits.