Wednesday, April 25, 2007

For those of you considering the Mystery Writers Conference...

by Mark Haskell Smith

As you might already know, the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference is coming to Corte Madera June 28-July 1st. The conference is unique in the world of writer conferences in that students and faculty mix and mingle freely in an easygoing, entertaining, and collegial environment. This kind of open intercourse between consenting adults is, at least for me, half the fun of being there. Not that I'm implying that there's any kind of extra-curricular hanky-panky going on. It you're looking for that kind of writers conference, I believe there's a "clothing optional" thriller writers weekend in Maui sometime in August.

I teach novel writing at the UCLA Extension Writers Program here in Los Angeles. I get a mishmash of students, some are writing historical dramas, others are writing sci/fi, a surprisingly large number of them are writing autobiographies disguised as literary fiction, and one was writing a kind of ersatz 1920's Hollywood gay supernatural horror dramedy. Occasionally I have a student who's writing a mystery or thriller and I always recommend they go to the Book Passage conference. The contact with successful mystery writers can be inspiring, the classes offer real insight into the writing process from professionals, and meeting fellow students, other aspiring mystery writers, can be even more valuable.

Last year one of my UCLA students attended the conference and I asked him what he'd learned. He replied, "Mystery writers sure drink a lot."

This is exactly the kind of insight that you won't find at any other conference.

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