I always enjoy attending writers’ conferences, and last weekend was a real treat. I spent three days in Nashville at Killer Nashville, a conference for mystery and suspense writers. This conference brought together some of the bestselling authors of mystery and suspense in the nation as well as those seeking publication.
The lineup of guest speakers had something for everyone who’s ever wanted to write mystery. The opening session’s guest speaker was Dr. Bill Bass, widely known as the world’s foremost expert in forensic anthropology. Dr. Bass who founded The Body Farm on the campus of the University of Tennessee also co-writes murder mysteries with a friend under the name of Jefferson Bass. He is used by law enforcement all over the country in helping solve murders. His entertaining session was highlighted by the bones of real victims he brought and explained how the bones give him clues to the method used to murder the individual.
A favorite exhibit at the conference was a mock murder scene staged by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in the hotel’s parking garage. Agents from the bureau laid out a crime scene from a real murder that happened in a Nashville parking garage. The scene contained all the evidence found when the victim was killed. Conference attendees were challenged to solve the crime by examining the evidence, and the winner was awarded a free registration for next year’s conference.
This year the conference hosted two guests of honor, both New York Times bestselling authors. Donald Bain has written 115 books and currently writes the USA Today bestselling series of 37 original novels based upon the television series, Murder, She Wrote “in collaboration" with TV's most famous mystery writer, Jessica Fletcher. Robert Dugoni writes thrillers, and his book Bodily Harm, was voted one of the top five thrillers of 2010 and critics are calling it his best book yet. His session Creating Thrilling Plots was one of the best I’ve ever attended.
All in all it was a wonderful weekend, and I came away having learned a lot. I was especially impressed by Donald Bain who made the comment in one of the sessions that he had just learned something from another presenter. Coming from an author who has written 115 books, that comment made me stop and think.
We should never quit learning. After all, that’s why we as writers attend conferences. We want to gain some knowledge that will enable us to improve our writing so we can create the best work possible.
Are you planning to attend a writers’ conference this year? What do you hope to learn while you’re there?