Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A tale of two conferences



Laura Hayden of Author Author, center
 Bookends. That’s how it worked out. Killer Nashville ran from Aug 24 to 26 and Dragon*Con was from Aug 30 to Sept 3. During my three days of down time I barely had time to empty the suitcase and reload it.

Not sure I’ll book back-to-back events again, but when the dates to things you want to attend are preset, sometimes you don’t have any choice. Killer Nashville is my favorite mystery conference and I don’t want to miss that. I have two science fiction books written so I needed to attend a conference in that genre. Dragon*Con is held in Atlanta, which is a five-hour drive, so it all seemed feasible.

Since the conferences were so different, I’ll talk about each one separately.
 
KILLER NASHVILLE


Beth Terrell, me, Robbie from B&N
What fun to hang out with Clay Stafford and Beth “Jaden” Terrell again! I met this conference producer and director duo at my first KN and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Beth was her Energizer Bunny self, keeping the train moving without ever losing her cool. Despite Clay’s recent accidents, he was on hand to welcome folks and that was much appreciated.

 The first night was a hoot with Mystery Bingo, created by Greg and Mary Bruss. They created clever cards with mysterious categories. In the “I” category were means of death. You wouldn’t believe how many times “gas” came up as the answer. After a dozen rounds of bingo and no gas at all on my card, I traded that loser in for one with gas on it, and three games later, came up a winner. The prizes were free mysteries from the Bruss’ store Mysteries and More. I selected Murder of a Sleeping Beauty by Denise Swanson, which I read in one night. (good book!)
 

me with Dr. Bill Bass
Friday, I helped with Registration, from 7:30 a.m. until nearly noon. I took a brief time-out to hear part of Dr. Bill Bass’ talk about forsenics at a fireworks factory explosion. While the slides were gruesome, the reality is that people aren’t whole after an explosion, and it takes a big effort to reassemble them. (What a job, right?) One interesting aside is that he said that shaved legs are common for women, so if they find a shaved leg, they automatically place it into a female pile of limbs.

My husband and I had lunch with Robert Spiller of Colorado and my agent, Holly McClure of Sullivan Maxx at the nearby brew pub. The food was great, the conversation even better.
 
I participated in the E-revolution panel on Friday. Peter Green, the moderator, did a good job of keeping the discussion on track, and I felt like I got my message across. E-publishing isn’t for wimps. It’s hard work, though the payoffs can be wonderful.

The crime scene dummy and an intrepid author
I shopped at the Barnes and Noble bookstore onsite as well as at the Mysteries and More site where I purchased crime scene bandaids. I can’t wait to use them! The Crime Scene was great, and though I thought the wife did it, I didn't have the patience to prove it.

For dinner, my husband and I met up with my editor Deni Dietz of Five Star and we drove to The Speckled Elephant for Thai food. Deni’s dish of Phad Thai (spelling?) was the best, we all agreed.

me with Jennie Bentley
 I caught up with old friends and made new ones including Ernie Lancaster, Glen Allison, and Stacy Allen. NYT bestseller Jennie Bentley was all smiles during the conference. And we had a great time catching up on news. Alana White, fellow Five Star author, and her husband sat at the banquet table with us on Saturday night, along with Outer Banks writer Joseph Terrell and Veronica. The food and the music at KN were outta sight.

During the conference, I met up with three unpublished writers for critique purposes. We talked about their works, and I hope my remarks will continue to move them along the road to publication. I also staffed the MWA booth with Stacy Allen and SEMWA president Rick Helms.

Maggie, Jay, Marsha, Addie, Terri Lynn
 On Sunday, I had the honor of moderating a panel on Murder and Mayhem which was staffed by four lawyers telling true tales from the courtroom. Jay Drescher, Terri Lynn Cooper, Marsha Lyons, and Addie King – you folks rock.
 
DRAGON*CON

Doris and Steve Covey
 My posse of Stephen Covey (the live one, as he likes to say), Doris Covey, and Jean Osborn arrived in Atlanta a little after one on Thursday. We checked into our hotel, hopped on MARTA, and picked up our badges at the conference site. Downtown looked busy to a smalltown gal like me, but I  had NO IDEA of the crowds to come, about 30,000 strong.

Jean with the Ghostbuster mobile
 Jean had signed up for a special program which ran from 10 to 4 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so I didn’t hang with her much during the con, though she was the best roommate ever.

 I elected to attend the Writers Workshop track at Dragon*Con, which is chaired by Nancy Knight. She kindly offerred to place me on a panel of my choosing, so I selected “Creating Memorable Characters” on Sunday morning. We sat through a couple of excellent panels and then decided to stretch our legs.

costumed participant
My first thought was “where’d all these people come from?” The hallways were thronged with people between sessions from each of the 62 tracks spread over 4 downtown hotels. Skywalks and connectors were crammed with people and you couldn’t move without the whole group stepping forward. For a claustrophobic person, this was extremely challenging.

 Steve and I toured the marketplaces associated with the conference and the art show. Lots of weapons, costumes, comics, bustiers, books, space toys, masks, hoodwinks, fantasy toys, and more. I couldn’t take it all in. There was an excess of everything.

costumed folks took to the streets during the parade
Did I mention a lot of folks were in costume? You could be walking down the hall next to Princess Leia, a steampunk character, a comicbook character, and so much more. Words fail me even now. It’s as if a firehose of people were sprayed over my mind. Lots of rich color and texture.

 I resolved to only come out of the Writers Track for food, bathroom breaks, and to return to our hotel six metro stops to the north. I met some folks, even some who knew me, which is always a pleasant surprise. Mary Marvella, who I’ve run across online for years, saw my name on my badge and stood up and hugged me like a long-lost relative. We had a two-hour lunch where we talked about everything under the sun. Ran into Laura Hayden at DragonCon as well - what fun! She was dressed as Dr. Who.

periodic table elements in the parade
 My panel on Sunday went well, though I was one of half a dozen authors with such serious scifi credentials that I should have been too humbled to speak. But memorable characters are something I know a lot about, from personal experience and writing, so I said my piece. During Q&A, questions were directed at me, so I felt my presence had made an impact. Afterwards, I sat down with a rheumatologist and talked writing for nearly a half hour. What fun.

parade float
 All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel. Monday was a travel day, but Steve and Jean wanted to hit a few more sessions. Doris and I went to Lennox Center, shopped at Macy’s, and had lunch at Panera. The car ride home that afternoon was accented by thunderstorms, a bad accident on I-75 between Atlanta and Macon, and catnaps.

all tuckered out on Marta
 Again. Either experience would have exhausted me. But doing two so close together has me still reeling a bit. I hope you’ve enjoyed the pics. Remember to follow your dreams. And don’t forget to spend time with your friends. These are important!!!

 Maggie Toussaint
www.maggietoussaint.com

46 comments:

  1. Maggie, I always enjoy hearing about your conferences and your pictures were a real treat. Killer Nashville sounds like it was right up your alley. Dragon Con reminded me of the Comic Con conference they have in San Diego. I'd love to go, and San Diego is 3 hours away, but the boys aren't quite ready for me to leave.

    It shoulds like you took good advantage of your networking opporturnites and I'm glad you were asked questions when you were on your panel. What kind of questions do you get if you don't mind sharing?

    Smiles
    Steph

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Steph, Most of the authors on the panel were pantsers, that is, they used an organic process of forming a character. Since I'm more of a plotter, I use enneagrams to help me start with a framework of a character. Someone asked what I did if the characters didn't play nice. I explained a bit more about my plotting process, which allows for side trips and deviations as long as we get to the plot point.

      Thanks for asking! Maggie

      Delete
  2. "I see dead people." You definitely live a more exciting life than I do. I think next year you should dress like that costumed woman who looked like she was a Nazi on patrol. I can just see you in that hat.
    It's wonderful you have such a big network and conferences to attend. Do it all, do everything! You won't regret it.
    I enjoyed the photos, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Celia, I don't know if I have the stamina to do everything, but I'm always up for trying new things in the realm of promotion and marketing. And yeah, if I attend DragonCon again I will have a cool costume and a science fiction book for sale. Maggie

      Delete
  3. Maggie, it really looks like you had a fantastic and exhausting time. I bet you brought back a lot of ideas for your future books. And you networked well. All of that is very productive. I call it working in a good atmosphere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mona,

      I hadn't thought of networking as work, but that's what it is. For the most part, it was more relaxing than my day job used to be. And I enjoy talking with people who are writers. I hope to remember those experiences to use a book fodder.

      Maggie

      Delete
  4. Great post. Thanks so much for giving those of us who did not attend a flavor of both the conferences. I'm determined to do Killer Nashville next year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lesley,

      oh, I hope you do attend Killer Nashville next year. It would be so fun to meet you and hang out together. The thing that initially attracted me to KN was the strong forensic track, and that's still one of my favorites. Nothing beats quality information. And great friends! Thanks for the visit. Maggie

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Hi Jacqueline, I'm happy to report that a good time was had by me and I daresay all of the attendees. Killer Nashville is developing quite an excellent reputation, and I'm happy to have been even a minor part of it. All the best to you! Maggie

      Delete
  6. Maggie

    How did we not see each other at Killer Nashville? I was on the agenda twice, on Friday evening and Saturday morning. It was a nice conference, and I may do it again next year. Hope to see you and other Sisters there!

    Hope Clark
    Lowcountry Bribe,
    Bell Bridge Books, Feb 2012
    www.chopeclark.com
    www.fundsforwriters.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope, I think we crossed in the night or something. This is the first conference I had a lot of "other duties as assigned," not that I'm complaining or anything. Congratulations on winning the Silver Falchion Award. That's something I aspire to. Maybe next year!

      Thanks for stopping by. Maggie

      Delete
  7. What fun! I've never been to a writer's conference and never really felt tempted to do so, but you've changed my mind. Love the costumes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenny, DC isn't typical of most writer get-togethers. DC isn't considered a writers conference, but a SF/F convention with a writers track (representing only a very small portion of the programming.) There's a very big difference between a conference and a convention. A conference is more business-oriented (instructional workshops, networking, etc) and conventions are for fans (celebrities, autographs, panel discussions, etc).

      Delete
    2. Hi Jenny,

      Yes, this was lots of fun. The crazy thing was to do two of these back to back like this. As for the costumes, even though I knew about them, I was unprepared for the net effect of so many costumed people. Totally amazing.

      Thanks for your comment. Maggie

      Delete
  8. Wasn't it great? 30,000 people, about half or more dressed in their SF/F finery. I had a blast and looks like you did too. It was my first Dragon*Con, but not my first con, so I need basically what to expect...a regular con on a mega-dose of steriods. Good to see you! (again!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Laura,

      After hearing aboutyou and seeing your name online for years now, it was fun to meet you in person. Gosh, was it only 30,000 people? It seemed like more - as if I could tell the difference. Anything over 500 people is a huge conference for me.

      I get overwhelmed by RWA National and its only 2000 people. That's the trouble with being a smalltown gal. Move us out into the flowing waters and we get sucked along in the current or find a way back to the shallows to wait it out.

      It was nice to meet your pal Parker Blue. I'm sure I read her book earlier this year. Maybe it was in my bag from Malice?

      I'm so glad to have met you in person, Laura. Hope to see more of you! Maggie

      Delete
  9. Maggie, those conferences sounded amazing. As a mystery writer, myself, I have several detective and forensic books that I use. I wish I had the time to go to a police department and go out with them like Castle!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Ilona, I'm a how-to-write book junkie as well. I've filled up nearly two shelves now, but I think I've got the hang of the most basic stuff. But ya just never know. Someone might say something differently in a craft book that opens your eyes to a new truth.

    Many police agencies are more open than you might think to having ride-alongs. I've done it and toured the jail, both of which were valuable experiences. You don't have to do a whole shift; it could even be a couple of hours. Think about approaching your local PD. It might make a big difference in how you write cops. I know it did for me.

    Wishing you all the best! Maggie

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for sharing. The conferences look great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Merrillee,
      Thanks for dropping in to see the conference madness I've come down with. Hopefully, I'll have some immunity for a couple of months before I get the fever again!
      Maggie

      Delete
  12. What fun, Maggie. Great photos and blog post. You must be exhausted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Polly,

      I did have to have two days of slow motion after DragonCon. Only so much commotion a body should be expected to put up with, right? And yet, I have a very satisfied feeling now, as if I've conquered Kilmanjaro or something equally impressive.

      Now that the hopptedoodle is over, I have to drop back into my hermit writer mode and get some pages cranked out.

      Thanks for the visit. I know you're busy busy busy.

      Maggie

      Delete
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