Sleuthfest 2015

February 28, 2015

I just spent three days hanging with mystery writers at Sleuthfest. This is always one of my favorite conferences. This year they returned home to Deerfield Beach at the Doubletree Hotel. There were 340 people registered so its a small, intimate conference.

There are three tracks, which sometimes means making tough choices. But at least here if I can’t get to a favorite author’s panel (I’m talking about you, Charles Todd & Paul Levine!) I know I will see them sooner or later and I did.

There were some really great, hands-on writing panels, really more like workshops. Michael Sears taught about the importance of opening lines & everyone got to write a bit then critique each other’s work. Deborah Sharp gave out pointers on dialogue and Victoria Landis explained how to use settings as character.

I loved Hank Phillippi Ryan’s presentation on Writer’s Block. She was warm & wonderful as always, and even gave out her cards with instructions to contact her for more help as needed.

Some of the most popular panels were the Editors Round Table, where editors from Putnam, Henry Holt & St. Martins discussed what they are buying, including the advice to ignore trends, they’ll have changed by the time your book is done, and the Agents Round Table where they discussed what they are buying and query letters that get read and ones that don’t (emoticons & exclamation points are a sure road to the delete button.)

James W. Hall was the keynote speaker on Friday, and he discussed his top writing tips. I sat with Caroline & Charles Todd, Bob Williamson & a new writer, Tom Turner. James Patterson was supposed to be the keynote on Saturday and security was tight. They were waiting for a proud papa; his son is the reader on his latest kids book. Patterson was a no show, and James W. Hall was the last minute stand-in.

Nancy J. Cohen was the authority on a presentation called Beyond the Book. She explained the importance of websites, blogs & social media, how to tie them together, and how to use them to the best advantage with s multi-page informative handout.

I was on a panel called Love in the Libary along with Pat Lane, another librarian with the Palm Beach County Library and was moderated by Chris Jackson. It was a lot of fun.

Heather Graham & the Slush Pile Band performed at a raucous, spectacular party, and there was a murder mystery going on with a Kindle Fire going to one lucky attendee (wasn’t me!)

Paul Levine & Randy Rawls faced off over self publishing versus traditional, moderated by the great Neil Nyren, Putnam editor extraordinaire. Michael Barson weighed in on the inside scoop on book publicity and there was a panel on the steps to take to publish your e-book.

Dave Barry is the keynote tomorrow at the closing brunch and he is worth the price of admission alone. Everyone I saw was having a good time and more than once I heard “best Sleuthfest ever!” Congrats to co-chairs Victoria Landis & Joanne Sinchuk for pulling off a terrific event.