Well, it's been a long year and a half; planning, plotting, hair-pulling, cajoling, bribing, battering. But it's over. It's a tough job pulling together a writers conference. Pulling together a GOOD one is even harder. Patricia Smiley, president of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles, did the lion share of work on it, hands down. I picked up the little jobs here and there of whip-cracking and pulling some of the loose ends together. I get thrown in front of a microphone because, frankly, I have a loud voice and I like to do it.
The only panel I got to see, unfortunately, was my own--though it was a fun time.
But of what I heard, everyone seemed to enjoy the conference and got a LOT out of it, and that was our goal. We regret that the small breakout rooms were so crammed. One of the bits of fallout from selling out the conference with 200 attendees (and we think that's a good maximum number--sold out for the first time!) was that we didn't anticipate the cramped space. Oops. But even despite that, the majority said that it didn't matter. The information was so chock full.
I suppose attendees little wonder how it all comes together. It takes a great deal of planning and a lot of individuals doing their jobs to bring it all together. But then there's just plain old elbow grease. The book bags, for one. Someone had to load them, and that someoe turned out to be us! Then someone had to bring them to the conference. Because I have a monster SUV, I volunteered to do that, thinking there would still be room to haul the MWA merchandise we were also bringing, as well as my luggage, a small carry-on bag. Well, after loading in 200 bags, it was quite impossible to put in much else. They were loaded to the roof, even after folding down two rows of back seats! We closed the side doors and then loaded them in through the windows so I had to alert the bell boys at the hotel NOT to open the doors. So this resulted in begging my husband to go to the conference when he certainly had no intention of going. I needed him and his car!
The passenger seat.
We arrived at the hotel Friday afternoon, got the bags unloaded after many trips with bell boys (bell men?) helping us cart them from car to Pasadena Room on luggage carts, over and over. And then I checked in. Hubby wouldn't be arriving until he got off work--with more book bags and merchandise.
Then it was time to meet with our keynotes, Sue Grafton, her husband, and other keynote Elizabeth George, and take them to dinner to local restaurant, Central Park. We were joined by some of the board members and key players from the Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and the board of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.
Saturday morning, bright and early at 7 am, our team met and got things rolling. There were signs to put out in front of the break-out rooms, the registration desk to set up with name tags and lunch tickets, volunteers to organize with their packets for each room, audio/visual equipment to secure and set-up, book bags to move for the last and final time, and countless other details to worry about. Because of that, I didn't get to any panels. I wanted to be available and reachable, so I pretty much stayed with the registration desk (bothering our registration coordinator Holly West--who is a hoot!), except when I occasionally wandered about, checking rooms for items left behind, welcoming our local Pasadena bookseller, Vroman's (the place I have my book launches), and setting up the MWA merch table.
But one of our track chairs Tyler Dilts did catch a picture of me on my 9 am Saturday morning panel. Remarkably, he didn't catch me in the midst of talking, but drinking water instead (yup, sadly, it's just water).
Author moderator Tammy Kaehler (far left) was fabulous. Did an awesome job. We had a great time (as did the audience, I think, if the laughter was any indication). Author Daryl Wood Gerber and Shaun Morey and me, talked about revision techniques.
And then it was the first luncheon, with keynote Sue Grafton.
Sue gave her keynote, offering her own journey to becoming an author. Yes, she was rejected, and yes, A is for Alibi was NOT her first book. Just the first quite successful one. But she honed her craft, certainly paid her dues, and took off. She is a very generous person with her time and offered great advice.
As evening fell, it was time for our Agent and Editor Cocktail party, where attendees could schmooze and pitch their work (They also had opportunities throughout the conference for a [paid] critique of their work with agents, editors, and authors.)
It was also time to raffle off some of our donated baskets and hold our live auction. Some of the proceeds would go to WriteGirl.org.
SinC merchandiser extraordinare Diane Vallere (left) was the voice of the basket raffle, but Kathy Kingston (right) was the organizer extraordinaire of the baskets, getting those wrapped that came in unadorned, and just putting it all together. She also organized and flogged the bushes for the live auction items, one of which was an offer by Sue Grafton to critique your manuscript. That bid went for $2,000!
And then fellow Sisters in Crime member Evelyn Moore caught up to me. She started a new business making crime jewelry called Accessories to Murder . I helped her with her logo and in return, she made me a custom designed charm bracelet and pendant. How cool is that! Her website isn't up and running yet, but I think she will be very successful. Come to our next SinC-LA meeting (July 14 at the South Pasadena Library) and she'll show you what she's got.
Three working gals: Left, Patricia Smiley, author and SinC-LA prez; (centered) Diane Vallere, author and merchandise coordinator for SinC-LA; and moi, vp of Sinc-La and prez of the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America.
By Sunday morning, hubby really did have to leave to attend his morning beer tasting class (yeah, some people have it tough) but the rest of us were already on the go. Panels and presenters soldiered on and before we knew it, it was time for the Sunday luncheon with keynote Elizabeth George, author of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries, which were made into a BBC series.
Our fellow "mister in crime" board member and SinC-LA newsletter editor, Travis Richardson, introduced her.
And then Elizabeth spoke to a wrapt audience, about process, and about perseverance.
A charming, generous lady (and fellow rabid Anglophile).
Panels continued till 4:45 pm and then it was over. Nothing left but to pack up our dolls and dishes and go home. And then crawl into a tall vodka tonic. It's over until 2015. But that's for another board to put together.
A huge thanks to the keynotes for their time and talent, to all the folks who organized the conference from SinC-LA and SoCalMWA, and to the Hilton staff. They helped a lot.