I’ve just had the good fortune to go to two conferences in a two-week period, and get to see clients at both of them. This in itself makes me inordinately happy. It’s not at all unusual for an agent and his/her client to never meet in person. So to get to see, and share meals with, four clients was a real treat. And I got to spend time with Laurie and Gordon too. Agency bonding is the best—especially when we live on opposite ends of North America.

First, I went to Thrillerfest‘s PitchFest in NYC, and then to Pacific Northwest Writers Association‘s annual conference in Seattle. Not only did I get to see clients, I also got to network with and learn from other industry professionals (agents, editors, voice-over actors, and more), and listen to great pitches from new writers. I greet old friends, make connections, and learn something at every conference. And yes, there are often famous authors you can’t help but gawk at (though pretend not to). Especially at Thrillerfest—is that Nelson DeMille?! Joe Finder?! Lee Child?! Yep!

Here’s (l. to r.) Kellye Garrett (who joined us for dinner and drinks), Carl Vonderau, me, and Ed Aymar:

I also wanted to share my clients’ impressions with you all. First, I’m extending a formal welcome to Carl Vonderau, a terrific thriller writer I’m delighted to have on Team Richter.

Carl’s thoughts on Thrillerfest:
I loved rubbing shoulders with so many writers and exchanging ideas about our work. Some very famous people, like Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Walter Mosley, Heather Graham and Lisa Gardner participated. We had a beer or glass of wine with them at the social events and—surprise!—they’re just normal people, like us. Except that we all share a worrisome fascination with psychopaths. Then there were all the agents and editors. It was a fabulous chance to pitch a premise and get real feedback, and maybe to make the connection that will launch a book. I was particularly inspired at a special breakfast for more than twenty debut authors. I think every unpublished writer in the audience was imagining him or herself on that stage next year.

The session content was fascinatingly diverse, including a visit for a day to the FBI, and a Master Class where well-published authors reviewed our work. Panels offered tips on craft, as well as background on the technical aspects of law enforcement. Everyone wanted to assist. Like the FBI agent who helped me solve an arrest problem for one of my characters. By the end of the week, I’d scribbled thirty pages of notes and contacts.

Finally, it was lovely to have dinner with Michelle and two of her other writers, Ed Aymar and Kellye Garrett. We live in different cities, are different ages, and write about our own distinct milieus, but we can still help each other. As for Michelle, she knows how and where to pitch my book. I came away very confident in her and the team at Fuse Literary.

Speaking of Ed (E.A.) Aymar, he asks:
The real question about ThrillerFest, or any conference: Is it worth the money?

You’re going to spend a lot of cash to attend ThrillerFest. Depending on the activities you choose, where you stay, and what you eat, the NYC-based conference can easily cost anywhere between $1,500 and $2,000. All this for two days of panels featuring new writers and established pros, a banquet honoring that year’s recipients of the Thriller Awards, and a breakfast featuring that year’s class of debut authors.

I didn’t know if it’d be worth the money, but I went ahead and attended my first ThrillerFest four years ago. This was in my pre-Fuse days, and I didn’t know anyone in the industry. No one. The International Thriller Writers made me feel welcome, and included, and I made some of my closest friends in writing and publishing at that conference. I saw Lee Child and RL Stine and Anne Rice just standing there. Like real people!

And then there are the panels. They cover every topic you can imagine in thriller writing, from research methods to getting the details right to exactly how much violence and sex should you include in your book. I had the fortune to appear on a panel dedicated to regionalism, and how to best incorporate it into your work. Does that sound boring? You bet it does. But was the room filled with aspiring and practicing writers who were genuinely curious, and had relevant, insightful questions? Absolutely. It’s that kind of gig, and those are my kind of people.

So, is it worth it?

I’d say yes, for the connections alone. I formed such a bond with ITW after my first ThrillerFest that I volunteered to work for the organization. I managed social media for the debuts and, a year later, they asked if I’d consider taking over and revamping The Thrill Begins, a daunting but exciting opportunity that I accepted. The organization is dedicated, in part, to helping hopeful novices and bewildered debuts, two stations in writing with which I was intimately familiar. And I’ve gone back every year since to meet up with old friends and make new ones.

This past weekend I saw so many masters of the craft, and I genuinely learned something from every panel I attended. I laughed at the bar with my friends. I stayed up too late and woke up early to make the most of each day.

You guys, I had dinner with my agent and her other clients in New York City. That’s a sentence I just typed, and not one every writer gets to.

But really, is it worth it?

Every penny.

Thanks for reading! Will I meet you at a conference? I sure hope so.