Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference

Who would think that a local, independent bookstore would run what may be the best mystery writers conference in the country? But that’s exactly what I got this past weekend at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference held at the Book Passage location just north of San Francisco in Corte Madera.

Now you might be thinking that a small book store would have many unknown authors as their faculty. You’d be wrong. Here’s a partial list of presenters:
Hallie Ephron
Rachel Howzell Hall
Tim Maleeny
Cara Black
MWA Grand Master Laurie R. King

And as a bonus, the conference is small. There were about 60 attendees, which means you can get one-on-one time with these amazing writers. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, there were several agents and publishers in attendance taking pitches.

It started Thursday morning with a pre-con class “Managing Viewpoint in a Mystery Novel” taught by the amazing Hallie Ephron. At noon, the conference officially kicked-off with lunch and then a welcome session where we were introduced to the entire faculty followed by a panel on plotting.

It started Thursday morning with a pre-con class “Managing Viewpoint in a Mystery Novel” taught by the amazing Hallie Ephron. At noon, the conference officially kicked-off with lunch and then a welcome session where we were introduced to the entire faculty followed by a panel on plotting.

The next session was one of the best. The Wide World of Publishing featured a panel of publishers and agents and discussed the secrets of the book deal and publishing that I’ve never heard anywhere else.

Saturday started off with a choice of hands-on classes, Crafting the Character or Setting the Scene and Dialog. Tough choice between these two. We were then treated to a real crime investigation walk-through with current and former law enforcement, attorneys, and a judge. Super interesting, especially hearing how the prosecution and defense would see things differently. The afternoon was two double sessions, again difficult to choose which to go to as all of them sounded amazing.

The next session, The Agent and Editorial Process, similar to the one of publishing, laid it all out there, with things I’ve never heard, but are important to know.

Sunday featured more hands-on classes and a choice of classes. One that stood out here was The Doctors are In. One of the two doctors was Ellen Kirschmann, a psychologist who specializes in treating law enforcement. She gave great insight into PTSI and other mental health issues that affect cops. Definitely things that are often overlooked that can add great dimension to a book.

The day concluded with classes on an FBI case, again with current and former law enforcement, attorneys, and a judge. A class on continuing with what we knew, then a short celebration to end things.

Being that I had to buy airfare, rental car, hotel, some food, and the conference cost, this was not an inexpensive conference. But it may be the best mystery conference I’ve ever attended and totally worth the cost. I will do this again. I also can’t say enough about the people I met and the new writer friends that I now have…always one of the best things about a conference.

And as long as you’re there, add some time to go to Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate National Seashore, and Muir Woods National Monument.

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