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The 2015 Maine Crime Wave: A Recap

Kate Flora, Ann Collette, Barbara Kelly, Barbara Ross and Chris Holm

Kate Flora, Ann Collette, Barbara Kelly, Barbara Ross and Chris Holm

April 11 was the first warm, sunny Saturday Maine’s had in a good six months, so it may surprise you to learn I voluntarily spent the entire day indoors. What on Earth could persuade me to do such a thing? The second annual Maine Crime Wave, of course.

The inaugural event was pretty stellar, but the organizers really upped their game for year two. In Maine Crime Wave, the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance has crafted an event that combines the energy and spirit of a small mystery conference (say, Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee) with the kind of programming you might find at a high-end writer’s retreat.

Gerry Boyle, Gayle Lynds, Paul Doiron and Lea Wait

Gerry Boyle, Gayle Lynds, Paul Doiron and Lea Wait

This year’s schedule was action-packed, entertaining, and informative. A research-oriented panel moderated by Gerry Boyle and featuring Paul Doiron, Gayle Lynds, and Lea Wait covered everything from the difficulties of fictionalizing real historical figures, to the dos and don’ts of interviews, to the importance of realizing it’s okay to make shit up. A panel about creating and sustaining a series, starring Kathy Lynn Emerson, Sarah Graves, and Al Lamanda and moderated by Brenda Buchanan, discussed (among other things) the freedoms and limitations that come with writing a series and the different approaches writers take in writing new installments. Barbara Ross, Chris Holm, agent Ann Collette, and bookseller Barbara Kelly sat on a business-of-writing panel and chatted with moderator Kate Flora about querying, marketing, social media, the agent-author relationship, and the author-bookseller relationship. Barbara Ross taught a killer workshop regarding her phased approach to manuscript revisions. Chris Holm stocked attendees’ toolboxes with tips and tricks to play fair with their mysteries while ratcheting up suspense. And though I wasn’t able to attend either Kathy Lynn Emerson’s workshop on traditional mysteries or Jim Hayman’s talk on character work (sadly, I’ve yet to figure out how to be in two places at once), I hear they both did bang-up jobs.

There were book signings. Agents and editors were available for manuscript critiques. Kelly’s Books to Go had a dazzling array of books for sale. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Two Minutes in the Slammer, the event that kicked off the festivities. On Friday night, an eclectic group of twelve incredibly brave and talented writers stood up in front of a warm and enthusiastic crowd and participated in an open reading hosted by the MWPA and Portland Public Library. Attendees were treated to everything from true crime poetry about a murdered grandmother to short stories by playwrights, former homicide detectives, and retired economists. It was truly a night to remember, and I hope it’s reprised next year.

Brenda Buchanan,  Kathy Lynn Emerson,  Sarah Graves and Al Lamanda

Brenda Buchanan, Kathy Lynn Emerson, Sarah Graves and Al Lamanda

If you ask me, the 2015 Maine Crime Wave was an unmitigated success. If you’re a crime writer (aspiring, fledgling, or established), and live within driving distance of Portland (or have the means to hop a train or a plane and make a weekend of it), I highly recommend you make plans to attend in 2016. I know I’ll be there, front and center.