Writers Helping Writers

Do you suffer through those writing moments where you need a high energy spark to get your word slinging back on track?

Like most writers, I’ve increased my caffeine intake to levels that make a howler monkey twitch.  I’ve tried music until my ears bleed and my legs get cramps when I even think of a self-punishing yoga pose.  Nothing works to sustain that creative flow for very long.  Writing is a solitary, lonely business and outside of the cloistered word monasteries we haunt, no one has a clue how to deal with our particular pathology.  Except for other writers.



image courtesy of Jess Mounifield

Wouldn’t it be great to mix with writers who have experienced the same things you have, overcome the identical obstacles and persevered, even flourished?

The 2013 Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference provided an opportunity to talk with people who speak the same language and share a mutual love of mystery, thriller and suspense.  This wasn’t the first time I attended the Book Passage conference and every time, I take away something I can apply directly to my work-in-progress.  There are two things which allow this gathering to work the  way it does.  The faculty includes best selling authors, literary agents and subject matter experts who leave their award winning status at home.  They are genuine, open and supportive of new authors and fledgling writers.


Cara Black, David Corbett & Tim Maleeny on Revision

No hint of competition, snobbery or jealousy here.  Everyone wants the other author to succeed.  Imagine a place where you could freely toss plot points out and get new ideas on where your story could go next.  Imagine a place where you can share a meal with well known authors, talking character development, refining your book pitch or find out how they manage to keep a series fresh and interesting to the reader.


Gillian Roberts & Hallie Ephron on Plotting

These experiences alone were worth attending and these were outside the classes and sessions in the conference curriculum.   With topics like Dexterity with Dialogue, Plotting a Stand Alone vs. a Series, and Sustaining Your Writing Stream, you can’t help but come away newly armed for another jump into the word abyss.

Writers supporting one another, urging each other on with a kind nudge when needed.   That is exactly what a writers conference should be, and this one left me recharged for the challenges ahead.  If you can carve some time out to attend this conference, or one like it, it would be well worth the investment.



  1. fantastic post! I write about the importance of a supportive writing community from time to time…. it really is vital. What better way to form that community than a genre-specific conference???

    1. That kind of support is more important than I first realized. Writers understand the weird little quirks we have and know when to give a love-tap with a wiffleball bat. The genre specific gathering was a great way to cut through all the fluff and get down to business. Thanks Victoria.

  2. Jim, it was a pleasure to meet you at Book Passage. It was my first time at the conference, and it meant a lot to me when you introduced yourself and welcomed me into the mystery writer community. Thanks. On the downside, Jamaica will never again be as relaxing as it was before I read Little River.

    1. The pleasure was mutual my friend. Interesting people writing interesting books – it doesn’t get much better. I don’t know about you, but my words don’t magically appear on the page and to hear the struggles Elizabeth George, Jacqueline Winspear, Cara Black and Martin Cruz Smith all experience, it makes me feel like I’m in the right place. Please let me know what happens with Buffalo Dick and the Literary Agent. How’s that for a new title?

  3. I will be attending my first writer’s conference next weekend (gulp). I’ll say a prayer to the writing gods that there is “No hint of competition, snobbery or jealousy here”. This fledgling writer will walk in being “genuine, open and supportive” and hopes she will be met with the same. Imagine it and they will come? Thanks for another great post James!

    1. I’m sure you’ll have a blast. It is kind of liberating when you get around people who are going through the same struggles and triumphs. I’ll be waiting to hear how much fun you had. Thanks for the kind comments on the post. J

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