Conference Insider: Left Coast Crime Convention

Six hundred mystery writers gather each spring to talk about craft – and murder.

 

Lefty Awards Banquet at the Left Coast Crime Convention
Lefty Awards Banquet table hosted by James W. Ziskin and Timothy Hallinan at the Left Coast Crime Convention. Photo by Darrell Hoemann

When participants arrive at Left Coast Crime Convention each year, they receive the standard-issue name tag and schedule. They also receive a bag of books.

Those free books have always been a big draw for 2019 conference co-chairs Linda McNab and Colleen Glynn. Mystery publishers donate copies and authors attending the convention happily sign their novels and talk about the writing and publishing process.

Six hundred people from around the world attend Left Coast Crime Convention each spring, from as far away as Iceland. Glynn likens the three-day event to a big reunion; many writers and devoted fans of mystery fiction go year after year, regardless of location, for the pleasure of mingling with like-minded participants and learning from well-known authors.

What you’ll learn

Participants can choose from panels on a range of topics, which will be available on the convention’s website in February 2019. The 2018 conference included panels on romantic elements in crime fiction, paranormal suspense techniques, how to craft a culinary mystery, and how to write a political thriller. Other panelists looked at how much writers should research their subject matter, how much violence is too much in a manuscript, and how to write a humorous mystery novel.

One panel included law enforcement professionals answering writers’ questions. Another included writers who focus on medicine and science in their novels. For those who don’t want to describe murder on the page, panels include discussions of cozy mysteries, which are gentler stories without overt bloodshed.

There’s always a Liars Panel, which is when “four or five authors tell brief stories, and participants have to decide whether they’re telling the truth or lying, for a prize,” Glynn explains.

“And you can talk to authors and find out how they got published, whether or not they used an agent, and more about the nuts and bolts of publishing,” she says.

Featured presenters

In 2019, the featured presenters include best-selling mystery novelists C.J. Box, who writes the Wyoming-based Joe Pickett series, and Maureen Jennings, who writes the World War II-era Tom Tyler series.

Canadian crime writer Cathy Ace will serve as Toastmaster, leading the festivities which include an awards banquet and a new author’s breakfast, during which those who’ve just had a book published get one minute to stand up in front of hundreds of people and describe it. They bring copies for purchase and signing and answer questions about how they transitioned from first draft to professional mystery novelist.

Once, McNab and Glynn spotted a man and his mother signing books. “We didn’t know who they were,” McNab says. It turns out they were Charles Todd – the pen name for Charles and Caroline Todd, bestselling authors who write World War I mysteries together. McNab and Glynn were able to talk with the mother-son team and learn how they work together.

Participants who sign up to volunteer at the convention get to choose what table they’ll sit at for dinner – important, as each well-known author in attendance hosts a table. McNab enjoyed a meal with Marcia Muller, one of the pioneers of women’s crime writing, and with psychologist/bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman. “You get an inside view of what’s going on with professional writers,” McNab says. “They can talk to you about agents and marketing.”

Those interested in volunteering can see individual needs and opportunities on the official website and can contact the volunteer coordinator from there.

Advice for first-time attendees

Participants new to Left Coast Crime Convention should leave plenty of room in their luggage for their free bag of books. McNab suggests that they take advantage of the hospitality room at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver each day. “This is where you can sit down and actually have a cup of coffee or tea and chat with an author like Maureen Jennings or criminal lawyer and novelist William Deverell.”

New participants can meet each other at a welcome reception on the first night, and mingle during movie night. They can also attend the live auction at Saturday night’s award banquet.

During the auction, people bid on signed books and on travel opportunities. English crime writer Ann Cleeves offered the highest bidder an opportunity to meet the actress who plays her protagonist, Vera Stanhope, on a television set in England. Other authors offer to name a character after the highest bidder in their next novels.

“Just hope you’re not the murder victim,” McNab jokes.

Glynn says the convention is about learning how authors approach their topics and craft their novels. But it’s also about networking and bonding over a shared love of mysteries, she adds.

“It’s an opportunity for readers and writers to get together and have a lot of fun.”

 

Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of the middle-grade novel Avenging the Owl (Sky Pony, 2016) and Better with Books: 500 Diverse Novels to Open Minds, Ignite Empathy, and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Teens (Sasquatch, 2019). Web: melissahart.com.

 

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