There are certain times in a writer’s life when everything changes. You may not see it at the time, but when you look back, you realize that was the moment that changed you, your writing, and your writing career forever. For me, this happened when I moved to New England, joined the local Mystery Writers of America chapter, and then-president Al Blanchard asked me to serve on the 2004 New England Crime Bake Committee. Back then I was just an editor who dreamed of writing mysteries but couldn’t manage to finish a novel. Seventeen years later, I’m a literary agent with Talcott Notch Literary representing many wonderful crime writers and the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Mercy Carr mystery series.

Here’s how the New England Crime Bake changed my life—and could change yours as well!

The Monday Murder Club

Thanks to Crime Bake, I joined a crime writers group  with fellow writers, including Skye Alexander, Susan Oleksiw, Vaughn Hardacker, and Margaret McClean.

Eventually the group became the Monday Murder Club. Not only did we read each other’s work and critique it, we even wrote a book together, called, unsurprisingly enough, A Miscellany of Murder (Adams Media / Simon and Schuster, 2011), by Stephen D. Rogers, Andrew S. McAleer, Jim Shannon, Maureen Walsh, and me. Being part of this group was a vital part of my growth as a mystery writer.

BFFs on Steroids: Hank and Hallie

Maybe the sweetest part of conferences like Crime Bake are the people you meet and the friends you make. Not that I ever dreamed that I would ever call luminaries like Hallie Ephron and Hank Phillippi Ryan my actual friends. But I do—and their love and support and advice has made all the difference along. It was Hallie who told me, “Your problem is that you never finish anything.” Right she was—and so I finished. And it was Hank who coached me through my first book events. And I got through them, in-person and on Zoom.

The Julia Spencer-Fleming Effect

By the time I met New York Times bestselling author Julia Spencer-Fleming at Crime Bake, I was already a die-hard Julia fan. Her Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries were among my very favorites; they were the kind of crime stories I longed to write. Her generosity, encouragement, and enthusiasm remained with me long after the conference, and gave me the courage I needed to try my hand at a his-and-her mystery myself.

Murder Takes a Village

At Crime Bake I got to hang out with all the people who come together to help make a Career Author: editors like Terri Bischoff and Matt Martz and Linda Landrigan, agents like Michelle Richter and Meg Ruley and Gina Panettieri, reviewers like Dru Ann Love and Kristopher Zgorski, MWA’s Margery Flax and all of the Guests of Honor, most especially Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, and Lisa Gardner—all of whom were kind enough to blurb my books.

writing to the market

All Work and No Play Make a Dull Writer

Only at Crime Bake would I have had the chance to line dance with Edith Maxwell, do yoga with Michele Dorsey, dress up like Chicago’s machine-gun-toting flappers with Margaret McClean, and sing back-up with Hank and Roberta Isleib aka Lucy Burdette and Amy Collins. Who says murder can’t be fun?

The Price You Pay It Forward

The crime-writing community is one of the most supportive writing communities in publishing. The New England Crime Bake is proof of that. Ultimately it’s all about people and stories and the people who tell the stories.

Join us—or another group of like-minded writers—and find out for yourself. You’ll be glad you did!

PS: It’s Not Too Late

You can still make it! The in-person, fully vaccinated and masked New England Crime Bake 2021 runs this Friday through Sunday, November 12-14, with the fab Guest of Honor, Career Authors’ own Hank Phillippi Ryan. If you can’t make the in-person venue, you can always sign up for next week’s Online Crime Bake, which boasts its own special events, including craft sessions by the likes of Hallie Ephron, Frankie Bailey, Bruce Coffin, Hank, and moi, not to mention exclusive content with S. A. Cosby and David Heska Wanbli Weiden and Megan Collins.

See you there!