Bloody Words: End of an Era

tombstoneRecently I had the good fortune to attend Bloody Words 2014, a convention for mystery readers and authors (aspiring, emerging and established). This wasn’t my first Bloody Words—I also attended the 2012 edition—but it will be my last. Not because I didn’t enjoy every minute of the experience, but because, sadly, it’s the last Bloody Words. Or at least that’s the status as of today.

Founded in 1999, the tireless Toronto organizers, most involved since the beginning, had reached a point where the work involved in putting on a successful event had become all consuming. Efforts to get another city to host fell through. The difficult decision was made to make 2014 the final year for Bloody Words.

If you weren’t one of lucky attendees at this year’s participants, here’s what you missed:

  • Authors: An opportunity to meet, greet and get to know a little more about Canadian Guest of Honour Vicki Delany, International Guest of Honour Michael Jecks, Master of Ceremonies, Melodie Campbell, and many other talented Canadian authors. There was even a mass autograph session, where authors would happily sign their books.
  • Informative Panels: Three panels to choose from every hour, Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. Experts and authors discussed everything from indie publishing to writing humor to reality in crime scene investigations. The hardest part was trying to choose which panel to attend!
  • Meet & Greet: Yes, it included paying $10 for miniscule glass of unspectacular wine or $8 for a bottle of domestic beer, but sharing stories with like-minded folks was worth the price of admission. And technically, you could have bought a bottle of overpriced water.
  • Banquet & Awards Ceremony: A sit-down dinner (this year guests dressed up as their favorite mystery character–I went as Kinsey Millhone–not only do I love Sue Grafton, but how easy is a black jersey knit dress, Kinsey’s go-to outfit?), the Bony Pete Short Story Award and the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award. The winner of the Bony Blithe Award was Cathy Spencer for Framed for Murder.
  • Dealers Room: Books, jewelry, truffles and chocolate (in the shape of daggers and other fun stuff), along with representation by Sisters in Crime – Toronto and Bouchercon, which is coming to Toronto in 2017.
  • Agent and Publisher Appointments: A chance to pitch your completed manuscript in 10 minutes or less to one of four agent/publishers by appointment.
  • Manuscript Evaluations: Registrants could submit their first 30 pages of a novel or short story for evaluation by a published author.
  • Scene of the Crime Room: A staged room full of props and clues. Those who solved the crime were entered into a prize draw, winner announced at the banquet.

While each of these elements added up to a fabulous conference, my favorite part was finally getting to meet three of my fellow Sisters in Crime – Guppies (previously only known through group email digests). Here’s to Cori Lynn Arnold, Tracy L. Ward and Susan Daly, truly gifted writers and a whole lot of fun. Hope we meet again!

Although Bloody Words reaches the end of an era, there are many other writing conferences for all genres. In addition to Bouchercon, popular mystery conferences include Malice Domestic, Killer Nashville and Thrillerfest, but there are many others. If there is a conference in your area, or one in a city you’d love to visit, I’d highly recommend it, whether you’re a reader, a writer, or both (and let’s face it, most writers are voracious readers).

If you can get the chance to volunteer—something I did this year—it can enhance an already enjoyable experience. Most conferences rely heavily on volunteers, and a couple of hours of your time, whether it’s a brief stint at registration or as a timekeeper on a panel you’re already planning to attend, can make the world of difference. Here’s hoping you get a chance to find out.

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