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Friday, October 27, 2017

A Murderous Weekend by Sarah Wisseman

I had the great pleasure of attending our regional mystery conference, Magna cum Murder, in Indianapolis last weekend. This wonderful con started as a house party for writers and fans, held in a small hotel in Muncie, Indiana over twenty years ago.

Although the conference has moved venues twice, once to a convention hall in Muncie (rather impersonal and far from hotels) and second to the Columbia Club (a comfortable, atmospheric private club building in Indy).


Magna remains a friendly and warm conference, both for newbies and returning attendees. It attracts many readers, who enjoy having informal opportunities to talk with authors. The authors' experiences are enriched by these readers, and new friendships form every year. Even the hotel staff enjoys the conference: they comment on how strange it is hearing people talk about murder in the elevators.


The panels deal with both writing mechanics (e-publishing, marketing) and author experiences, such as showing up at a bookstore for a signing and discovering no advance publicity means only three people show up. This seems to have happened to every author at least once (moral: do your own publicity for every event, and that includes online events!).

I always come home with some new insight from both the panels I attend and the ones I am on. This time, it was how different authors revise their manuscripts and get them ready to submit. The best advice: while critique groups can be helpful, beta readers are better. A beta reader is a trusted friend, usually also a writer, who can evaluate a manuscript frankly and tell you where the weaknesses are. In my case, it's usually sections that are not developed enough. A character may not react as fully as she could to a sudden change in circumstances or the odd behavior of a colleague. Or the dialogue falls short, leaving too many questions in the reader's mind.

Finally, writing is a solitary pursuit. Attending a good conference is like a breath of fresh air and an affirmation of the writing life. Yes, there are others out there who live in their heads and plot murders while cooking dinner. Best of all, the weekend reminds me that many people still love reading and talking about good stories.

6 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Sarah,

It does sound like a wonderful conference. You're right in saying that writing is a solitary profession. So it's great to get out and network with other writers and especially readers.

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