Hi all, Maureen here.
Sorry this is a little late this morning. Must still be recovering from this year’s excellent New England Crime Bake.
Some of you may be asking, “So, what’s a Crime Bake?” Eight years ago, I would have asked the same thing.
Back in 2008, I’d been intending for years to get a start on writing my first mystery novel. As many of you who have been in that position know, getting started can be the hardest part. I had a lot of “reasons” to stall, none of them very good. I knew that even then. But a big and very real issue — probably the biggest — was that I was in a total vacuum and had no idea really where to begin, how to get guidance along the way and what to do once it was done.
Since I didn’t know anyone who could help me with any of that, I decided to find people who could. That led me to the Mystery Writers of America, and through my googling and other research of that, led to my first Crime Bake, a weekend-long conference sponsored by the MWA New England Chapter and Sisters in Crime New England. I knew I desperately needed to go. I have never regretted that decision and haven’t missed one since. It is, seriously, my favorite weekend of the year.
That first year, I walked in Saturday morning (had to work Friday night) and found 250 people, many of whom were writing, wanted to write, or had written mystery novels. It was like an orphan finding the lost family she never knew she had. Not only was the sense of community more empowering that I ever could have predicted, but just knowing there were other people like me — and people successfully doing this! — was a huge step in getting me going, finally, on my own mystery novel.
I vowed at that Crime Bake to return to the next one with a finished manuscript I could pitch to an agent.
And now, here I was this weekend, eight Crime Bakes later, finally with a published book. I was one of 22 debut novelists at the event recognized this year. It was probably one of the highlights of my adult life. Or life, actually.
It wasn’t a smooth road from that 2008 Crime Bake to being a published novelist at the 2015 event. A lot of factors, a lot lot lot of factors, went into finally getting that manuscript — which was just a few thousand words, jumbled ideas and going nowhere in 2008 — published. But I never, ever would have gotten where I am today if it weren’t for Crime Bake.
The advice (biggest takeway ALWAYS is to not give up), the guidelines for being professional and taken seriously, and the generous, supportive community are the foundation that I’ve built my mystery novelist career on.
I can’t stress enough to aspiring writers that the first step to getting unstuck and getting going is to find a Crime Bake and go to it. I highly recommend this one, even for people
who write in different genres, but there are conferences like it, big and small, all over the country all the time. Find the money and the time, go to it and learn.
And never look back. Thanks Crime Bake!
Maureen Milliken is the author of Cold Hard News, the first in the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on twitter at @mmilliken47, on Facebook at Maureen Milliken Mysteries, and check our her website, maureenmilliken.com.