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.
I agree with everything you posted. This was my 2nd Crime Bake (more about the experience in my next blog entry) and I can’t stress how energizing, albeit sometimes scary the experience is.
Thanks for this post, Maureen. I absolutely agree that sometimes the Bake feels like a big family reunion with all of us catching up and sharing our writing and publishing adventures. Pinning Debut Author blue ribbons on so many new authors this year was a real highlight of the conference, and it was great to see you all assembled for a group photo.
We’ll be gathering for our own Maine version, The Maine Crime Wave, on April 9th in Portland. No one believes us, given what we write, but crime writers are some of the nicest people around.
Nice post, Maureen. Congratulations on your debut novel!
Congratulations Maureen, on your book. The Crime Bake is my favorite weekend of the year too. The 2015 version was up there with the best.
I’m happy to be an every-year Crime Baker as well, and agree this year’s was terrific! For all the reasons Maureen says, writers are well-advised to find their community and take advantage of events like this. The encouragement and inspiration is unending once you find your peeps.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first Crime Bake this past weekend and am already looking forward to the next. Congratulations again, Maureen, on your debut! Cold Hard News is on my nightstand, part of perhaps the best TBR pile ever, thanks to all the exciting new releases of my New England writer friends. Almost makes me look forward to a long Maine winter.
It was great seeing so many (now) familiar faces at Crime Bake. I felt very welcome and learned so much. Kudos to the committee(s) for an incredible event!
Yes, yes, and yes! My favorite weekend of the year without a doubt! Thanks for posting and congratulations on your book. 🙂
What a lovely post, Maureen.
I feel exactly the same way. I wouldn’t be published if it weren’t for Sisters in Crime New England and Crime Bake.
I try to take all the lovely encouragement I got from Kate Flora, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Hallie Ephron and Roberta Isleib and the introduction to my agent I got from Sheila Connolly and pay it forward.
Maureen, I am beyond thrilled to be in that debut picture with you! What a ride this has been.
I also completely agree–find what your Crime Bake is, and put it on your calendar. Finding community makes all the difference in the world.
Wonderful! Congratulations! xoxoo