Brenda Buchanan here, two days after returning from the ‘Bake, grateful I had the opportunity to spend last weekend hanging out with a bunch of my crime writing pals.
For the uninitiated, the ‘Bake is shorthand for the New England Crime Bake, an annual crime writing conference held outside of Boston. This was my 8th ‘Bake and the timing could not have been better. Last week was a difficult one for many of us. It was good to take a break from all the election-related stress and talk about murder.
The ‘Bake is solidarity in action. Several hundred people take over a suburban Hilton for the weekend, all of whom know first-hand the struggles of the lonely crime writer.
To construct plots that work. Characters who captivate. Prose that sings.
We celebrate our shared obsession at master classes with titles like Setting: It’s a Sexy Character, panel discussions called Our Big Guns and How They Got There and workshops on Traveling in Packs: Writers Band Together for Promotion.
We pitch and bitch, listen and laugh and when the day is done (and sometimes well before the day is done) join together in the bar and swap stories over drinks.
Oh, and there are costumes and dancing, because each year’s ‘Bake has a theme that riffs off the work of the Guest of Honor.
This year’s honoree was the marvelous William Kent Krueger, a New York Times bestselling author whose luminous stand-alone Ordinary Grace won the 2013 Edgar Award for best novel.
Kent also is well known for his terrific Cork O’Connor series, which has as its protagonist a man who is part Irish and part Ojibwe, a former sheriff turned private eye who solves stubborn crimes in the Iron Range. He taught the class about setting, something at which he is, in fact, a master. I’ve never been to northern Minnesota except when reading Kent’s books but feel as though I know the place well.
To honor Kent, this year’s banquet attendees wore flannel shirts and bomber hats and did their best to dance to a selection of Prince tunes while wearing pack boots.
Let’s Go Crazy indeed.
It was wonderful to reconnect with people I’ve met in past years and make some new friends. My friend and Westbrook neighbor Peter Murray was a newbie this year.
Unlike most first timers, Peter already has a publication credit, his wonderful short story Mendicants in the Median having been chosen for inclusion in Windward, the 2016 anthology of the best New England crime fiction.
I rode through the mean streets of Boston (okay, down Route 128, which is plenty mean in my book) with MCW’s own Bruce Coffin and got to spent a bit of time with a bunch of other blogmates during the weekend—Kate Flora, Maureen Milliken, Jen Blood, John Clark, Jessica Crockett Estevao, Barbara Ross, Lea Wait, Dick Cass and blog alum James Hayman.
On Sunday morning retired Maine game warden Roger Guay presented Canine CSI, a fascinating talk about his work with canine partners to solve crimes and find missing persons.
I believe his session prompted a huge run at the book table on A Good Man With A Dog, the memoir he wrote with Kate Flora. Roger is one heck of a story teller.
Readers of this post considering attending the ‘Bake or a similar event should be aware there are two kinds of gatherings. Some (Bouchercon, Malice Domestic) have programming aimed at readers, and they’re a blast.
Writer-focused conferences like the ‘Bake offer valuable lessons in craft and professionalism as well as the opportunity to meet and pitch agents and editors. But take my word for it, they also involve plenty of fun.
Imagine, if you will, people dressed like lumberjacks getting down to Little Red Corvette.
I enjoyed meeting so many of you at the ‘Bake! –kate
It was a lot of fun, wasn’t it?
Each year I say, “This was the best Bake.” So, this was the best Bake! Fabulous guest of honor, terrific program, but best of all is the fellowship and friendship enjoyed by the writing community. Your chronicle of the Bake is perfect, Brenda, and reminded me you were a journalist and a very good one.
Thanks, Michele! I was so glad to have time to hang out with you!
I didn’t even get a chance to chat with you, Brenda – but I sure had fun dancing! Great post on the best little crime fiction conference around.
You were busy as a bee all weekend, Edith! It was nice to see your smile, if not to have the chance to chat.
Great weekend — great post!
For once we had time to sit and visit for a while, which I so enjoyed, Lea.
Sounds as if a wonderful time was had by all. I loved the Good Man with a Dog book. It also showed what a debacle the Katrina aftermath was. Game wardens have to be well-trained AND lucky!
So true, Gram. Roger’s Sunday morning presentation was terrific!
Great summary, Brenda – and always fantastic to reconnect with old friends.
It certainly is, Hallie, this year more than ever.
As always, it was my favorite weekend of the year! Great seeing everyone.
It was good to see you, and Becky, too.
Crimebake is one of the great undiscovered mystery cons. I look forward to this all year long.
Loved this! And what a perfect wrap-up to a terrific event. So lovely to see you all..missing you already.
Loved the way you described the weekend – fun and meaningful. I especially liked the sentence “It was good to take a break from all the election-related stress and talk about murder.” Hmm….