New England Crime Bake Update

The ongoing pandemic is forcing us to ask the same plaintive question we’ve been asking since March, 2020— is whatever it is we’ve been yearning for actually going to happen?

Is there a suitable outdoor venue so our favorite concert series can go on as planned?

Will the kids be able to attend in-person classes all semester?

Will we be able to gather with extended family for the holidays?

Our regional crime writing conference is no different. I’m a member of the organizing committee for New England Crime Bake, which is scheduled to take place live at the Hilton in Dedham, Massachusetts from November 12-14.

The planning committee is weighing many considerations right now, but the good news is that Crime Bake 2021 will happen, even if the live event cannot.

A hardworking and inspired subcommittee has planned a terrific virtual event that will take place from November 14 – 19, even if the live event does not take place as planned.

A panel at Crime Bake 2019 featuring Eddie Vincent, Amy Collins, Kristopher Zgorski and Dru Ann Love.

As you can see from the Crime Bake website, which you can find here: the virtual event is called Crime Bake: Online, Plugged-In and Exclusive.  Registration is separate from the in-person event, and folks from far-flung locations will be able to join in from the comfort of home. It will offer different programming than the in-person Crime Bake, which as of this writing, is still on.

This online conference is an alternative for people who cannot attend the in-person conference, and it can serve as an add-on to those for whom a weekend of in-person crime writer schmoozing isn’t enough.

As for the still-planned in-person event, attendees will have to provide proof of vaccination and wear masks in all public spaces inside the hotel. There will be panel discussions and the opportunity to meet with agents and editors. Award-winning author Hank Phillippi Ryan will be the guest of honor. Debut authors will be recognized and master classes will be taught.

Debut authors will be honored no matter what happens.

There won’t be a Friday night pizza party or a Saturday night banquet. Instead, conference-goers will have to arrange for dinners on their own. Breakfast is planned for Saturday and Sunday, and a box lunch will be served on Saturday. Anyone who wishes to eat someplace other than the communal ballroom can do whatever makes them comfortable—find a nook in the lobby or take their meal back to their room.

In the event the in-person Crime Bake is cancelled, those who have registered for the live event will be given free admission to the online event, and their registration fee will roll over to in-person 2022 Crime Bake.

Earlier this summer the planning committee polled past Crime Bake attendees about their interest in resuming a live event in November, 2021.

Michele Dorsey and Edith Maxwell, embracing at the end of Crime Bake 2019

Of those who expressed enthusiasm,  a majority said they were particularly eager to see longstanding Crime Bake pals. The pandemic seemed to be winding down then, and a lot of respondents told us they couldn’t wait to catch up with writer friends over lunch, hang out between panel discussions and swap stories in the bar.

Now that it’s October, the committee must assess whether it will be safe to gather in person a month from now, given the highly transmissible Delta variant.

A moment of levity at a panel discussion at Crime Bake 2016, including Hank Phillippi Ryan, second from right, who is this year’s Guest of Honor.

It will come down how the pandemic numbers are trending in the next couple of weeks, and the personal decisions of registrants, all of whom will need to undertake that now-familiar risk-reward calculation.

If you’ve registered for the live Crime Bake, you’re welcome to send a note to to let the planning committee know your current thoughts about the situation.

Brenda Buchanan brings years of experience as a journalist and a lawyer to her crime fiction. She has published three books featuring Joe Gale, a newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. She is now hard at work on new projects. FMI, go to



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