Plusses and Minuses   — Jule Selbo 

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog in the last few days, you know that last weekend was the annual Crime Wave Conference, held in Portland, Maine at the Glickman Library at University of Southern Maine. Friday night there were nibbles and a cash bar and then the main event: Carla Neggers was interviewed by Julia Spencer-Fleming and received the CrimeMaster Award.  Then ten writers participated in “Two Minutes in the Slam” – that’s when writers read – for two minutes – from one of their books or books-in-progress.

Saturday started with breakfast nibbles, a day of panels about various aspects of writing crime/mysteries and an interview: Kate Flora talked with crime novelist Kathy Lynn Emerson who received the Lea Wait Award.  There was a great lunch, a lot of networking and chatting and more panels, culminating in a fest of a panel (and other attendees) sharing personal writing experiences.

There were a lot of take-aways for me – plusses and minuses. Plusses:

  1. From the moment I stepped off the elevator, I was in the midst of buzzing fellow writers and lovers of crime/mysteries who were excited to talk about, analyze, joke and empathize about the writing process.

2.Barbara Kelley, bookseller, was there, right in front of the elevator, with a long table of titles available for sale – cozies, procedurals, sci-fi crime mysteries, long-lived series with beloved investigators, stand-alone thrillers and espionage crime/mysteries and more. She’s so knowledgeable, has probably read them all.

3. Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, head of Maine Writers and Publishers, and Phoebe Little, Programming and Promotions Associate, roamed the lobby and room, making sure people were introduced to each other, eating from the food table, and that the organization of the event stayed on schedule.

4.Meeting crime novelist Carla Neggers – no-nonsense prolific New York Times Best Selling writer and listening to her takes on writing, the publishing world, the ups and downs of the writing life and the compulsion she has to put stories to paper (onto computer pages). She’s amazingly approachable and fun and a reminder of why writers usually “like” each other.

5. Robert Kelley, acting as MC of the “Two Minutes in the Slammer”, making it clear he loves this genre and appreciates a well-done whodunit it. I got to talk to him a bit about his recent experience at the Writers Hotel, an intensive week-long writing retreat in Boothbay Harbor that is dedicated to giving participants (writers) the tools they need to start/finish/get published.

6. Meeting Margot Kelley, editor and professor and lover of creative writing.

7. Seeing “old friends and fellow writers” that I have met at previous Crime Wave Conferences. Getting to know them just a bit better.

8. Hanging with Nicole Asselin, who drove up from Boston to be a panelist on the “Why a Series?” panel. She writes a crime/mystery series centered around the offices of minor baseball team.

9. A panel of writers talking about on how real-life events (past and contemporary) inform their writing. How their research leads them into unexpected territory – like how historical events often mirror today’s events. Example: How writer Cheryl Head’s dig into her family’s saga and white supremacy and violence in two separate decades revealed new information on her familial past and informed her writing of her newest novel Time’s Undoing.

Another example: How journalist Kathryn Miles’ research into a murder of two young woman on the Appalachian Trail morphed into an exploration of their love story- as well as a revelation of Kathryn’s own personal tale.


Other examples: Jim Ziskin’s use of his series protagonist Ellie Stone as a conduit to explore mysteries/histories and real-life events in various places in the world – places where Jim has adopted/loved/lived/worked in. And how Carolyn Marie Wilkins uses her personal psychic skills and knowledge and her family’s history, as well as her musical chops, to inform her stories.

The panel (led by Jessica Ellicott) was fascinating – highlighted how all writers’ personal experiences, ideas, druthers, opinions, leanings and well-seated observations can inform their fiction.


10. I got to moderate a panel of well-read and well-reviewed writers who work in various sub-genres of the crime/mystery genre. Espionage thriller, YA, traditional and crime/mystery that also incorporates horror, sci-fi and disaster. What was great about reading the panelists’ works was that it helped me “know” more about the Dee Rommel Mystery Series that I write.

Okay – the plusses keep mounting up – and the day was only half over. Panels on “Romantic Suspense”, “Why a Series” and “What I Hate About Writing” filled the afternoon.  For those of you who didn’t get to make the conference – be sure to make it next year!

Oh –  I promised plusses and minuses.


  1. NONE.

About jselbo

Jule Selbo's latest book, 10 DAYS, A Dee Rommel Mystery, the first in a mystery/crime series, received a starred review on Kirkus and just landed on Kirkus Top Five List of Crime/Mystery books from independent publishers. It's also a finalist in the best of Foreword Review and Maine Literary Award. She absconded from Hollywood (and her work there as a produced screenwriter)to Portland Maine to write novels. Other books include Find Me in Florence, Dreams of Discovery -The John Cabot Story and Breaking Barriers - Based on the Life of Laura Bassi. The next book in the Dee Rommel series: 9 DAYS, A Dee Rommel Mystery was released in September 2022 and is nominated for a Clue Award and received a starred Kirkus Review. 8 DAYS, the third in the series, is scheduled for release November 2023 and Jule is now working in 7 DAYS.
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5 Responses to POST CONFERENCE

  1. John Clark says:

    Great summary.

  2. Alice says:

    I feel like I got to be there. Thank you.

  3. It was great. Wasn’t Carla a delight. And you were the best prepared moderator in world history. Impressive. Thanks for the summary.


  4. Brenda Buchanan says:

    It was great fun, wasn’t it? Thanks for the great summary!

  5. kaitlynkathy says:

    Great summary. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk.

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