by G. Robert Frazier
This weekend is going to be killer for writers in Nashville.
The 11th Annual Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference actually begins today, and it actually takes place in Franklin, TN, just south of Nashville, but that’s beside the point.
Killer Nashville founder Clay Stafford has put together a star-studded lineup of best-selling authors, mid-listers, indie talent, newbies and industry professionals dedicated to sharing invaluable lessons with fellow writers, mastering the craft, and just talking books and writing.
The roster includes guests of honor Janet Evanovich and Kevin O’Brien, along with mystery-thriller luminaries William Kent Krueger, Anne Perry, Robert Randisi and Charles Todd. There are dozens of other notables also on the bill, such as Ray Peden, R.G. Belsky, Pushcart nominee Phyllis Gobbell, Debra Goldstein, Claire Applewhite and more.
Regional writing groups such as the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Nashville Writers Meetup will also be well-represented by the likes of Tom Wood, Ken Vanderpool, Linda Thorne, Robert Mangeot, Erica Wright, Kathleen Cosgrove, Jaden Terrell and Michael Guillebeau.
Heck, I’m even going to be on a panel.
But, name-dropping aside, one of the most exciting aspects of the conference is the timely and relevant slate of panel topics throughout the four-day event. Choosing which panel to attend won’t be easy for attendees, as five panels will run concurrently nearly every hour from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. And that doesn’t count breakfast, lunch, and dinner events, plus breakout sessions spearheaded by the conference’s most distinguished guests at the conclusion of each day.
I’ve spent quite a few hours just pouring over the schedule in an attempt to determine which sessions I will attend. Some I picked based on who is slated to speak, some according to the timeliness or importance of the subject matter, and some based on how the material may help advance or edify my own writing career.
I’d honestly love to attend them all.
Today’s pick, at least, is an easy one: Perry’s “Master Class on Novel Writing.”
Krueger kicks off Friday’s events with “What it Means to Be A Writer,” followed by a timely session on “Building Your Network at Killer Nashville.”
Another timely subject, “Writing Strong Female Characters,” follows.
After a break for lunch, it’s a toss-up between “Finding Your Ending,” a craft-focused panel, or “The Changing Face of Popular Fiction.” The former is of particular interest to me in that I struggle to reach the end of many of my stories or am oftentimes dissatisfied with my endings. The latter session, though, is topical in terms of what’s popular in today’s fiction market and knowing what today’s readers expect.
As if that weren’t difficult enough to choose from, a third session set for the same time that also holds interest for me is author Michael Ransom’s discussion on serial killers and free will. Ransom is the author of The Ripper Gene, which is nominated for Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion Awards for Best Adult Fiction Book.
The rest of Friday’s lineup includes a panel on “Building Your Personal Brand” and a breakout session with O’Brien on “Writing the Bestselling Thriller.”
Saturday’s lineup includes an opening group session with Randisi, who is Killer Nashville’s 2016 John Seigenthaler Legends Award winner.
Randisi will join Stafford, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine regular Mangeot and others on another panel, “Writing the Short Story.”
I’ll be on the panel hot seat at 2 p.m. Saturday to discuss “The Importance of Professional Book Reviews.”
From there, I’ll listen in as Evanovich, Gobbell, Baron Birtcher and others discuss the unique challenges of “Writing a Series” with recurring characters. Hey, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie featured the same characters from book to book, but times have changed. Series books today share more in common with TV series, with characters who grow from book to book or episode to episode.
Finally on Saturday, O’Brien will be back to discuss keys to “Writing a Marketable Book.”
Sunday’s group session focuses on “An Inside Look at Publishing,” after which O’Brien will be one of the featured panelists discussing how to “Find Your Plotting Style.”
The ins and outs of indie publishing will be the topic of the next panel I plan to take in on Sunday, followed by another timely session featuring Krueger on how fiction can be applied to real-life issues such as social injustice, mortality and more.
Lastly, Randisi is slated to host a session on how to be a more prolific author. He should know, as he averages almost a book a month.
Somewhere amid all of that, I’ll be volunteering a few hours on a fun aspect of the conference called The Escape Room. As I understand it, conference attendees will have the chance to enter a locked room and, working together, seek clues strategically planted inside the room that will help them get out. Should be interesting to see whether all these arm-chair detectives can work together to solve the mystery.
I’ll share highlights and lessons learned from the conference here on this blog and elsewhere in the days ahead. I may even tweet a time or two from the conference.
Until then, happy reading and writing.