The Holy Grail of Writing Revealed!

murder and mayhem chicago

This conference was a blast! And it’s true. Finally, the truth of a successful writing career is revealed. Possibly for the first time ever! (disclaimer – possibly not the FIRST time)

Appropriately bundled up against the brisk 25° weather (meaning we had coats and gloves), my co-conspirator and fellow mystery writer, Anna and I, maneuvered our way along Michigan Avenue against the sea of green clad, multi-beaded, under-dressed (meaning no coats or gloves), drunken St. Paddy’s day revelers on Saturday, March 11th. And that was at 9:00 a.m. in the morning. Our destination – Roosevelt University for the inaugural Mystery and Mayhem Writer’s Conference in Chicago. While all manner of shenanigans carried forth on the freezing, windy streets below, hot coffee and cookies warmed us as we viewed the scene from our cozy perch in an alcove on the second floor.

“This would be a great place to set up a sniper hit,” I remarked.

“Indeed it would. What do you think, a 7.62 Tkiv 85 or an AI Arctic Warfare?” Anna mused.

“Tough call. Both are good sniper rifles and both take a 7.62×53mm. But I think the Arctic is a bit more versatile.”

Anna nodded in agreement.

See – this is what happens when I hang out with writers. I start thinking about ways to kill people and dispose of their bodies.

I have been to four writer’s conferences and with each experience my creativity is energized. The air fairly crackles with a killer buzz, in the best possible way, of course. And seriously, where else can one go and discuss sniper rifles and disposing of dead bodies without some busybody alerting the authorities?

I am starting to feel more comfortable at these events and no longer freak out in my head in full-tilt crazy mode about being in a room full of strangers. Possibly because many writers, published and unpublished, are introverts like me, so we “get” each other. Or maybe because everyone is so friendly and helpful, I just feel like I belong. Even the famous authors, like Sara Paretsky and Victoria Thompson, are totally approachable and supportive of aspiring authors. Or perhaps I’m starting to see familiar faces, and it is no longer a room full of strangers.

The one-day event was divided into panels, where published authors, screen writers, and publishing professionals spoke on topics, then took questions from the audience. Eric Beetner, the MC, was worth the price of admission alone, with his spot-on Chicago slam comic routine. Panelists discussed Violence in Crime Fiction, Making a Mystery, Playing with the Past, Genre Conventions and Why We Break Them, and What the Experts are Reading.

While the topics presented unique questions relevant to the profession of writing and sparked interesting discussion, each panel echoed the Holy Grail of the Best Advice to Aspiring Authors, which I reveal to you today.

The One Universal Truth of Writing Success is . . . . . . .


Don’t worry about getting an agent.
Don’t worry about finding a publisher.
Don’t worry about building a platform.
Don’t worry about social media.
Don’t worry about the market or genre.


And come to Chicago for Mystery and Mayhem next year! Lori Rader-Day and Dana Kaye have promised to put together another exciting conference. You won’t have the secret code that identifies you as one of us inaugural members, but you will love spending the day hearing, thinking, and talking about this craft that is our lifeblood.

And did I mention goodie bags with fabulous free books?

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4 Responses to The Holy Grail of Writing Revealed!

  1. Fun stuff! And a great reminder – so many of us put the cart before the horse re marketing etc while the ms sits unfinished.

    • Lee says:

      That is so me, Madeline. But as I find my way in the writer’s world, I find it easier to keep my eye on the ball and get BICFOK.

  2. jmh says:

    That sounds like a fabulous conference, Lee! Is there any opportunity to interact with readers there as well, or is it solely for writers?

    • Lee says:

      Definitely an opportunity to interact with readers, and a big emphasis on connecting with librarians, as well.