My first year at Thrillerfest (conference organized by the International Thriller Writers Association) was also the year I went through the Debut Author Program organized by ITW. Thrillerfest is an amazing conference, and it is even more amazing if you are lucky enough to go as a Debut Author.
The conference is actually a series mini-conferences. First there is an FBI workshop where writers get to hear about closed cases from FBI agents.
Then there is Master Craftfest, where about a dozen writers get to work with a published author on craft issues. My workshop was with Dave Corbett. It was a very intense day which led to the workshoppers bonding for life.
That led to two days of Craft Fest, workshops with everyone from Thrillerfest co-founder Gayle Lynz to Steve Berry, organized by D.P. Lyle.
There was a half-day Pitchfest with over fifty editors and agents to pitch to. I pitched eight times and got eight requests. When I tried to leave one of the organizers turned me around and told me to go back in and keep pitching!
Finally Thrillerfest itself began, almost relaxing compared to the workshops leading up to it. The conference is open to fans as well as writers, and I put my fan-girl hat on and got autographs from Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, Kathy Reichs, R.L. Stine, Nelson DeMille, Catherine Coulter, Anne Perry, and many others. These authors also spoke, and I filled an entire notebook with notes.
For me personally, the most exciting events were those organized by volunteers to help Debut Authors like myself get exposure for their first book. The lead up to Thrillerfest for debut authors involves networking with each other online, helping each other out with publicity on social media, and even articles in The Big Thrill, the ITW's online newsletter. Jennifer Milchman and Amy Christine Parker and many others graciously donated their time to prepare us for the conference.
Jennifer Milchman and Catherine Coulter had a coordinated book release event and a party at the Mysterious Bookshop downtown, attended by no less than Lee Child, a great supporter of new authors. (Coulter's book, Nemesis, has been on the NY Times bestseller list ever since.)
The conference also gave me an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, like Peter Andrews, whose How to Write Fast Blog has been an anchor for me.
There are two events dedicated to Debut Authors at Thrillerfest, one is the Debut Author Dinner where we finally got to meet each other in the flesh. The next morning was the Debut Author breakfast which is a big event at the conference. Each of us (out of over thirty debut authors) had two minutes to talk about our book at a breakfast hosted by Steve Berry. As we spoke our book cover and author picture were put up on big screens. The room was packed. I'm sure the free food helped, but people came up and spoke to us afterwards about our books.