Thursday, February 13, 2014

On the run (but not the lam)

By Gayle Carline
Mystery Author and Faux-Maven

For those of you who don't know, maven is a Yiddish word meaning "expert," although my Jewish friends usually wink and tell me it means "know-it-all."

Tomorrow I'm heading down to San Diego to teach at a writer's conference. I used to attend this conference, along with its sister conference in Newport Beach every year. Then a year ago, I was asked to become one of the workshop leaders.

Moi? Teach people about writing? That first year, I was insanely nervous. What do I have to say to anyone about a process that I still feel I'm learning about? I'm happy to report that I did my homework and presented useful information, at least according to the full classrooms and happy people who had kind words for what I put together for them.

These days, I dream up workshop ideas and pass them on to the director, who picks and chooses one or two. For this conference, I'm resurrecting a workshop I did last year, plus adding a new workshop that should be fun. 

The resurrected workshop is on Self-Publishing Savvy. Basically, I do an overview of the author-publisher process and the mindset it requires. My intent with this workshop is for people who think they might want to self-publish but aren't certain. I try not to sugarcoat anything, or scare them away. Hopefully, I just give them the tools to make an informed choice.

The new workshop is called Storytelling is Murder, She Wrote. It's going to be a participation workshop, where I show an episode of a TV mystery and we dissect it, to see what makes it work and what we can apply as writers. I know what you're all thinking, but I'm not going to use that TV show. I'm using an episode of Poirot, for a few reasons. One is that Agatha Christie is a gold standard in mysteries. Another is that the PBS production of Poirot lends itself to a discussion of branding beyond just the storyline. It's a 50-minute show and we have 90 minutes to talk about it. I hope we can get it all done.

One of the things I really like about these conferences is that they offer a little something for everyone in their 90-minute workshops. You can learn about the craft of writing, either fiction or non-fiction. You can get ideas for the business side, from writing a good pitch, to how to find an agent, to what self-publishing looks like. As far as industry professionals, the conference directors try very hard to make certain that the agents and publishers are reputable AND are actively seeking clients.  

In the meantime, if you'll excuse me, I need to review my notes and make certain I'm prepared for the weekend. Oh, yeah - and I have to pack!


  1. I don't need to wish you luck... you're prepared and ready to rock! Your titles are great!

    I know what you mean about scratching your head... I'm putting together an online class (it looks like it will be 3 weeks) on marketing. Ugh. But we all need to get a grip, ya know? My title for it is Mashed Potatoes Marketing.

  2. Poirot will be a fascinating show to discuss. Just watched the very last episode the BBC made - yes I'm in the UK. It was of Agatha Christie's last Poirot book, one of few that I still have to read. As you say she is the gold standard. Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of my favourites. Good luck with the workshops.


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