Could there be murder at a Writers Conference?

Sometimes an agent or editor can be a real pain in the neck. We didn’t commit murder, but the thought may have crossed our minds.

I ran a successful writers conference for many years. And as I got more into my novel writing, I knew that somewhere there would be a book – for me that probably meant a mystery – set in a writers conference.

Right off, I must say we never had a murder, or even a death, at or during one of the conferences I directed. But we did have some interesting situations.

It was common for the conference to bring down editors and agents from New York. This was back in the day before Zoom or even the widespread use of the internet. And it was before self-publishing became such an important part of the scene.

Today, writers want an agent who will get their book noticed, Sheppard it through the maze, and make the writer’s life easier. But not that far in the past, it was essential to find an agent, or perhaps catch the eye, or ear, of an editor at a conference.

Those were the gate-keepers. You needed them if you wanted to be published. So, we brought them in, two or three each year.

As this conference was in northeast Texas, it meant flying them into Dallas. Frequently, I picked them up at the airport and drove them to the conference site. But one year, schedules didn’t work out well, and I needed someone else to bring an editor out from the DFW airport.

James R. Callan

Fortunately, one of the women coming from the Dallas area agreed to pick up the editor at the airport and drive her the 125 miles to the conference, and three days later, return the editor to DFW.

The conference was held at a beautiful park-like retreat on a large lake. They arrived at the conference site. The editor looked around and asked, “Where is the town?”

The driver said, “There is no town here.  The nearest town is about 15 miles away. But you have a private cabin overlooking the lake, and meals are provided in the retreat’s cafeteria.”

The editor said, firmly, “Take me back to the airport.”

Fortunately, the woman driving was not easily cowed. “Sorry.  I’m here to attend the conference. I’m not going back to Dallas for three days.”

“You picked me up. You can just take me back. Now.”

“I have about twenty minutes to get registered and sign up for a room before the opening speech.”  The driver pulled the keys out of the ignition, stuck them in her purse. “I’m out of here.” And with that, the driver got out and headed for registration.

The editor stayed.

For the conference director (me), she was a pain in the neck for three days. She complained about everything. Not enough drinks in her cabin. Menu was not to her liking. There was no shopping. And on and on.

But, she did make her presentations, and she did hold individual meetings with writers to consider their books. To my knowledge, she did not agree to read or consider any of those books. Needless to say, I had to find another person from the Dallas area to drive her back to the airport three days later.

Another year, a title was … appropriated.

But, no murders or assaults at any of the many conferences for which I served as director.

So, A Plot for Murder: Murder at the Writers Conference is definitely a work of fiction. The setting is real, and the impetus to write a mystery set at a writers conference was, at least partially, “write what you know.”

Please click HERE to find A Plot for Murder on Amazon.


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