The Public Safety Writers Association Conference

Las Vegas and the Public Safety Writers Association Conference has come and gone. Looking back, I feel it was a super conference. Numbers were low, but interestingly enough, no one complained about that, in fact it made it possible for everyone to really get acquainted with one another. Plenty of networking went on.

Murphy was in evidence even before we left home. I couldn’t find my Blackberry–with the cell number and email addy I’d given to everyone attending the conference. After searching everywhere we headed off to Las Vegas. The hotel was beautiful and we had our registration and opening get-acquainted party in a room on the second floor. Though not everyone made it that evening, there were enough of us to have an enjoyable evening and we were able to all go out to dinner together.

When we got back to our room I had a message from our next morning’s speaker that he wouldn’t make it until past his appointed time because he was suffering a migraine, which meant switching the program around, which I did. Also had a message from another attendee that she couldn’t arrive until the next afternoon.

The next a.m. I returned to the room we’d been in the night before, early since we expected more people to arrive and register. It was obvious something was amiss. The room was still set up with a bar. All of our gear was piled in a corner, far too much for me to carry. I found a woman in an office and asked where PSWA was meeting. We were still on the second floor but in a room you couldn’t get to from where we were. It was necessary to go back downstairs and then up an escalator. I left a note on the table directing folks to the new room. The woman was kind enough to take me through back corridors that aren’t open to the public in order to get to the room I needed. That one was all set up for us.

I got on the hotel phone and called a few people, the others were on their own. Being cops, retired cops, and mystery writers, everyone used his/her detective skills and found the way. It was great to see friends from last year and make new ones. Our first speaker was Mary Montague Sikes who told us about using focus and branding to promote our books. She did a great job, especially since she had to fill a different time slot that she’d expected.

Our keynote speaker at lunch was Stephen “Pista” Nassar, a Holocaust Survivor. He wrote about his harrowing experience when he and his brother were taken to Auschwitz as teenagers.

Every author gave an elevator pitch about his or her books.

We had a panel on writing for technical publications. Michele Perrin moderated and those on the panel were John Bellah, Tim Dees, and Keith Bettinger.

Other panels for the rest of the two days included Sunny Frazer showing us and telling us all about cover art, including what makes a good cover and what doesn’t.

Victoria Heckman and I gave a presentation on Writing Mysteries with the attendees helping us plan one. This turned out to be a hilarious exercise.

Billie Johnson, publisher at Oak Tree Press, and another publisher who kindly stepped in at the last minute told us what they are looking for in manuscripts.

Tim Dees gave demonstrated some computer tips.

Michael Mehas talked about characterization.

And oh yes, Murphy sent us on another hunt for our meeting room when they moved it once again.

Our final session on Sunday was given by Denny Griffin who co-authored Cullotta about the gangster, Frank Cullotta. As a surprise, the FBI agent who watched over Cullotta after he turned state’s evidence, told us about the difficulties of keeping the gangster safe before he testified.

The writing contest awards were given out and the authors caravanned to the Cheesecake and Crime bookstore for a joint signing. The store was wonderful–a great way to end our conference.

Murphy disappeared. When I arrived home, I found my Blackberry.

My next conference is Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha in a couple of weeks. I’m not in charge of anything, just going as an author to see old friends and fans, hopefully make some new friends, and just have fun. I’ll be leaving Murphy behind.


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