This past weekend was the New England Crime Bake. It’s a writer’s conference that’s local to the Boston area. It’s also a special conference for me, because it was the one I found when I first Googled “mystery writer conferences” more than 20 years ago when I decided that I was going to write mysteries.
I remember showing up at that conference all those years ago, not knowing anyone, bright-eyed and not wanting to miss a moment. I was so excited to be there, to learn, to meet people, and to figure out how to get published.
From that first moment, I knew I was in the right place. Al Blanchard, a beloved writer in the New England mystery community, was the first person I actually spoke to. Despite the fact that he was pretty much a celebrity, he came right over, greeted me, told me what a great conference and community I’d just entered. He made me feel welcome. Like I belonged somewhere. And over the course of the weekend, that feeling grew. For the first time in my life, I felt really at home.
I knew I’d found my people.
I went to that conference every single year until the pandemic. I feel like I grew up there—I went from that bright-eyed newbie who rushed to every session, not wanting to miss a word to a published author who spoke on the very same panels I used to go to and take furious notes. It’s still one of my favorite places to be in the world.
And then the pandemic happened. To be honest, I’d been a little burnt out before the shutdown and needed a break—but of course that wasn’t the kind of break anyone wanted. When I got back there this weekend, it had been three years since I’ve gathered with a group of writers.
That is way too long.
Not just because it’s fun to sit at the bar and hang out with like-minded people who love to talk about the best murder methods (although that’s a big part of it). But because it’s so necessary to have people who’ve done what you’re doing. People who’ve been through the publishing journey. Who know the struggles of sitting down to write some days. Who also face crushing doubt, canceled contracts, agent changes. People to celebrate with when the new contracts come. People who share new ideas and new opportunities. It’s being with old friends and meeting new ones. There’s just something about a writer’s community—especially the mystery community. They’re amazing. I always leave reenergized and ready to go.
This year was no different. It was even better, honestly, because it’s been so long. Writing can be kind of lonely. The voices in your head only keep you company so long before you crave actual contact with another human. And when you have a community to be with that can hold you up and cheer you on, you’re going to go so much further.
If you haven’t found your writing community yet, that’s your next right action. If you want to be part of mine, join me over at my free Facebook group, or do some research to find the one that’s right for you.
I promise you, it will change your life.