Learning All the Clues

Learning All the clues

The Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference has a strong tradition of great authors and teachers. It covers everything mystery writers need—from developing ideas and writing skills to finding a publisher. Students work closely with mystery writers, agents, editors, and publishers as well as investigators and crime-fighting professionals.

In this conference, mystery writers learn the clues to a successful writing career. Editors, agents, and publishers tell students what they need to know to get published. Authors offer classes on setting, dialogue, suspense, point of view, and openings. They tell how to write about private eyes, amateur sleuths, and police protagonists, and how to create thrillers and historical mysteries. Panels of detectives, forensic experts, police, and other crime-fighting professionals provide information that allows crime fiction writers to put realism in their work.

The collegial atmosphere of this three-day conference attracts students and faculty from all over the country, many for repeat visits. Opportunities abound for faculty and students to talk, laugh, and exchange ideas in classes, workshops, panels, and informal lunches


Some Success Stories

"I attended two Mystery Writer's Conferences a few years back.  I hooked up with agent Liz Trupin Pulli and my mystery/thriller, Tropical Ice, was introduced at the Waterstreet Press booth at the 2016 Chicago Book Expo. The conference provided invaluable information and stimulated me to see the project through."
Ken Smith, San Rafael

"Before I learned about Book Passage’s classes and the Mystery Conference, the only creative writing I’d ever done were a couple of particularly imaginative IRS submissions at tax time. Sure, I was an avid mystery reader, but that didn’t translate to being a mystery writer anymore than being a gourmet means you know how to cook. So I decided to learn from the pros. Within a year I’d written my first novel, partnered with a well-known agent, and sold the book to Time Warner’s Mysterious Press...It’s been a great year of book tours, signings and getting to meet some terrific readers, librarians and booksellers. It also feels good to fulfill a fantasy I’ve been dreaming about for close to fifty years. I can stick to nonfiction for the IRS submissions now."
Louise Ure, Author of Forcing Amaryllis

"The conference bolstered my skills and helped me get published. You can’t beat the caliber or the inspiration."
– Cara Black, Author of Murder in the Latin Quarter

"I am a graduate of the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference who has since published three mysteries through St. Martin’s Press... My first mystery, Murder Off Mike, was published as the result of winning the St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Contest."
– Joyce Krieg, Author of Murder Off Mike

"I attended the conference twice, when I was learning how to write my first novel, and the faculty were so encouraging that I stuck with it. And now I've recently had my second novel published, signed a new book deal, and hit the USA Today bestseller list to boot. It's been a long and winding road, but a very fun one. Thank you for being part of the journey!"
- Gigi Pandian, Author of the Jaya Jones Series 


What They Say ...
What publishers say:
"The Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference offers the best program of panels and workshops in the mystery community."
Joe Blades, Vice-President & Executive Editor, Ballantine Books

Invaluable contacts:

"At the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference I was lucky enough to get a consultation with thriller writer Lee Child, who took a very kind interest in the manuscript. ... He has championed the book ever since, and when we met up again at Book Passage last July, asked whether I’d be interested in doing a joint book tour, since both my first book and his tenth were slated for publication in the same month this coming spring."
Cornelia Read, author of A Field of Darkness

Dreaming it and doing it:
"For me, the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference made the difference between dreaming it and doing it. Every day, I learned from masters, up close and personal. It was the perfect mix for an aspiring writer: specific teaching on craft and huge helpings of inspiration. Much of the satisfaction I’m now enjoying is a direct result of what I learned and the support I received - and still get today - from the great people who put that conference together."
James C. Mitchell, author of Lovers Crossing and Choke Point


The Faculty Tradition

Over the past decade or so the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference has drawn the best people in the business as faculty for the conference. Each year in putting together the faculty we draw upon the list of those who have taught at the conference before as well as some new and exciting people in the business.

The mystery writers who have taught at the Mystery Writers Conference are some of the biggest names in American crime writing. The list of publishing professionals and agents who have lent their efforts to this Conference is equally impressive, with many of the most important people in publishing today. The crime-fighting professionals who appear at the Conference are chosen for both the real-life experience that they can share with writers and for their teaching ability.

If you have a favorite American mystery writer, chances are that he or she has taught at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference. As a group, the mystery writers who have taught at the Conference have published many hundreds, probably thousands, of books—far more than we could list here. Some of the mystery writers on our faculty began their career as students at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference and have come back as published authors and teachers.

Past Conferences have included these great authors:

Cara Black • Rhys Bowen • Tony Broadbent • Jan Burke • Lee Child • Harlan Coben • Michael Connelly • David Corbett • Robert Crais • Susan Dunlap • G.M. Ford • Katherine Forrest • Elizabeth George • Joe Gores • Linda Grant • Sue Grafton • Denise Hamilton • Carl Hiaasen • David Hosp • Laurie King • Elmore Leonard • John Lescroart • Margaret Maron • Walter Mosley • Marcia Muller • Katherine Neville • James Patterson • Ridley Pearson • George Pelecanos • Kathy Reichs • Gillian Roberts • Priscilla Royal • Kirk Russell • Steven Saylor • Sheldon Siegel • Martin Cruz Smith • Mark Haskell Smith • Louise Ure • Ayelet Waldman • Marilyn Wallace • Penny Warner • Jacqueline Winspear • Paula Wood


The Publishing Tradition

Publishers & Editors
In selecting people from the publishing business to teach at the Mystery Writers Conference, we look for those who work with mystery writers and who have decision-making ability within their business. We also look for those individuals who are good teachers and who enjoy spending time with participants at the Conference.

Here are some of the publishing professionals whom we have drawn upon:
Lawrence Kirshbaum Former president of Little Brown/Time Warner and now head of LJK Literary Agency
Robert MillerPresident of Hyperion Books
Neil NyrenSenior vice-president and publisher of Penguin Putnam Group
Michael PietschVice-president and publisher of Little Brown Publishers
Ann HarrisVice-president and executive editor of Bantam Books
Natalie RosensteinExecutive editor of Berkley Publishing
Karen TorresVice president and director of marketing with Little Brown/Time Warner
Joe BladesVice president and executive editor for Ballantine Books
Mary Sue RicciEditor with Simon & Schuster
Jay SchaeferEditorial director for Chronicle Books
Heather RizzoAssociate director of publicity for Little Brown Publishers
Otto Penzler Founder of Mysterious Press
Susan RichmanSenior publicist for Time Warner Books

Literary Agents
Literary agents are invited to be on the faculty of the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference because they have important information to share about how the publishing business works and what publishers are looking for in new mysteries. But they also attend for their own reasons - to find promising new writers and to work with them.

Here are some distinguished literary agents that have been on the Conference faculty:
Linda Allen Linda Allen literary agency
Kimberly Cameron Reece Halsey North literary agency
Arielle Eckstut James Levine Communications literary agency
Sandra Dijkstra Sandra Dijkstra literary agency
Lisa Gallagher Sanford J. Greenburger agency
Jill Grosjean Jill Grosjean literary agency
Laura Langlie Laura Langlie literary agency
Jay Mandel William Morris literary agency
Margaret McBride Margaret McBride literary agency
Robert Peskell Robert Peskell literary agency
Amy Rennert Amy Rennert literary agency

Crime-Fighting Pros

Crime-fighting professionals have been an important part of the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference since the beginning, and this is one of the unique features of this Conference. They bring a welcome breath of reality to the proceedings and provide valuable information about crimes and crime-fighting techniques that students can incorporate into their writing.

Here are a few of the crime-fighters that have been on recent Conference faculties:
Tara Birnbaum Former S.F. assistant district attorney
Steven Egger Professor of criminology
George Fong Special agent with the Sacramento office of the FBI
Kenneth Freeman L.A. Superior Court judge and criminal law specialist
Michael Grabowski Law enforcement instructor
Lea Koretsky Child abuse investigator and psychological profiler
Ken Moses Former forensic specialist with the S.F.P.D.
Jack Palladino Private investigator with Palladino & Sutherland
Dylan Schaffer Criminal defense attorney
Sandra Sutherland Private investigator with Palladino & Sutherland