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Deadline Approaching: 2nd Annual Online Mystery & Thriller Conference

One Weekend Event!
Writer's Digest University
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Learn from Seven Award-Winning and Best-Selling Authors
September 9 - 11
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Join Us for Writer's Digest University's Second Annual
Mystery & Thriller Online Writing Conference

Writer's Digest University is pleased to present an exclusive online event for mystery & thriller writers! On September 10th and 11th, our 2nd Annual Mystery & Thriller Online Writing Conference will provide expert insights from SEVEN award-winning and best-selling authors on the finer points of how to write within the mystery and thriller genres. Spend the weekend learning techniques for honing your craft from seven different published authors, then (if you choose) pitch your novel via query letter to a literary agent specifically looking for material in the mystery or thriller genre. The agent will provide you with a personalized critique of your query - and maybe ask to see more.

Experience the education, camaraderie, and opportunities provided by a live writing conference without ever having to leave your home!

Pitch Your Thriller Novel to a Literary Agent 

Join us for the live event and have a chance to get written feedback on your query letter from a literary agent who works with mystery or thriller authors (or both). Participating agents include Shannon Powers (McIntosh & Otis, Inc.), Jessica Sinsheimer (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency), Sharon Pelletier (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management), and Jennifer Johnson-Blalock (Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency).

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*Our craft-focused conference schedule is designed to provide the kind of education that all mystery and thriller writers can use to take their work to the next level.
SESSION 1: Creating the Character Web of a Mystery Novel

Learn how to construct a web of characters surrounding a protagonist and harness their competing goals to drive the plot of a mystery novel. We'll analyze some classic examples, catalog the typical character roles in a mystery, and explore ways to spark the conflict and tension needed to transform a mystery novel into a page-turner.
Instructor: Hallie Ephron

Hallie Ephron is the New York Times best-selling author of crime novels, including Night Night, Sleep Tight and There Was an Old Woman. She is a four-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, recognizing excellence in suspense. Her novel Never Tell a Lie was turned into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network. She wrote an On Crime book review column for The Boston Globe for more than ten years and won the Ellen Nehr Award for Excellence in Mystery Reviewing. Her Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel was an Edgar Award finalist. Hallie is a popular speaker and teaches writing at conferences, national and internationally.

SESSION 2: Traditional Mysteries: How to Create Fair Play Puzzles that Sell

Traditional mysteries come with a set of specific reader expectations. Your readers look for an ethical and smart detective, probably an amateur; a killer and victim who are known to each other-no random serial killers, for instance; a sweet and decent world without graphic violence, explicit sex, or cussin', probably a small town; and a solution that depends on the deductive abilities of the sleuth, not forensics. Writing to meet these multi-faceted and complex standards helps ensure your traditional mystery will sell.
Jane Cleland
Instructor: Jane Cleland

Jane K. Cleland's multiple award-winning and IMBA best-selling Josie Prescott Antique Mystery series (St. Martin's Minotaur) has been reviewed as an Antiques Roadshow for mystery fans. Library Journal named Consigned to Death a "core title" for librarians looking to build a cozy mystery collection, one of only 22 titles listed, along with books by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Jane chairs the Black Orchid Novella Award, one of the Wolfe Pack's literary awards, granted in partnership with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She is a past chapter president of the Mystery Writers of America/New York Chapter and served on the national board as well. Additionally, Jane is the host of the Writer's Room, a series of interviews with today's bestselling crime fiction authors that appear on cable television and online. She also mentors MFA students in Western Connecticut State University's MFA in Creative & Professional Writing program and is a frequent guest author at other university programs.

SESSION 3: Going Beyond the Standard Genre Plot Line

This presentation will focus on three questions that writers should keep at the forefront of their thoughts as they conceive, plot, and write a mystery or thriller novel. The goal of this presentation is to assist mystery, thriller, and other genre writers to break down the genre walls that may limit their ability to get to that next level of success. Mysteries and thrillers can do so much more than simply tell the story of how the case was solved and the bad guy caught.
Allen Eskens
Instructor: Allen Eskens

Allen Eskens grew up in the wounded hills of Missouri and, after high school, migrated north to pursue his education. He acquired a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Minnesota, and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University Law School. He honed his creative writing skills in the MFA program at Minnesota State University and took classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. The Life We Bury, Allen's debut offering, was named the Best Debut Novel of 2014 at the Left Coast Crime Conference, winning the Rosebud Award. The Life We Bury was named a finalist for the Edgar Award, the Thriller Award, and the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. It was also named a finalist for the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original novel and the Minnesota Book Award for Best Genre Fiction. Allen's follow-up novel, The Guise of Another was released in 2015, and his upcoming novel, The Heavens May Fall, will be released in October 2016.

SESSION 4: Beyond Good & Evil: Using Moral Argument to Develop Plot and Character

Far too often writers revert to the easiest, simplest, and least compelling form of moral argument to structure their stories: Good versus Evil. In this webinar, award-winning novelist David Corbett will guide students through a deeper understanding of the possibilities of this moral contest by exploring ways to add texture, nuance, and complexity to the depiction of opposing values, with additional instruction on other forms of moral argument, such as Redemption/Transformation, Tragedy, Pathos, Satire/Irony, and Black Comedy.
David Corbett
Instructor: David Corbett

David Corbett is the author of five critically acclaimed novels: 2015's The Mercy of the Night, The Devil's Redhead (nominated for both the Anthony and Barry Awards for Best First Novel), Done for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Book), Blood of Paradise (nominated for numerous awards, including the Edgar, and named both one of the Top Ten Mysteries and Thrillers of 2007 by The Washington Post and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book), and Do They Know I'm Running? (Spinetingler Award, Best Novel 2011-Rising Star Category). His book on the craft of characterization, The Art of Character , was published by Penguin Books in 2013. His nonfiction has appeared in Writer's Digest (where he is a contributing editor), The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Narrative, Zyzzyva, MovieMaker, Bright Lights, The Writer, and numerous other venues.

SESSION 5: Selling Your Crime Fiction in Today's Marketplace: An Agent's Perspective

From cozies and traditional mysteries to police procedurals, thrillers, and noir, author and agent Paula Munier shares the secrets of selling crime fiction in today's volatile marketplace. You'll learn the storytelling dos that can boost your work's appeal to agents, editors, and readers, as well as the don'ts that may be sabotaging your efforts to sell your work. Paula will also reveal the ins and outs of what many consider publishing's most exciting and enduring genre, allowing you to navigate its ever-changing landscape-all the way to success.
Paula Munier
Instructor: Paula Munier

Paula Munier, Senior Literary Agent and Content Strategist at Talcott Notch Literary Services, boasts broad experience creating and marketing exceptional content in all formats across all markets for such media giants as Disney, Gannett, Greenspun Media Group, and Quayside. She began her career as a journalist, and along the way added editor, acquisitions specialist, digital content manager and publishing executive to her repertoire. Since becoming an agent for years ago, she's sold dozens of projects to the Big Five as well as a number of other top houses. She's always looking for beautifully written, high-concept stories, particularly in these genres: mystery/thriller, true crime, SF/fantasy, romance, YA, book club bestseller, memoir, pop culture, health & wellness, self-help, pop psych, New Age, inspirational, technology, science and writing.

SESSION 6: Thrills in the First Person: How Writing in the First Person Present Can Peak the Drama

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Vincent Zandri talks about ditching the idea of playing God in your stories and focusing on getting inside the mind of the narrator. There's a reason first-person video games are so popular. What better way to experience the high drama and tension of a thriller novel than to live in the experience in real-time under conditions of real and present danger?
Vincent Zandri
Instructor: Vincent Zandri

Winner of the 2015 ITW Award for Best Paperback Original (Moonlight Weeps), Vincent Zandri is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 16 novels, including The Innocent, Godchild, The Remains, Moonlight Rises, and Everything Burns. He is also the author of numerous Amazon best-selling digital shorts, Pathological, True Stories, and Moonlight Mafia among them. Harlan Coben has described The Innocent (formerly As Catch Can ) as "... gritty, fast-paced, lyrical, and haunting," while the New York Post called it "Sensational ... Masterful ... Brilliant!" Zandri's list of domestic publishers include Delacorte, Dell, Down & Out Books, Thomas & Mercer, and Polis Books, while his foreign publisher is Meme Publishers of Milan and Paris. Zandri has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College.

SESSION 7: Pulling the Rug Out: Mastering the Art of the Twist

You'll learn the four elements of all plot twists, what it means to create multiple worlds of inevitability, how to turn expectations on their head, and ways to write toward 3 different types of reader reaction. Discover how to develop endings that leave your readers stunned, thrilled, and panting for more.
Steven James
Instructor: Steven James

Steven James is a national best-selling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-pounding thrillers continue to gain wide critical acclaim and a growing fan base. Suspense Magazine, who named Steven's book The Bishop their Book of the Year, says that he "sets the new standard in suspense writing." Publishers Weekly calls him a "master storyteller at the peak of his game." And RT Book Reviews promises, "the nail-biting suspense will rivet you." Equipped with a unique Master's Degree in Storytelling, Steven has taught writing and storytelling on four continents over the past two decades, speaking more than two thousand times at events spanning the globe. Steven's groundbreaking book on the art of fiction writing, Story Trumps Structure, won a Storytelling World award.
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