Thursday, July 12, 2012

Crested Butte Writers' Conference by Judy Dailey

Judy Dailey grew up on an eighty-acre organic farm in Indiana. Now she lives on a twelve-hundred square-foot urban farm in Seattle with her husband, a dog and four chickens. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, she has an MBA from the University of Washington. 

Judy has been a pilot, skydiver, spelunker, bicyclist, hiker, skier, night-time sailor and fisherman. She has managed a multi-million dollar grant program. But her greatest challenge remains the gray garden slug. 

 Her award-winning novel (winner of the 2011 Claymore Dagger Award at Killer Nashville), Animal, Vegetable, Murder, is her first traditional mystery. It’s due in April 2013 from Five Star/Cengage.


Crested Butte Writers’ Conference  by Judy Dailey

I have just returned from one of my favorite conferences in Crested Butte, Colorado. Here’s why it’s special.

1) Only 70 participants, including 10 agents and editors. I could chat informally with people I hoped to query. Some of the agents/editors are experienced hands (like the editor from Tor/Forge), others are new and acquiring authors.

2) The conference is focused on commercial fiction (including mystery writers like me), and many of the attendees have a long list of published books. I discovered great writers new to me, in genres I never thought I’d try, and bought a dozen books during the conference.

3) The contest is humane. Readers select the top three finalists in each category. Then the finalists get to revise their submission based on the readers’ comments before the final judging. What an incredible learning experience.

4) Besides hearing inspiring and prolific writers (Brad Parks, Hank Phillippi Ryan) I took Master Classes, submitting 10 pages of my work in progress plus a 2-page synopsis. Then 5-8 other writers, plus an agent, critiqued my submission. I learned so much. I participate in a weekly critique group in Seattle, so the process wasn’t new. But having fresh eyes on my WIP was wonderful. I came home reinvigorated and inspired.

5) Attendees have a chance to read for 3 minutes from their work in an informal gathering. I loved reading my stuff, and I really loved hearing other authors.

6) Pitch. This year, attendees had a chance to submit a one-paragraph pitch and the first page of their manuscript. Agents and editors read the pitches and asked to chat with authors whose work interested them. I had an agent request my whole manuscript! Plus another agent requested 50 pages.

7) The conference planners are incredibly friendly. Plus they are writers, too.

No conference is perfect. What are the drawbacks to Crested Butte?

1) 9,000 feet! If you are susceptible to altitude sickness, talk to your doctor. This year I took a prescription medication that solved my problem.

2) Getting there. I planned to drive with my old husband and our old dog in our old VW van. The van gave up the ghost at the last minute, and my cheapest alternative was to fly to Denver and drive 5 hours. One plane a day lands in the nearest airport, Gunnison, and a shuttle runs from Gunnison to the village of Crested Butte. Once you’re in Crested Butte, a free bus runs every 20 minutes to the hotel where the conference is held. Next year, I hope for a virtual ride-share board for folks driving from Denver.

3) The conference hotel is not cheap. I stayed in a hostel in a dorm room with 5 other women and very clean bathrooms. Great fun, but next time I’ll bring ear plugs and a sleeping mask.

Bottom line: Highly recommended.


Judy, thanks so much for this report on the Crested Butte Conference. I hope to attend that one someday, but we're getting so many wonderful conferences taking place in Colorado and surrounding states that it's often hard to choose.

For more information about Judy, her forthcoming mystery from Five Star, and her interest in urban farming, check out her website/blog Animal, Vegetable, Murder: An Urban Farm Mystery.  There's a monthly book drawing if you sign up for Judy's e-mail list. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks so much for hosting Judy.

Judy - Thanks for sharing your experiences. It sounds like you had a terrific experience at the conference!

nutschell said...

Pat, thanks for hosting Judy. I loved learning about this conference as I've been eyeing it for sometime now :)

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Thanks for telling us about the conference. It does sound very rewarding--particularly the part about getting to meet agents and editors. Since I don't attend conferences, I like learning more about them. If it gets you a good agent or publisher, it's well worth the effort!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Crested Butte is one place in Colorado I haven't been yet, so this conference is a definite maybe in my future.

Jacqueline, conferences are great for making connections with authors, bloggers, agents and editors. I'd go to one every month if I could afford it.

Rob-bear said...

Sounds like a delightful event. I'd like to go some year. But it's a long way from Canada.

Holly Jahangiri said...

Sounds rewarding and adventurous! If it was worth all that just to get there, it's a rousing endorsement! :)

Lynn Proctor said...

wow--sounds like a very intense experience :)

Alana said...

Terrific post...thanks, Patricia and Judy.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Sounds like a fun conference!

Arlee Bird said...

That conference sounds ideal. I'd love to attend that one. For that matter I wouldn't mind going to Crested Butte conference or no.

Wrote By Rote