Thursday, September 23, 2021

Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity 2021: A Look Back

 This year’s Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity conference took place in Columbia MD September 10 – 12 and may have been the best ever, despite several obstacles. Part of this success was, I’m sure, the result of people just wanting to get back with their tribe. Columbia and Howard County are among the most-vaccinated and least-infected locations in the country, and the hotel and organizers did well with their safety and masking policies. I felt secure the entire weekend.


A few weeks ago I laid out what past C3 experiences have been like, and what to expect this year. Today I’ll look back.



12:00                 Old home week commenced with Austin and Denise Camacho welcoming everyone. C3 feels more like a family reunion than a conference, and no one is more responsible for that than those two.

12:45                 “Secrets to Snappy Dialog.” Not the most auspicious start, as the moderator forgot his notes and had to wing much of the session. His panelists were up to the challenge and the end result was solid.

1:45          “Pitfalls to Avoid When Writing a Series.” I was a member of this panel, and happy to be there. Norwood Holland touched all the bases the title implied, and everyone on the panel (Karen Neary Smithson, Kelli Peacock, Ilene Schneider) had slightly different perspectives on series writing.

2:45          “Living With a Professional Liar.” This was the spouses’ panel, and The Beloved Spouse™ acquitted herself well. This has become an annual event and is always entertaining. I’ve seen several and can’t help but think how these better halves (regardless of gender) keep the writers on their toes, while supporting their (our) often unusual needs.

3:45          “Adapting the Written Word to Screen.” Christopher Chambers piloted James Grady and John Wren through a fascinating 45 minutes of advice, war stories, and tales of horror. A couple are worth recounting, but this is not the place.

4:30          Cash bar and book signings. Basically a social hour. Given those who attend C3, it’s always a damn fine social hour.

6:00          Dinner, followed by keynote speech by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Hank’s new book dropped that week, and she was busy doing promotional work, but she carved out time to join the conference virtually on a couple of occasions. She also worked out a virtual book signing to prove what a class act she is.

7:30          Noir at the Bar. I hosted this year, and got an outstanding group of authors to work with, including Lanny Larcinese, Kelli Peacock, Mark Bergin, D.W. Maroney, Ef Deal, Bruce Robert Coffin, Maria Kelson, and Jeff Markowitz. (Listed in reading order.) All not only wrote excellent and varied stories, they read them well (not something one can assume at most N@Bs), and were all good sports when I took liberties with their bios.


Then I closed the bar, with assistance from The Beloved Spouse™, Bruce Coffin, and Lanny Larcinese.



9:00          “Espionage for Everyone.” Outstanding panel that explored fictional espionage vs. the real thing. Made me want to consider shifting genres, if I weren’t already booked solid. (See what I did there? “Booked” solid? You know, a writer? Booked? I crack myself up sometimes.)

10:00                 “Just the Facts, Ma’am.” It is no slight toward Noir at the Bar when I say this was my highlight of the conference. I moderated a panel of three retired law enforcement professionals discussing where fictional cops get it right and wrong. This is a favorite topic of mine and Mark Bergin, Bruce Coffin, and Jeffery Higgins were perfect as the panel. Maybe the best panel I’ve ever been involved in, regardless of conference.

11:00         “Write Drunk, Edit Sober.” I was a panelist this time as Ellen Geib Butler led three of us (Rick Pullen, Lane Stone) through a discussion of writing techniques, with and without alcohol.

12:00                 Lunch, followed by Hank Phillippi Ryan interviewing Kathleen Barber, neither of whom was actually in the room. Hank was still on tour, and Kathleen, who has two small children, wisely chose not to risk exposing herself to the virus.

1:15          “Murder is Everywhere.” Once again, I was a panelist (thank God for lunch; they were working me to death) as Austin Camacho, D.W. Moroney, and I followed Jeff Markowitz through an exploration of the effects of location on our writing.

2:15          “Mixing Fact With Fiction: Does Historical Fiction Need More Than Just a Time Frame?” I haven’t given up on ever writing a Western (not yet) and was happy for John Wren to help Serg Koren, Ellen Butler, Frank Hopkins, and Bill Rapp show me what to beware of when writing of periods I have no direct connection to.

4:30          Cash bar and book signings. There were panels at 3:15, but I was exhausted. Nap time.

6:00          Dinner and keynote by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Any time you think you had it rough as a kid, check out her story, then shut up.


I closed the bar once more, with the able assistance of Bruce Coffin (again), Kelli Peacock, and a very nice gentleman who didn’t wear his name tag so I have no idea who he was.


“It’s a Small World” Award to Sherrilyn Kenyon, whose father was post sergeant major at Fort McPherson GA when the Army stationed me there in the early 80s.



8:00          Breakfast, and Austin Camacho interviewed James Grady. As one would expect from those two, funny and informative.

9:15          CLASS: James Grady – Mastering Your Writing. A true master class, as Grady is a master with enormous class. I’ve been writing for quite a while and sessions like these are why I keep going to conferences.

10:15                 “Journalism in Mysteries.” Another outstanding panel. Rick Pullen led John DeDakis, Mark Bergin, and Jeffery Higgins (former journalists all) through a discussion of how authors use journalism in fiction, and journalistic trends in general.


And then, alas, the end. There was another panel session, but The Beloved Spouse™ and I had to check out of the hotel and take care of a couple of administrative things before going home to collapse. Was this the best C3 I’ve been to? I have to admit the fact we had to skip last year, and this is the first time I’ve been with my writer tribe since November of 2019 in Dalla might affect my judgment, but I can think of none better. The hotel laid out perfectly, the staff was courteous and helpful, and, aside from a couple of minor technical problems with the remote speakers, the conference went off with out a hitch. The Beloved Spouse™ and I registered for 2022 on our way out. We’ll see you there.



Joe Lansdale will be one of the 2022 keynotes. If that’s not incentive, I don’t know what is.)

1 comment:

Denise Camacho said...

As always it was such a delight to have you both at the conference. And yes, this is our tribe and we love our tribe. Always a great time and this year a feeling of immense gratitude to everyone who made it so amazing.