My First Thrillerfest

Two days after we returned from New Mexico, I took off for my first Thrillerfest in NYC. I can’t say enough good things about the entire experience – this is my new favorite writers’ conference! 


CraftFest takes place for a day and a half before Thrillerfest proper begins. CraftFest sessions are generally taught by a single author, and/or focus on a single topic. It is such a luxury and a pleasure to sink into deep thinking about the craft of writing. I took so many notes and I’m pretty sure I was smiling the entire time. 


Practice PitchFest and PitchFest happen next. Practice PitchFest is an amazing opportunity for unpublished/unagented writers to get advice from the ThrillerFest faculty. I received incredibly targeted, on point advice to tighten up my pitch. After pitching to helpful strangers, I was more relaxed and confident. And as if that wasn’t great enough, all three authors who helped me followed up later to find out how I fared during the full PitchFest. 


During the main pitching event, PitchFest, the rooms were organized alphabetically, and each room had a “room captain”. That person’s job was to help stressed, frazzled writers find the correct line, etc. In the hall between pitching rooms were additional volunteers filling a roll I call “comfort counselors” (a comfort counselor is the person handing out tissues and juice boxes to kids who get eliminated in a spelling bee). After getting my first big, “yes, send me your full manuscript” I wandered into the hall, looking dazed, and a very nice lady talked with me about her experience learning to be a storm chaser in Oklahoma until I had recovered enough to jump back into the fray. 

Thrillerfest proper is the final two days of the week. Many of the sessions were in the panel format, but the moderators were excellent and really kept the conversation to the topic at hand. I learned so much about guns, murder, how the FBI uses biometric data, and what thriller writers think about when they’re not writing.  This conference solidified a theory I developed last year at Bouchercon. The darker the fiction produced, the fluffier, happier of a bunny is the writer. I mean, some of the ex-military folks are not actual fluffy bunnies. But, neither are they dark, angry, stormclouds. As of the day I returned, I started saving my money to attend ThrillerFest 2020.

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Jenna Lincoln