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By Dan Levy

Imagine you’re at ThrillerFest attending one of the many social events. You turn, and just out of earshot, Steve Berry, David Morell, Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, and Lee Child are talking. You can tell by their faces, the discussion isn’t current events or cocktail party chitchat. They’re discussing something deep…some element of writing thrillers, you’re sure.

More than knowing, you feel the burn that tells you just two minutes with this group would unearth some huge nugget. The kind of intel that would send your own protagonist charging into Act III, and put your novel in the homestretch. Mentally, you begin cataloging the body parts you would give just to be able to stand there, to hear what topic has the thriller elites so rapt.

Then one of them turns to you, “Do you have a minute to join us? We’d really value your opinion on…”

Out of nowhere, you hear a car horn. Reality grabs you. You’re behind the wheel. You look up; the light is green. The delivery driver behind you is creeping his truck to within inches of your bumper. You hit the gas; the kids can’t be late for school.

ITW created the weekly online Roundtable discussions so the scenario above doesn’t have to be fantasy.

Yeah, right.

Writing isn’t algebra. If it was, we’d all take a class, learn how to move X to the other side of an equation and get on with the business of entertaining readers. Writing is this quirky nebulous pursuit wherein writers need community to stoke the fires of creativity and craft, and isolation to breathe life into an otherwise blank computer screen. The Roundtables provide community, connection and collaboration in a way that keeps the energy and camaraderie of ITW and ThrillerFest alive all year long. What’s more, everyone is respected, appreciated, and valued.

At the Roundtables, we’re asking the kinds of questions you’re asking. We’re concerned with the same issues you are. We’re looking for the same kinds of answers and discussions you have when you meet in your writers groups. The best part is that thriller writers from different ages, experiences and countries help make the mix of each group engaging.

Still not sure if you’re right for a seat at the Roundtable? Let me offer two more reasons that you’re more than qualified.

The first reason, I invite you to see for yourself. Legendary New Yorker cartoonist and ITW member Peter Steiner created a cartoon in 1993 that still holds true today. The message: On the Internet, everyone is a dog, resonates because the Internet levels the playing field. The Roundtables are just a bunch of thriller writers meeting at an electronic coffeehouse to discuss the topic of the day.

I think you’ll like reason number two even better. On the publishing food chain, I’m lunch to you. That’s right, I’m an associate member still trying to break through. I’ve developed sixty questions for the Roundtables based on the topics that I find compelling, that I hear others talking about, that writers just like you send me, that I find as I do research to hone my craft, and that I just think will get people talking in a way that can help them.

Just as certainly, you have great discussion input from your own experiences, studies, and thoughtful approach to your work.

Will You Join Us?

There are three ways to join the Roundtables:

1. Dive in. There’s a conversation going on right now. Even better, there are thriller writers anxious to converse with you.

2. Help lead a discussion. Pick a topic that moves you and let me know via this link or the link in The Big Thrill newsletter. As a debut author, this is a great opportunity to post your bio, promote your book and interact with the most rabid thriller readers in the country! Many authors will post on their Facebook pages, websites and Tweet when they’re participating in the Roundtable. It’s a great way to connect with new and old fans alike.

3. Submit a question. Here’s your chance to help shape the discussion of the thriller writing community around the world. As your teachers always told you, ask. Odds are good, you’re not the only one with the same question.

In return, you’ll get connections with new authors and fans, see varying perspectives that will inform your own, and perhaps share a laugh or two.

I work with a number of charitable organizations in my community. I’m constantly reminded that the number one reason people don’t give is because no one ever took the time to ask them.

Would you please consider joining the Roundtables, and helping to shape the discussion on the topics (yes, more than one) that appeal to you? Since we started in October 2010, 86 different authors helped lead our discussions—I would guess as many of one-third of them on more than one occasion. We’ll cross the 100-author mark this spring. Will YOU be among the first 100 authors to take part?

I really hope so.

Thank you for the opportunity to post. I hope it provides a chance for us to learn from each other. If you have participated in the Roundtables, I’d love for you to share why, what was good, and what we could do better.

And, if you haven’t, I’d like to know why as well. What obstacles can I help remove? What questions or concerns do you have that I can address?

I’ll check back as often as I can. I’m looking forward to a great discussion…as I do every week at the Roundtables.

I’ll close by taking off my Roundtable hat. As a 20+-year marketer, I help entrepreneurs succeed. As debut authors, you fit the entrepreneur category. While you’re welcome to anything helpful on my website, two things might be of interest. The Better Writing Worksheet might help frame your thinking for any web posts or other writing you do to sell your books. Also, if you haven’t read Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Black Book of Connections, do. While it’s geared toward salespeople, I recommend it to anyone looking to reach out to others for the purposes of transacting business.

In addition to serving as ITW’s Thriller Roundtable coordinator, Dan Levy is also a freelance writer for the aviation and financial industries, who works from his Lincoln, Nebraska home. His first novel, THE BLOWDOWN LIMIT, is an aviation-thriller in search of representation and publication. Bestselling author Jon Land noted, “Dan Levy’s THE BLOWDOWN LIMIT reminded me of Michael Crichton’s AIRFRAME and Thomas Block’s MAYDAY in all the right ways. Levy pilots his tale in a smooth and seasoned fashion that will make this the next book to make people think twice before flying the friendly skies.”