June 13th to 19th: “What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone attending ThrillerFest for the first time?”

With ThrillerFest a little over two weeks away, KJ Howe and CE Lawrence discuss the one piece of advice they’d give to someone attending for his or her first time?

After graduating from University of Toronto with a Specialist Degree in Labor Management Relations, KJ Howe tried the business world—but the creative pull to write was irresistible. She returned to school to complete a Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania where she wrote her thesis, ONE SHOT, TWO KILLS. KJ has the honor of winning three Daphne du Maurier awards for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense and numerous other writing awards. She is also ITW’s AgentFest chairperson.

CE Lawrence is the byline of a New York-based suspense writer, performer, composer and prize-winning playwright whose previous books have been praised as “lively. . .” (Publishers Weekly); “constantly absorbing. . .” (starred Kirkus Review); and “superbly crafted prose” (Boston Herald). SILENT SCREAMS and SILENT VICTIM are the first two books in her Lee Campbell thriller series. SILENT KILLS  comes out later this year. Her other work is published under the name of Carole Bugge.



  1. Thanks for inviting me to participate in the ITW Roundtable. My one piece of advice for ThrillerFest, CraftFest, and AgentFest is to PREPARE ahead of time. At ThrillerFest and CraftFest there are three or four workshops/panels going on at once. Take a look at the schedules posted on the website http://www.thrillerfest.com and create a schedule for yourself so you don’t miss out on key panels or workshops. If there are two must-see workshops going on at the same time, you can always purchase a CD recording of the one you can’t attend.

    At AgentFest, we have a record-breaking 60 agents and editors attending this year. This is where it is essential to do your homework. You won’t be able to see every agent, so spend time researching the agents and their preferences so you can target the ones who would be most interested in your novel. We have posted bios of all the attending agents and editors at http://www.thrillerfest.com under AgentFest for your convenience.

    You may also want to prepare a list of goals for the conference–research shows that writing down goals greatly increases your chance of meeting them. Ask yourself what it is you hope to gain from attending ThrillerFest. Perhaps you want to learn more about the craft of writing to help you edit your latest novel or maybe you want to meet your favorite author?

    The most important tip is to PREPARE to be surrounded by friendly, approachable people with a common passion. Everyone is at the conference to celebrate thrillers in every form. Bring your smile and prepare for the ride of your life!

  2. ThrillerFest and CraftFest are just around the corner and I can’t wait. ThrillerFest is my favorite big conference every year. Where else can you rub shoulders with and get writing advice from best selling authors such as Lee Child, James Patterson, Sandra Brown, Clive Cussler, RL Stine, Harlan Coben, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, Steve Berry, Douglas Preston, Michael Palmer, Heather Graham, and all the other wonderful authors who have attended ThrillerFest through the years?

    This year Ken Follett will yet again join us. Yes, Ken Follett. He of the Eye of the Needle fame. The father of the spy thriller.

    For me, and I must admit a healthy dose of bias here, CraftFest sets this conference apart from the other excellent writers’ conferences each year. As they say down in Cajun country: Lagniappe. It means a little something extra or a small gift. CraftFest is indeed that and more. To learn the craft of storytelling from the talented teachers who have participated in CraftFest over the years is unique and alone worth the price of admission. This year is no different. Check out the CraftFest schedule and you’ll see: http://www.thrillerfest.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/CraftFestSchedule.pdf

    What will be the “little something extra” at this year’s CraftFest? Ken Follett. He will present a class titled: How Thrillers Work. How could you miss that?

    Hope to see you all at ThrillerFest/CraftFest.

  3. I’ve been to every single ThrillerFest, and LOVE them. My advice to someone attending ThrillerFest for the first time is, “Don’t be intimidated.”

    Yes, you’ll be surrounded by authors. Many will be giants in the genre, whose work you admire. It’s easy to feel intimidated in their presence. “OMG – it’s Jeffery Deaver/Ken Follett/James Rollins!” Maybe you’d like to walk up to them and introduce yourself and tell the author how much you admire their work, but you hang back. Maybe they’re talking to another group of people, and you think you’ll be intruding. Or you think, “Jeffery Deaver/Ken Follett/James Rollins is such a famous writer, they couldn’t possibly want to talk to me.”

    Don’t be intimidated. Remember, even the famous authors are there for the same reasons as you. They love thrillers, they love to talk about writing, and they most especially love to talk to fans.

    One of my favorite ThrillerFest moments was the time I spotted Jeffery Deaver entering an elevator alone. I was heading in a different direction, but I darted inside anyway and rode with him to the second floor. It wasn’t much, but it gave me the chance to tell him how much I enjoyed his work and for him to say a few kind words of encouragement about mine. After that, I was smiling all day!

    Don’t be afraid to seize the moment (or create one!), and you’ll have your favorite ThrillerFest memories too!

  4. I attended ThrillerFest last year. Had a wonderful time! Even had my picture taken with Ken Follett! I saw Clive Cussler at the end of the hall but I was volunteering at the Registration table so I couldn’t just drop everything and run, but sure wanted to.

    My advice to first time attendees is:

    1. What Karen said above. Don’t be intimidated, all people there (Aliens are in the Sci-fi fest).

    2. Make a small budget to buy books. No better chance to get them autographed!

    3. Give some of your time as volunteer. I helped William Bernhardt in his panel, it was great. I also helped at the reception desk, met a couple of interesting people, including David Baldacci´s editor.


    I can’t go this year, but encourage everybody to go if possible.

    José H.

  5. If you’re an unpublished writer and feel intimidated by the “big names” around you, don’t overlook the benefits of making friends with the many other developing authors at CraftFest. Long after ThrillerFest is over, these people can support you, encourage you, and critique your work. Someday, you can all write blurbs for each other’s books!

    Also, if you’re scientist, doctor, engineer, or other techno-type in your day job–or you just like stories with science in them–come hang out in the hotel bar on Friday night after the last sessions end for an informal “Geek Meet” to talk about your favorite brainy thrillers with like-minded writers and fans.

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