Friday, December 24, 2010

Escape to Sleuthfest

JRW: Maybe you're in a last minute panic about a gift for a mystery writer or reader. Or maybe you're looking for a warm getaway this winter? We invited Julie Compton to come and talk to us about the Sleuthfest mystery conference, coming in March. Welcome Julie!

What is SleuthFest? Is it for writers or readers?

JULIE: SleuthFest is Florida's premier mystery writer's conference, held every year in Deerfield Beach, Florida. The conference is sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is usually held in late February or early March. Our next conference is just a few months away – March 3 to March 6. It's a great time of year to visit Florida, especially for our northern friends who crave some warm, balmy weather.

SleuthFest is for mystery writers and mystery fans alike. Third Degree Thursday is chock full of hands-on workshops that focus on the craft of writing, but the Friday and Saturday schedule is loaded with workshops, panels and other events that will appeal to both writers and fans. We're a smaller conference, so fans have a chance to mingle and meet some of their favorite authors in an intimate setting.

Tell us about the special features of the conference that set your
event apart from some of the other mystery conferences.

Florida in March!

Seriously, although Florida in March may be reason enough for some, SleuthFest offers so much more. Our Third Degree Thursday continues to grow in popularity, so in response, we've expanded the schedule to include more workshops, with beginner, intermediate and advanced tracks to benefit writers at all levels. We also have a full track each day devoted to forensics. We have our SleuthFest 101 Dinner, where first-timers have the opportunity to meet other first-timers and learn how to get the most from their SleuthFest experience. We have Readers Corner, where unpublished writers have a chance to read a ten minute segment of their work and get feedback from listeners (and if there’s time, published writers can read, too). After the end of the regular programming on Friday and Saturday, our guests of honor will participate in a book discussion (poolside!) with attendees. Friday night is movie night. This year we'll show Gone, Baby, Gone, which will be followed by a film discussion with a surprise guest. We have our Author Auction, where guests can bid to win, for example, manuscript critiques by bestselling authors or the chance to name a character in their next books. On Saturday night, we have the Agents and Editors Poolside Cocktail Party. It's a great chance to meet an agent or editor in a casual setting. If you're a fan of more structured meetings, you can sign up for a pitch session.

To see everything SleuthFest offers, including the workshop and panel topics, check out the full schedule at

Oh, and did I mention SleuthFest is held in Florida?

You have two guests of honor this year and a Spotlight Speaker--tell us about those writers.

We are so pleased to have bestselling authors Dennis Lehane and Meg Gardiner join us this March as our guests of honor.

Dennis Lehane is the critically acclaimed author of nine novels, including Mystic River, Gone, Baby Gone, and Shutter Island, and the recently released Moonlight Mile. Mystic River was a finalist for the PEN/Winship Award and won both the Anthony Award and the Barry Award for Best Novel as well as the Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction given by the Massachusetts Center for the Book.

Meg Gardiner is an award winning author of eight novels, including China Lake, which won a 2009 Edgar, The Dirty Secrets Club, which won the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award in 2008, and her most recent, The Liar's Lullaby.

We’re also happy to welcome S.J. Rozan as our Thursday Spotlight Speaker. S.J. is the author of twelve novels. Her work has won the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, and Macavity awards for Best Novel and the Edgar for Best Short Story. She's also the recipient of the Japanese Maltese Falcon Award.

How much does it cost to attend SleuthFest?

Our early bird discounted pricing is available until January 15, 2011, and it starts at $235 for MWA members, $255 for non-members. (I say “starts” because some things are extra, such as the SleuthFest 101 dinner.) The hotel, the Hilton Deerfield Beach, has kept our low rate of $139 per night.

As a special incentive to register early, everyone who registers before December 31, 2010 will be entered in a drawing to win signed books by Dennis Lehane and Meg Gardiner, plus a 10 page manuscript critique by one of the agents or editors in attendance.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?

Just that it’s a great conference and would make a great gift for yourself or for the mystery writer or fan in your family! Personally, SleuthFest was the first mystery conference I ever attended, and I didn’t know a soul. I was welcomed with open arms by the MWA Florida chapter members and immediately made to feel part of the family.

Beyond that, almost anything readers might want to know about the conference can be found on the website at They’ll find a pretty extensive Frequently Asked Questions page. I also invite anyone who has questions to email me at If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does.

Roberta, thank you for allowing me to tell your readers about the conference!


  1. Julie, that sounds really great, unfortunately I can't make it. Good luck with it.

    I'd also like to wish you ladies and readers a Merry Christmas, peace and happiness.
    :) Donna

  2. Thank you Donna, same back at you! And to all the clan at JRW!

  3. Jule,
    It sounds awesome. Especially that poolside cocktail party!

    And a terrific lineup!


  4. Merry Christmas to you, Donna! I'm sorry you can't come, but maybe another year we'll see you there?
    Jan, the poolside cocktail party is great. The pool area is adjacent to the main hallway where most of the conference events take place, so it's nice to be able to go in and out between panels, etc. for some sunshine and fresh air.
    Just for fun, this year we have a special "musical" performance, too. It's a surprise, so that's all I can say . . . :-)

  5. Sleuthfest was the first mystery conference I attended, too, and it's a great one! I can't come this year, but I'd love to return. Have fun!

  6. OH, hey Julie! It sounds wonderful...

    Merry Christmas to all!


  7. I have attended and I can second that it is a great place for beginning writers especially. I witnessed new writers signing up with an editor or an agent after their pitch session. And I read I loved the relaxed atmosphere and the pool and the outdoor setting. And it's Florida in March!

    And guess what might captcha word is: novelet... is that appropriate or what?

  8. Sleuthfest is quite good...we would love to have any and all of you come.
    Oline Cogdill

  9. Wonderful lineup of authors for 2011; check out the list at the website. It is shaping up to be a dynamite conference!

    Plus, Florida in March - even though I'm two hours up the coast, we've had some brr-brr weather already, and I'm looking forward to warmth and sunshine!

    Happy Holidays to all,

    Linda Hengerer

  10. Alan, yes, you need to come down again some year!
    Hey Hank! Merry Christmas!
    Rhys, you're absolutely right about it being a great conference for beginners. I've had several writers tell me that found their agent at Sleuthfest. It's a very laid-back atmosphere, so that makes it easier to approach someone.
    Linda is right about the great line-up. Oline has worked hard to bring in some great names.
    Roberta and everyone at Jungle Red, THANK YOU again for sharing your space here to help us spread the word about the conference. I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas!

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