A few of my favorite things – from this year’s ThrillerFest

by | Jul 15, 2018 | On writing | 3 comments

S Lee Manning:  My apologies. I’m a little late with my post today. I’ve been at ThrillerFest with four of my fellow Rogues – and I didn’t take my computer. I can only carry so much on New Jersey transit and the subways. Instead I took my new Nikon camera – and spent much of the conference annoying people with my insistence on playing photographer. And since I planned to write a recap of my experience of Thriller, it would have been a little hard to write the post in advance. So, now, visiting my son in New Jersey, I am once again equipped with computer – and ready to go.
So the recap of my personal experience:     

Nothing to do with Thriller. Times Square. 
It was great.
Short column, eh?
Ok, I was just kidding.  So let me start with the end. 
Awards and Banquet
First and foremost, a shout out to Rogue KJ Howe for her novel The Freedom Broker winning the 2018 ITW Award for Best First Novel.  Well deserved. If you haven’t read it, do so. And you won’t have to wait long for the sequel – it’s called Skyjack and is already out.
As for the rest of the awards banquet, check ITW’s site or your email for other winners. Great books all – nevertheless, I’m not listing them. I love ITW and ThrillerFest, but listing awards by non-Rogues – not in my job description.
As for the rest of the banquet – The presentations were entertaining, with the audience serenaded by “Jon Snow” and another character from Game of Thrones. Not quite sure who – because the person who reported this to me wasn’t familiar with the GoT characters. (Confession – I wasn’t there. I was in the Village and Times Square playing with the
The Village. Yup. Lots of pics.

new camera. See the pictures to the right.)

And for those of you thinking I’m just cheap and didn’t want to dole out the extra bucks for the banquet – keep this in mind. George R.R. Martin was 2018 ThrillerMaster. I do know what happens at large banquets that are supposed to be happy occasions when George R.R. Martin has anything to do with it.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about: Google “Red Wedding.” 
The Rogue Panel
There were five of us on the Rogue panel – with the great John Lescroart as moderator – moi, Gayle Lynds, Karna Small Bodman, Chris Goff, and KJ Howe.  It was standing room only – with a camera crew from CBS Sunday Morning to catch our wisdom. Well, to be honest, they were there to catch the Queen of Espionage – our own Gayle Lynds – but the rest of us lived up to our Rogue reputation. Gayle delved into how conspiracies are part of our novels – by definition. KJ terrified us all out of ever flying again. Karna shared an incident from her time in the White House, when notes she wrote during the assassination attempt on President Reagan were confiscated because she didn’t have a high enough classification to read what she had just written down. Chris entertained and informed with inside information from her trip to Russia. And my contribution: orthodox Jews have separate dishes for milk and meat – but vodka can go with either. Then there’s the fact that I’m the one who will have to be bleeped out for using a word that starts with “s” and ends with “hit.”
John and Gayle at the post-panel signing
Chris, K.J., with just a glimpse of Karna.
Karna and friend
Other highlights:
Mantras, meditations and goals – writing resilience
After the Rogue panel – this was my favorite for sheer hilarity. They verbally just wandered around discussing various topics that had nothing to do with the alleged subject as stated above. 
Lee Child stated that a writer should never use the subjective tense. Peter James: what is the subjective tense. Lee Child: didn’t you go to school?
Lee describing literary writers as barnacles on the ship and derided literary writers for thinking that they could write thrillers. But, according to Lee, any thriller writer could write a literary novel: just take out plot – and character – and suspense.
Friends, Good Times, and New York
No, this wasn’t a panel, but it was the heart of what I enjoyed about ThrillerFest – this year and every year. Yes, I go there for professional reasons – to promote myself as a writer – to promote the Rogues – and sometimes to learn something I didn’t know about the craft or business of writing. But over the years, I’ve developed good friends from around the country – and this is an opportunity to catch up – at dinners and breakfasts. Then there’s the New York experience. It is such a great city to explore – and reexplore – with or without a camera. 
The Village

Why do you go to conferences – if you do – and what is your favorite?
Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Karna Bodman

    Great recap, S. Lee. I've attended many conferences and, yes, ThrillerFest is always one of the very best in the country. For aspiring writers, the session called "Agent-Fest" can be a career-launching experience as some 50 top agents are there to hear "pitches" about new novels — and many authors have nailed a good agent who then went on to sell their first manuscript. So I would encourage other writers to seriously consider joining us at ThrillerFest 2019 – in July again at the Grand Hyatt.

  2. Lisa Black

    My advice for conference newbies is to do your homework and have a plan in mind for what you want to do, who you want to meet and what you’ll say when you do.

  3. Chris Goff

    Great highlights.