Today we are lucky to have with us Judy Copek, one of the founding members of the New England Crime Bake. From its humble beginning to the marvel of today to courage and foresight. Here’s Judy with how it all began:
Seven anxious committee members of the first New England Crimebake asked themselves this question over and over again as they sat with the evening sun streaming through the windows of Natick’s Morse Institute in the summer of 2002.
Kate Flora had been talking about putting on a conference for years, and now the plan morphed beyond the “wouldn’t it be nice” stage. The New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the New England Chapter of Mystery Writer’s of America got behind the idea and offered seed money. The first committee had members came from both organizations, as is still the custom. Gin Mackey of SinC bravely took on the challenge along with Al Blanchard of MWA. Sybille Barrasso, Peg DiCanio, Judy Copek, Kate Flora and Ruth McCarty met regularly all summer, pooling ideas and endeavoring to get their collective arms around the logistics of creating a conference. They were brave enough, or perhaps foolhardy enough to dub it The First Annual New England Crime Bake. Al Blanchard punned the title. When I opened our first bank account in the name of our conference, the employees did a double take. The New England Crime Bake?
The event took place at Northern Essex community College in Haverhill, MA on November 9th, beginning the practice of holding the conference on Veteran’s Day Weekend. Jeremiah Healy graciously agreed to be the Guest of Honor, beginning an amazing tradition of excellence and variety with Janet Evanovich, Robert B. Parker, Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Scottoline, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Sue Grafton, and Charlaine Harris in
subsequent years. For the tenth anniversary year we’re having two guests of honor:
Barry Eisler and Nancy Pickard.
The first conference was small and simple. There was one track on one day and no banquet. We sold books and provided breakfast, lunch and panel discussions to the fewer than 150 attendees, and we cleared enough to return the seed money and make a small profit. The attendees had been enthusiastic and the committee decided to do it again the next year. It’s hard to believe we’re in our tenth season with 250 attendees and 50 panelists, agents, editors and committee members. Every year we learned, grew and
built on the prior year. The last three years have been sell-outs. We like keeping the conference small enough to feel friendly and intimate. Now we offer a banquet, two tracks, panels on forensics, and agent/editors appointments. No one on that first committee could have envisioned the popular Friday night pizza party or the master classes and seminars. Nor could anyone have foreseen the ten years of success that hard work, enthusiasm and love of our genre have brought us. Al Blanchard and Peg DiCanio are no longer with us, but the traditions they helped establish that first year continue on.
The New England Crimebake presents Murder to the Tenth Degree, November 11-13, 2011 at the Dedham Boston Hilton, the 10th Annual Conference for Mystery Writers & Readers. What a great ten years it has been!