What if we put on a mystery conference and nobody came?

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!


This entry was posted in Collie, Emily Dahill Story, Guest Blogger, Interview, Judy Copek, Murder, Promotion, Suspense. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to What if we put on a mystery conference and nobody came?

  1. Excellent article, Judy! And thanks to you and all the other founders for creating one of the best mystery conventions going.

  2. Judy C says:


    Thanks for offering me and The Crimebake a podium!

  3. What a great memory you have, Judy. Those were nice sessions at the Morse Institute. And what an adventure along the way–there was the community college that didn’t put on the heat on Sunday, and poor Janet Evanovich with her red nose, no toilet paper in the bathroom, and me standing inside the door with a giant roll, handing it out to the line as it passed. The New Hampshire medical examiner in an evening dress, talking about her job…what a performance.

    We’ve been so lucky in our attendees and our guests of honor. And boy did that ten years fly past!

  4. Lindsay says:

    I’m so glad you could stop by and let us know how the CB all started. Thanks again

  5. AWESOME!!! I have heard of this great conference before. Your rep is SOLID gold.

  6. Sounds like you did it right by starting off small. This conference sounds wonderful and I hope someday I’ll be able to attend.

  7. pete says:

    Judy, Thank God for you and Kate and the rest of you! 2009 was my first writers conference, where I met Christine Witthohn, who became my agent, and Liz Lipperman and Lindsay, and Dennis Lehane and Charlaine Harris and – oh, what the hell, you’ve all made a huge impact on my life!

  8. pete says:

    And Lindsay, I hope you can find a way to get up t Dedham Thursday, because I could use some help, if you know what I mean.

  9. Ciara Knight says:

    I’ve never heard of this conference. It’s funny. I’m just now starting to give mysteries a chance. They’ve never been my favorite but I think modern day mysteries seem to grab my interest better.

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