MWA U, The Mystery Writers’ University, comes to San Francisco

Join us on Saturday, October 15, 2011!

Have a great idea for a crime novel but don’t know where to start? Seeking inspiration for your novel-in-progress? Looking to polish your writing skills? The Northern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America is hosting MWA U, a one-day writing conference in downtown San Francisco that will help you with all of these goals and more. Classes will be led by some of the most respected names in mystery and thriller writing, who are also teaching professionals.

Sessions in the full-day schedule will cover topics such as “Character and Dialogue” and “Writing as Rewriting,” and a special final session will include all of the faculty members discussing the ins and outs of the writing life.

The cost is $50 for both members and non-members of Mystery Writers of America. Space is limited to 80 people and registration is open from now until October 3. Register now!.


San Francisco State University – Downtown
Westfield San Francisco Centre
835 Market St, Room 609
San Francisco, CA


8:15 – 8:50: Check-in

8:55 – 9:00: Welcome – MWA’s Executive Vice President, LARRY LIGHT

9:00 – 10:00: After the Idea

Teacher: Jess Lourey

“If you wish to be a writer, write.” But how? You’ve got the great idea, the one that won’t let you go, that embellishes itself as you walk around your day. But how do you grow that kernel into a compelling story, and where do you find the time? This class gives you the tools to turn a good idea into a great novel. Bring a notebook and writing utensil.

10:15 – 11:15: Dramatic Structure & Plot

Teacher: Julie Smith

Since Aristotle, the three-act structure for storytelling has reigned supreme, but does it still hold true for modern crime writers? Is it the best way, or the only way, to tell your tale? Is plotting simply sequencing your scenes or is there more to it? This class will teach you the art of storytelling and plotting so your manuscript will attract the attention it deserves.

11:30 – 12:30: Setting & Description

Teacher: Rex Burns

“I guess God made Boston on a wet Sunday,” Raymond Chandler once said, and this seemingly tossed-off remark has much to teach us about the gentle arts of setting and description. This class will guide you through the process and potential pitfalls of choosing a setting, and explore the ways in which descriptive passages can be honed to illuminate characters and themes.

12:30 – 1:30: Lunch Break

1:30 – 2:30: Character & Dialogue

Teacher: Laura DiSilverio

From Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple to Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlings, character is arguably the most memorable element of a mystery novel and a series. How do you create a full-realized unique protagonist that leaps from the page? How should you develop secondary characters as well as the protagonist’s nemesis? This class will challenge you to eliminate cardboard characterizations and create something new and fresh.

2:45 – 3:45: Writing as Re-Writing

Teacher: Reed Farrel Coleman

If editing was good enough for William Shakespeare, it’s good enough for you. More often than not, it’s the things you remove, the tweaks you make, and the tinkering you do, that are the difference between another slush pile manuscript and a new book contract. There are some easy methods to learn and follow to help you develop an editorial ear. Give us fifty minutes and we’ll give you a better chance with agents and editors.

4:00 – 5:00: The Writing Life

Teacher: The MWA-U Faculty

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” That’s how Peter DeVries balanced art and craft. What’s the reality of the writing life? The journey from your great idea to 90,000 words will mean hours of solitude. Days of self-doubt. Revision. Rejection. And then–rejoicing. You’ll often say: “I wish someone had explained this to me!” In this class, they will.


Larry Light is an award-winning journalist and author of the acclaimed Karen Glick series of thrillers set on Wall Street. Current Executive Vice President of MWA.

Jess Lourey is the author of the Murder-by-Month mysteries and a tenured professor of English and sociology at a two-year Minnesota college.

Julie Smith is the author of the Skip Langdon and Talba Wallis mystery series and she has taught writing at the university level and also online in a course she created called the Great American Novel Track, which evolved into the ebook Writing Your Way.

Edgar® winner Rex Burns is emeritus professor at the University of Colorado where he taught Creative Writing and English. His most recent publications are the “Leonard Smith” series of stories which may be found in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Laura DiSilverio writes the Mall Cop mystery series (Berkley) and the Swift Investigations PI series (Minotaur). She has a BA in English from Trinity University, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and taught writing at the United States Air Force Academy.

Twice nominated for the Edgar® and a three-time winner of the Shamus Award, Reed Farrel Coleman () is an adjunct professor of English at Hofstra University.

More Details

Registration Form [PDF]
Hotel Discounts
Transportation and Parking
More about MWA University