One day last fall, Michelle Becker and I reviewed the forensic sessions we'd attended at several writers' conferences. The classes were good—but the information often covered the same ground twice or left gaping holes. What we needed was a conference dedicated to solely to forensics.
Well, why not put one together? Why not hold it here? St. Louis is, after all, the murder capital of the U.S. It's not like we don't have the resources.
We shared the idea with Libby Fischer Hellmann, who'd driven down with Judy Bobalik to speak at one of our Greater St. Louis SinC Chapter meetings. Talk about wildfires spreading. On the car ride back to Chicago, Libby called to brainstorm. Since she was outgoing prez, she talked to the incoming prez, Rochelle Krich, and before we knew it, Michelle and I were charged with writing a proposal.
Since then, it's been a combination of Christmas and final exams every day.
One of the best "presents" so far has been the enthusiastic response from Jan Burke and Dr. D. P. Lyle.
"We can email 'em. Who knows?" Michelle shrugged. She had that "nothing-ventured/nothing gained" tone in her voice.
"Yeah, if just one of them would help…that would be awesome," I said. On the other hand, I thought, they might just tell us we're nuts. So what? Wouldn't be the first time someone's suggested I need professional help.
Doug called Michelle while she was in Target buying school supplies. Since she was only familiar with his initials "D. P.", she had NO idea who he was. Looking at pencils and notebooks will do that to you.
Jan emailed me so quickly, I thought she had an automatic responder on her site.
But no. Both Jan and Doug were thrilled. Turns out, they'd discussed the idea among themselves at other conferences. Now our vision had accidentally collided with theirs. And they brought more experts to the party. St. Louis's own Eileen Dreyer instantly volunteered to do any and everything. She even coughed up a male heir. (Honest! He's serving as our DJ for A Muddy Brew Ha-Ha, the party and auction to benefit the Crime Lab Project Foundation.) Next, Detective Lee Lofland joined our line up of heavy-hitting headliners.
Since then, we've been the beneficiaries of many wonderful suggestions and offers of help. Authors and fans from near and far are pitching in. Another local author "made our day." Eleanor Sullivan introduced us to Ann Burgess, one of the three experts who wrote the book on criminal profiling. Local law enforcement stars—Dr. Mary Case and Joe Burgoon—have signed on. Somehow we wrangled a "yes" from Gwen Haugen, a forensic anthropologist who's worked to identify the remains of WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War MIA. Our faculty list reads like a "who's who" in the fields of forensic science and law enforcement. More about our faculty is on our blog http://forustl.blogspot.com
With sponsorship by Sisters in Crime national, we're able to keep the costs near break even. Members can sign up before May 31 for only $225. Hotel rooms in St. Louis are a bargain. Ours are only $88 a night with a free shuttle from the airport. Go to www.sistersincrime.org/ForensicU
Our chapter members are catching the fever. We're creating a special t-shirt enumerating "50 Ways to Catch a Killer" and flaunting such memorable phrases as "Test a little sperm, Herm." As soon as she returns from her tour of Greece, Donna Ross will take on the job of "conference concierge," helping visitors to our fair city plan trips to our world famous zoo, art museum and science center (all free). Or jaunts to the Cathedral Basilica (the largest collection of mosaics in the world), the Missouri Botanical Gardens (one of the three most impressive gardens in the world), or the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame. (Gotta love it!) Check us out at http://www.explorestlouis.com/
Here's a sweetner: The first fifty attendees who pay an extra fee can join us at the Bullseye Shooting Gallery to squeeze off a few rounds. Scope it out at http://www.bullseyestl.com/
On Saturday night, we urge our guests to put on their dancing shoes and open their wallets to benefit the Crime Lab Project Foundation (http://www.crimelabproject.com/) with bids on such nifty items as (fasten your seatbelts): a brick from Edgar Allan Poe's home, a Victoriana anatomical print, an "I Love a Mystery" bracelet, a signed script and color photo from Law and Order, and a meal with some of our forensic experts.
Even the weather is bound to co-operate. Fall in Missouri is a beautiful time of year. The average temperatures are in the 50s, but Indian Summer frequently gives us balmy days and cool, good-for-sleeping nights. The colors of fall, the robust maroon of Bradford pears, the pumpkin orange of sugar maples, and the flame red of low bushes makes your heart want to leap out of your chest with joy.
So plan to meet me in St. Louis. We'll do you proud. And if you have any questions, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sisters in Crime Presents
Forensic University of St. Louis
"50 Ways to Catch a Killer"
November 1-4, 2007 * Hilton St. Louis Airport * St. Louis
Posted by Joanna Slan