Okay, it wasn’t Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, but for a newly contracted thriller writer, it felt as momentous. After all, David Morrell himself had escorted me here to this gathering which included so many of my writing heroes. To say I was a bit overwhelmed would definitely be an understatement.
Anyone arriving at the Toronto Convention Center’s meeting room on October 9th, 2004 knew something fantastic was about to happen.
We were crowded together, sitting knee to knee in folding chairs haphazardly arranged in a semi-circle. Whispered and excited conversations buzzed through the crowd. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we knew it was going to be big.
Finally, Gayle Lynds stood and stretched the microphone wire so she could stand in the midst of the crowd. She kept looking around the room as if searching for something. We craned our necks. The room was large, designed to hold a hundred people, and while we didn’t fill it, it somehow felt overflowing. With energy. With anticipation.
Then Gayle spoke, her voice at first low, then rising. Did we want an organization devoted to furthering the thriller genre? Would we support it, help to organize and build it? Did we think this was a worthwhile cause?
We looked at each other, several of us edging forward. David stood beside Gayle and gave us a glance that challenged each of us. Gayle asked again: do you want an organization dedicated to thrillers?
Then a chorus of people spoke out. It was an overwhelming and unanimous response. YES!
And so International Thriller Writers was born.
According to the ITW archives these people were present at that inaugural meeting: Natalia Aponte, Gary Braver, Debbie Carter, Lee Child, Wes DeMott, David Dun, Barry Eisler, Joseph Finder, Maggie Griffin, Peter Guttridge, Raelynn Hillhouse, Gregg Hurwitz, Alex Kava, Christopher Keane, Susanna Kearsley, Christine Kling, David Liss, Dennis Lynds, Gayle Lynds, CJ Lyons, Heidi Mack, Bruce Makous, Chris Mooney, David Morrell, Adrian Muller, Katherine Neville, Richard Pine, Lewis Purdue, Christopher Rice, M.J. Rose, Joel Ross, Leslie Silbert, William Staeger, Rich Thompson, and Angela Zeman.
Two years ago, almost to the day. And look how far we’ve come!
A steering committee and then a Board were formed, followed by the adoption of by-laws, a highly successful membership drive, and the creation of the Thriller Readers’ newsletter.
Just seven months later we held a gala party at BEA in New York City with an overwhelming attendance by publishing professionals. Here Gayle and David announced that MIRA Books had bought the THRILLER anthology for an outstanding $100,000 advance.
Three months after that we opened registration for the first ever ThrillerFest, held at the beautiful Arizona Biltmore Spa and Resort in June, 2006. The most common reaction to the news of ThrillerFest: what took you so long, we’ve been waiting forever for a chance to celebrate our favorite thriller authors!
In case you’ve been in a coma for the past six months, some ThrillerFest highlights included: MIRA’s welcome reception with signings of the THRILLER anthology; special spotlight presentations with Sandra Brown, John Lescroart, Brad Meltzer, Doug Preston and RL Stine; the unforgettable Killer Thriller Band; Lee Child playing Jack Reacher on trial for his life; Tess Gerritsen hosting a death scene investigation; David Morrell revealing the origins of First Blood; demonstrations by special operations experts; a writing craft workshop; and the gala Thriller Award presentation produced and hosted by Bob Levinson.
Of course, most of the fun and excitement occurred after hours at various groupings in the lobby and bar where thriller authors and readers plotted the future of the genre.
Next year’s ThrillerFest in New York City is sure to be even more momentous! But ITW didn’t want to rest on its laurels, waiting another year to celebrate the thriller genre.
Instead, led by marketing genius MJ Rose and founding members Jason Pinter, JT Ellison, Brett Battles, and Sandra Ruttan, ITW decided to sponsor the first KillerYear class. This group represents the crème de la crème of debut thriller novelists for 2007, each mentored by an ITW member.
What’s next for ITW? For an organization that seems to thrive on conquering the impossible and constantly creating new avenues to promote the thriller genre, one can only imagine that it will be something outrageously bold, fantastically creative and stupendously unique.
I for one can not wait!
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