corneila read

When Berkeley resident Cornelia Read was struggling to finish her first mystery, she showed the first 20 pages to bestselling-author Lee Child at the annual Book Passage Mystery Conference. Child liked the pages so much, he offered to write a blurb for Read.

Read encountered Child the next year at another Book Passage conference. She was able to report she had found a publisher for her manuscript. To Read’s amazement, Child suggested that they go on book tour together. The pair visited mystery bookstores in Seattle, Houston, Scottsdale, and Thousand Oaks. More than 300 people turned out at the readings – mostly to see Child – but they were also introduced to Read’s work.

It was an incredible opportunity, Read admits. Her book, Field of Darkness was subsequently nominated for an Edgar Award and many other honors.

Now Read, with two published books, is repaying Child’s generosity. She strongly believes in helping aspiring authors.

To do that, Read and a handful of other successful Bay Are mystery writers are hosting a two day workshop called the Berkeley Mystery Writing Intensive. It will be held at the Claremont Hotel on November 21 and 22.

“We wanted to do something for the community of mystery people,” said Read. “Writing is so solitary. It’s really nice to check in with your tribe every once in a while.”

Claremont Hotel
Claremont Hotel

The conference will feature actor Peter Riegert, who making a film of A Field of Darkness. He will discuss narrative structure and the types of books that make good movies.

The other presenters include Julie Blackwell, Seth Harwood, Tony Broadbent, Sophie Middlefield and Tim Delaney. They will talk about creating memorable characters, distinctive first lines, query letters, and more. Barbara Poelle, a literary agent, will talk about getting published.

Read, who lived in Berkeley for nine years, recently moved to New Hampshire so one of her daughters could attend Exeter School as a day student. She misses the Bay Area. “I live in a beautiful little town and the fall was splendid. But it’s getting cold and the leaves are falling off. I don’t like winter and I want to be back in California.”

She also misses the strong mystery writing community. Read is part of the northern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and they meet once a month. ”It’s the nicest group professionally I have ever been involved with. They are very open and nice to one another.:

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...