Mystery writers, as much as any other authors, like to play up the image of the solitary wordsmith pecking away (preferably in an unheated attic), writing about imaginary people but shunning contact with the real kind.
Attend a mystery conference and you’ll see how absurd that notion is. Mystery writers are the friendliest people I’ve ever met, and many are likely to give you a big hug even if your previous acquaintance has been limited to online exchanges. (I’ve gotten used to people I’ve never met throwing their arms around me, but I'll admit it was startling at first.) In between conferences, those online chats keep everybody in touch, but there’s nothing like a mystery con to make a writer feel like part of a huge community of authors.
I’m only going to two conferences this year, and the first, Malice Domestic, is now past, leaving behind a lingering nostalgia for the energy and enthusiasm of a big crowd of writers and fans. Okay, I’ll admit Malice Domestic was more exciting last year, when I was an Agatha nominee (and winner). But this year was great in its own way because four friends from the Guppies Chapter of Sisters in Crime were nominated.
Liz Zelvin, my blog sister, was nominated for Best Short Story, as was Nan Higginson. Beth Groundwater was nominated for Best First Novel for A Real Basket Case. Hank Phillippi Ryan won the prize for her first novel, Prime Time. Here they are: Liz, Beth, Hank, and Nan.
They’re all terrific writers, and you’ll be hearing a lot more from and about them in the future.
The personal highlight of Malice this year came when a woman in the audience at my panel (“After the Agatha: You’ve won! What’s next?”) revealed that she is one of Poisoned Pen Press’s manuscript screeners and was delighted to have played a part in getting my first book, The Heat of the Moon, published. I wanted to find her and thank her afterward, but she had vanished. I hope she knows her words gave me a warm glow that's going to last a while.
So far everything I’ve done at Malice has been tied to The Heat of the Moon. In 2006, the book had just been published and my only goal was to make people aware of it. In 2007, I was on the Best First Novel nominees panel and feeling a little anxious that THOTM would overshadow the newly-released Disturbing the Dead. This year, I was on a panel of past Agatha winners, having fun but regretting that I didn't have another brand-new book in hand to talk about.
What’s in store for me next spring? Even I’m not sure yet. But I know I’ll be at Malice, getting and giving hugs, exhausting my cheek muscles with nonstop smiling, and enjoying the great company.
More of my Malice Domestic photos are posted at: www.flickr.com/photos/guppies/