Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Christmas Baking

Sharon Wildwind

I have a path I follow every morning, much like a letter carrier follows the same route. I visit a couple of mystery-related sites. Load the e-mails. Read the five mystery lists to which I subscribe. Read the personal e-mail, much of which revolves around mystery writing. Read what my husband sends to me under the heading of “cybernews,” tit-bits he picks up in his electronic travels that he thinks might interest, inform, or amuse me. On Sunday I look at what’s been published in Southern U.S. newspapers about writers and writing—got to keep up with my roots there—and at irregular intervals, I get electronic announcements, and newsletters about the mystery world.

In my little corner of the electronic mystery world, the gloves are off. The word I’ve seen most in the past four months is DON’T.

Don’t patronize me.
Don’t tell me my publisher isn’t as good as the next one.
Don’t send in your renewal to certain groups.
Don’t support conferences.
Don’t expect me to belong to a particular group any more.
Don’t expect cooperation from me.
Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up.

Who is shutting whom out, and why, and who said this, and who made that stupid decision, and who is in charge anyway is, right now, THE topic. Rather than repeat the multi-layered discussion—it is truly multilayered, often resembling water slipping over rocks—you can check the archives of any number of blogs and lists.

Please, please, please do not add to the miasma by bringing those discussion to this blog, in any guise, when response to this posting. There are other forums, and I truly believe we have another agenda here. I have two agendas this morning.

My first one is to talk some common sense about mystery conventions. It’s a quart-in-a-pint-pot situation.

Convention are organized and presented by volunteers, all of whom are authors, librarians, readers, or spouses gently convinced to help out. The people who make conventions happen do it because they love mysteries. None of them get paid, and all of them volunteer an incredible number of hours, not only on the convention week-end, but for the year before the event, and usually for six weeks after the event. Some of them keep coming back, year after year, for upwards of twenty years.

The average convention begins on a Friday evening and ends Sunday, some time between 1 PM and 5 PM. Allowing time for sleeping, meals, and bathroom breaks, that gives roughly 18 to 22 hours in which to schedule an opening ceremony, a social event, panels, readings, guest interviews, forensic demonstrations, and quite likely a charity auction, banquet, awards ceremony, and several writing workshops. Plus there is the hospitality suite—some of those run 24 hours a day—and making sure there is time for people to schmooze, grab a drink in the bar, visit the book sellers, etc.

A convention boils down to a limited container (18 to 22 hours crammed into one weekend) trying to hold ever-expanding contents (the exponential growth in the number of authors). Yes, we are at the breaking point. Yes, in the words of William Butler Yeats, “The center does not hold.” Yes, people are groping for possible solutions and some of them hurt.

Which bring up my second agenda. An anthropologist with whom I’ve studied cross-cultural issues likes to tell this story.

Two sisters were baking for Christmas. Both were using a recipe which called for a lemon, and there was only one lemon left in the house. The sisters fought over who had the right to it. Their mother, tired of the arguments, cut the lemon in half and gave one-half to each girl.

Both grumbled. It wasn’t what they wanted, but at least they gotten something. The older sister squeezed out the juice from her half, tossed the peel away, and made her cookies. The younger sister grated the peel, threw out the pulp, and made her cake.

The next couple of years could change the face of mysteries. It’s about time we stopped using the D--’- word, looked one another in the eye, and asked questions like, “What do you need?” and “How can we work together?”

The bottom line is: What can we do that’s creative and innovative and will keep mysteries alive for everyone?

Writing quote for the week:
We need to remember that we are all created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.~Maya Angelou, writer


Julia Buckley said...

Good point, Sharon. So what do you need?

Anonymous said...

I need to understand podcasts better to see if I could use them. I need a way to get the attention of librarians. And I really need to finish the book I'm working on. How about you?

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Sharon, I don't know if I'll get librarians' attention, but they'll certainly get mine when I go with other members of MWA NY to the American Library Association's midwinter meeting in Philadelphia.
Thousands of the 65,000 members of ALA will be there. And I've just learned I'll be in California when the ALA's annual meeting, presumably even bigger, takes place next summer. I may be able to sign books by hooking up with the local chapter of Sisters in Crime. So my best answer is Network, network, network. Opportunities do pop up if we keep an eye out.

Rosemary Harris said...

Just got around to reading this post...amen to banishing the D word. A lot of energy being wasted there...
Liz, that summer ALA show is even bigger than the Philly show. I believe MWA national is exhibiting there, don't know about SinC.

Lonnie Cruse said...

This week's posts are terrific, ladies, ALL of you did a great job. I particularly enjoyed Sharon's since the "don't" subject has been on my mind.

What do I need? At this moment, a cup of latte' (not sure I can even spell it) and an idea for my post today.