Sunday, November 15, 2009

Magical Mystery Weekend

This past weekend was beyond magical for me as a mystery writer, led by the incredible opportunity to escort the guest of honor at the 2009 New England Crime Bake for mystery writers and readers -- New York Times-bestselling author Sue Grafton, creator of the alphabet mystery series that begins with "A is for Alibi" and will see her latest installment,"U is for Undertow, on Dec. 1.

Twenty-one books, each with an imaginative and intriguing plot and all featuring Private Investigator Kinsey Milhone, whose quirks include using nail scissors to cut her hair. Sue Grafton's books have been published in 28 countries, 26 languages and have a readership in the millions. The series, which Sue expects to conclude with "Z is for Zero" by 2015, remains set in the 1980s.

Sue Grafton is a rock star in the mystery world and an inspiration to women writers. She is also extremely funny and irreverent (no surprise to her readers), exceedingly gracious, and was extrordinarily generous with her time and advice to the authors and wanna-be writers at the conference. Not only did she sign every book and additional object pushed in front of her, she surprised everyone by offering to critique the first 20 pages of one attendee whose name she selected in a random drawing.

I also became aware of another example of her generosity, though far less public, during the weekend. A woman approached Sue with a book signed 21 years earlier that also included contact information provided for the fan to someday send a few pages of her own manuscript for Sue to review and provide advice. Sue asked if she'd ever finished and the woman said she recently had finally done so. "Then I'll read them now," Sue told her. The woman got in her car and drove home to retrieve them -- and later enjoyed the manuscript review of her life.
This was my first year on the Crime Bake organzing committee and it's unbelievable how much time each member contributed to make the 2-day event a success. At a time when other mystery conferences are canceling due to the economy, ours sold out and attracted fabulous authors, forensics experts and almost 300 people who love the written word. It is nearly nirvana for a writer.

Crime Bake also is the traditional launch of the esteemed annual "Crime Stories by New England Writers" anthology. The cute guy in the white shirt is Husband No. 1 signing his story that was one of only 18 selected out of about 150 submissions for this year's edition entitled Quarry." (Ironically, Sue' s Q book is "Q is for Quarry.")

He also had the opportunity to join me and other guests at Sue's table for the "Breakfast with the Authors" event. Twenty mystery authors "hosted" tables of 10, giving attendees another chance to informally interact with those they admire and each other. (Crime Bake is a great place to meet up with mystery friends and make new ones.)
There are countless opportunities throughout the conference to talk to authors (including best-selling writers Joseph Finder, Lisa Gardner and Michael Palmer) and also agents. Attendees can sign up for a 5-minute slot to pitch a manuscript to an agent. The lucky ones, like me, walked out with a business card and were invited to submit part of a completed manuscript for the agent to consider whether to offer to represent them in trying to sell it to publishing houses. I wanted to run home and finish my book immediately.
But I was scheduled to moderate the Sunday morning "U is for Unconventional" panel of authors featuring:

Lynne Griffin who wrote "Life without Summer" about a woman trying to find out who killed her daughter in a hit-and-run accident and the therapist who tries to help her;

Jedediah Berry whose "Manual of Detection"is a surrealistic tale of a file clerk who gets promoted to detective and seraches for a missing detective in a city where all the alarm clocks are being stolen;
Francie Lin whose "The Foreigner" won the Edgar (as in Edgar Allan Poe), mystery's top award, for best first novel. It's about a timid 40-year-old Taiwanese American virgin who, after the unexpected death of his domineering mother, must journey to Taiwan to find the "rebellious younger brother lost to him for almost a decade"; and

Paul Tremblay, author of "The Little Sleep," which features a narcoleptic, wise-cracking private investigator whose latest case begins when a woman shows up in his office to ask him to find her missing fingers -- or does she?
The panelists were so fascinating that I was sorry to see our session end. But I know the energy, enthusiasm and excitement of the panel and the Crime Bake experience will stay with me for weeks. Then it will be time to get back to work on planning the 2010 version, which I'm scheduled to co-chair. Our Guest of Honor will be best-selling and longtime mystery author Charlaine Harris, whose Sookie Stackhouse character now appears in the HBO series "True Blood."
The magic continues.


MaxWriter said...

You did a superb job of organizing, Pat. And congratulations on the pitch invitation!! WHoo-hoo!
Your banquet picture in the stunning hat is on my facebook page, too.


PatRemick said...

Really, I have to see that -- and thanks for loaning it to me!! I think you should have won a costume prize, by the way.

And thank you re CB. What a wonderful weekend -- and great to see you!