Monday, May 10, 2010

Malice from Both Sides

Kaye: I recently attended the Malice Domestic mystery conference, number 22, for my 5th time, as near as I can figure out. Very different from my first visit, where I knew no one. That year, 2003, I envisioned sitting alone for three days, watching other writers and fans who knew each other chatting. I’m a writer; ergo, the insecurity. To avoid that, I gave my name as a volunteer. Volunteering turned out to be an excellent way to get into the swing of things.

Marilyn: This was my first Malice Domestic conference, and I'm very glad I went. For years I avoided conferences, fearing everything --from screwing up my travel connections to being left out of things. This, despite the fact that I'd been a Guppy for many years and have wonderful e-friendships. I finally decided going to Malice wouldn't be too difficult, as long as I had a roommate.

Kaye: I was happy to oblige as a roommate, since it cut the hotel bill in half! I registered for Malice Thursday night and checked into the hotel Friday morning. I'm no longer self-conscious about sitting at a table in the Hospitality Suite by myself, because I now know I'll soon be joined by someone. It's also completely OK to sit at a table with someone else and introduce yourself. Everyone at Malice is easy to talk to--and talkative. In fact, I was sitting at a table in the Suite when a tall, thin, elegant woman walked in and nearly walked past me. I knew right away it was you, Marilyn!

Marilyn: Thanks, for the description!! I was glad to finally meet you and the other Guppies I'd grown close to over the years via email. How lucky I was to have you as my roommate, Kaye! Aside from being warm and friendly, you introduced me to many of our fellow writers. Friday night we ate dinner out with a group of Guppies. Marcia Talley joined us, too. We discussed the fact that there was no Malice Domestic contest winner that year. I was the only finalist I knew of. Which was odd, since I was certain other Guppies must have entered thecontest.

Kaye: Eating dinner with Marcia Talley! That's one of the great things about this conference. You can rub shoulders with writers you admire. I was standing in line for a drink at one of the receptions and, when the man in front of me turned and I saw his name tag, I realized he was Aaron Elkins!!! At an earlier Malice, when I hadn't gotten so brazen, I would have noted his name and been thrilled to stand next to him. But, steeped in the experience of my past onferences, I stuck my hand out and told him how much my husband and I enjoy and admire his books. He's one author I keep track of and get his books when they come out. He smiled and said I had made his day! Little ole me! I didn't want to wash that hand, but I'd acquired a nice poison oak rash the day before I flew out, so I did. Reluctantly.

Marilyn: Well, I didn't catch your Poison Oak and I'll add that Aaron was the first person I met at Malice. One of the things I was happy about was that you were up for an Agatha! For your short story. Iwas disappointed you didn't win, but was glad that another Guppy won the teapot in that category. And I was glad that, being the friendly type, you invited a gorgeous young author to join us for breakfast. And so we got to chat with Stephanie Pintoff, who had just won the Edgar for her first mystery, IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM -- which I plan to read soon.

Kaye: Yes, I'm glad Hank won that Short Story Agatha. Her speech was way, way better than mine would have been. I'd say that having a roommate you already know, if only online, made your first trip to Malice easier, Marilyn. But, if you don't know anyone at a writers' conference, I think you can still screw up your courage and go alone. It worked for me my first year. Mystery writers are an incredibly friendly bunch!

Marilyn: I agree. Mystery writers ARE very friendly. Which was probably why I decided to start up a Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime, though I'd never done anything of the sort. Fellow Guppies Sandy Parshall and Teresa Inge offered to help me. And Hank said she'd be our first speaker.

In the photo above, are Teresa Inge, Grace Topping, Kaye and Marilyn, Shelley Shearer, and Lisa Bork (another Agatha nominee!). Guppies all!