Thursday, March 23, 2023

Suffolk Mystery Authors Conference

 The Suffolk (VA) Mystery Writers Festival took place Saturday, March 11. This was my first chance to attend in person after having participated the past two years virtually due to covid restrictions. It was worth the wait, though it would have been nice not to have had to.


No offense to other events, but the Suffolk festival (hereafter referred to as “SMAF”) is the best-run author event I have ever attended. The organizers, led by the tireless and ubiquitous Katie Kelley, thought of everything.

·       The hotel is part of the conference facility, so we didn’t even have to leave the building.

·       We didn’t have to bring or sell books; they pre-ordered everything for us and handled all sales.

·       Our books were already displayed on our tables when we entered the facility, along with 8.5 x 11 inch color photos of each author and a little “Will return at” clock in case we needed or wanted to attend a panel. (My panel was Keeping it Snappy: Writing Short Stories, moderated by Shawn Reilly Simmons and including Teresa Inge, Nan O’Berry, Josh Pachter, and Art Taylor.)

·       The event was free to the public (about 400 came to see us); those who paid a fee received a swag bag of author gelt (I provided a short story) and an invitation to a private reception with the authors.

·       The authors got swag bags of their own, including a Moleskin journal and a small desk clock.

·       Authors and their families who chose to stay afterward were treated to a fine meal.

Everyone was in a great mood and if there were any hitches, I was unaware of them. Bonus coverage came in the form of the bar being well stocked and relatively quiet, which allowed me to catch up with friends including Ellen Geib Butler, John DeDakis, John Gilstrap, Jeffery James Higgins, and Con Lehane. As might be expected from this group, I had a ball.


Bonus bonus coverage came from getting to visit with longtime and dear college friends Dan and Micki Knipple after a 40-year interregnum. They’re the kind of friends you can not see for half a lifetime and pick up with as if it’s only been a week.


The next SMAF is March 16, 2024. I plan to be there and encourage anyone available, reader or writer, to do the same. You won’t be sorry.

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