I made a difficult decision this past week. Months and months ago, I sent in my entry fee and planned to go to a writing conference called Left Coast Crime held in San Diego from March 11-15. I was looking forward to it because I’d been to Malice Domestic a couple of times on the East Coast, but I’d not been to Left Coast Crime (LCC). It was going to be an adventure, and I’d meet authors who didn’t go to the East Coast conference. A whole new world.
I bought a very expensive airplane ticket because the conference fell in the time span of spring break, and even though I ordered it well in advance, it was unusually high. Then there were clothes to buy for events, and booking a room with a fellow writer at the hotel where the event took place. These were all monetary expenditures that prevented me from going to other conferences because of my budget. I placed all my eggs in this basket for 2020.
I put together a two-minute spiel to use at the dating-go-round, an event where authors are given two minutes to tell 18 tables of readers about their books. Besides that, I prepared a five-minute cutting from my latest book to read, and I practiced it. And finally, I gathered information for a panel I was going to be on with three other writers and a moderator. I spent time circling panels on my pre-schedule, panels I wanted to hear because their topics would be helpful to my writing.
Then that thing hit that I’m not even going to dignify by name because, like a serial killer, it’s getting way too much press, not all of it accurate. Because I’m in the group of people most likely to enter the statistics in a bad way, I decided to cancel my trip. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I discussed it with my children, my friends, and, finally, my pulmonary doctor. Case closed.
Last Wednesday, when I should have been winging my way to San Diego, I felt really down. I asked myself why? It wasn’t the money, and there would be other events to go to down the road. I wasn’t up for an award like some authors who saw their hopes crushed when the event was later canceled. Two days later, I think I have my answer to why I felt so down.
You see, at LCC I had planned to meet a writer named Mike Befeler. I’ve never met him in person, but at some of the darkest times in my writing career, he gave me advice, hope, and inspiration to keep going. We would finally be in the same location, and I could tell him face-to-face what I’d only been able to say via email for six years now: Thank you, Mike Befeler. But that didn’t happen.
I had planned to meet my editor, Lourdes Venard, and her husband, Dave, two people who have become my friends. Back in 2012, when I first began writing my Endurance mysteries, I joined the Sisters in Crime chapter and their subgroup, the Guppies. I needed an editor for my first mystery but wasn’t sure how to get one. That’s when I read a series of blog posts on the SinC website about what to look for in an editor. The writer was someone named Lourdes Venard. She took me on, and she has been a friend and adviser ever since. She is another person who has given me thousands of pieces of writing advice and taught me about the business side of it all. I met her face-to-face at Malice Domestic, because at that time she lived in New York, and I wouldn’t have met her otherwise. Now she lives in Hawaii, and this was a second opportunity to meet her and Dave at San Diego. I have always said thank you for her help. This would have been an opportunity in person. Alas, it didn’t happen.
I had planned to go out to dinner on Thursday evening in San Diego with Lourdes, Dave, and a woman named Karen Phillips. I’ve never met Karen. She is the talented artist who designed all the covers and formatted my Endurance mysteries when I republished them after Five Star Publishing reverted the rights to me. This was my opportunity to meet Karen face-to-face and tell her how grateful I am for her expertise and help. That, also, didn’t happen.
Then there is the delightful Connie Berry. We have met once, a few months ago, doing a book-signing together with Molly MacRae in Champaign, Illinois. We had planned to room together at LCC and were both looking forward to getting to know one another. That didn’t happen. She was there, but I wasn’t.
Over the last eight weeks, I’d read seven mysteries by Cynthia Kuhn and Karen Odden. I love their books, and I interviewed them via email for articles to be published in First Draft, the newsletter of the SinC guppies. We had planned to meet at LCC and talk about their interviews. I’ve not met either of them—well, except for a brief encounter with Cynthia at Malice Domestic years ago—but I sure wanted to tell them, in person, how much I enjoyed their books. I didn’t get to.
I also wanted to meet Rochelle Staab, who was picked to moderate our panel called “Scene- Stealing Secondary Characters.” She spent weeks reading books by all four of us to come up with questions to ask on our panel. Then she emailed multiple times with ideas and kind words about our books. I thought it would be nice to say thank you to her in person for all the time she had spent on us. I didn’t get a chance to do that.
You might think I am feeling down, but that’s not the case. Having had a couple of days to consider all this, it occurred to me that my recent loss simply reminds me of what I have. All these people, and many more, have inspired me, given of their time and talents, and answered my questions with great advice. I find the writing life is often a series of ups and downs. Their advice and help have been invaluable, but mainly online since I live in a small town in the middle of the country. I love this writing community. People, especially newly-minted writers, often ask why it is important to spend money and time to attend one or more of the many mystery book conferences each year.
I hope this post answers that question.
Thank you so much Susan. Your reflection has helped me to also be thankful for what I have got—your friendship very much included.
And thank you, Ann, for coming by to read my thoughts. I would say “ditto” to your friendship!
Well said! I have a new appreciation now of the time,effort and skill it takes to do what you do. And it is just like with any loss you learn how very blessed you are.
You would be surprised at everything that goes on behind the scenes in writers’ lives. Promotion has taken far more time than writing lately. It is also a far different skill set than writing. That said, I think most of us would rather be writing. Conferences like this prop us up and get us back to the computer. You are so right: loss and understanding comes in many forms.
Susan, as it turned out, you made the right decision. The end of the conference was a sad affair. Many members of the committee, who’d spent 3 years planning, were in tears. Now I’m halfway home after a quick transcontinental flight. And news that Malice will probably be canceled as well. I can only pray that this virus will be defeated quickly. I did miss you!
I feel really bad for all of the people who worked so hard on this conference. I felt it was well-organized, and, even though I wasn’t there, all reports indicate their hard work at reacting to the changing situation. No one could have predicted this. I hope it does not sour anyone, down the road, when it comes to pitching in on the next conference. I am glad you had a couple of days at least, got to see your friends, and had some time with other writers. Sorry I couldn’t come, but my health makes me a non-risk-taker when it comes to the unknown. I’m proud that you stuck it out. We will meet again in a better situation.
Susan, I know how excited you were about the conference. I heard about it at more than one lunch! I appreciated you giving me your 2 minute spiel. I thought it was awesome. You are too.
I have to stop boring you at lunch 🤣 Yes, I was very excited to go to this, and thank you for letting me use you as a test audience. It probably won’t be the last time. Such kind words—thanks.
Yup. I missed you too!
Such a houghtful post, Susan. I will keep it in mind as I wait to see what happens with Malice Domestic in just over a month.
I hope it helps, Claire. This is a new world we’re dealing with, and I fear for Malice Domestic. I hope everyone is able to go.
My sister, as an editor of the Advocate Magazine, always gets a press pass to the Turner Classic Movie Festival in Hollywood and has gone now for 10 years–I go to some of the screenings with her. People come from all over the country and it’s a wonderful event. But it has been cancelled. So many were disappointed, but it was absolutely necessary to cancel it this year. She sees so many friends from all over the country, many who gather at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, but we absolutely agree it was the right decision. There’s always next year.
Your last sentence is so important, Judith. There will be a next year, and we’ll hope things have changed. Patience.
I had much the same thoughts, and the same up, down, and back again when I had to cancel because of my COPD. It’s not exactly that, but that’s the simplest way to put it. I also have a similar list of people I was excited to meet and spend time with–and it overlaps yours–and includes you!
I’m so proud of the mystery community for the way they’ve handled this, and the way I know they are going to handle the similar problems in the near future.
I could not have said that more effectively. It is heart-wrenching, what’s happening to all communities. And yet, we carry on.
Susan and other mystery writers who commented, I learn from each of you and value your posts and comments about appreciation for each other. I love that the mystery writer community is not competitive but encouraging to each new member. Thank you for your excellent sharing
Thanks, Beth. I’ve always found the people I meet in the mystery community to be helpful. I’ve learned so much from them, and I’ve tried to give back where I could. They always applaud people–especially younger and newer writers–and I appreciate that too. It’s paying forward.
That was the saddest part — not being able to spend time with the wonderful community of writers and editors. But you and I will have to meet somewhere, once this pandemic is under control!
Yes, we will, Lourdes. But time is going to end this eventually. Then we’ll figure it out!
Touching post, Susan. I’m so disappointed for you.
It’s okay, Grace. If you had been going to LCC, I would have added you to my blog. You were one of the first people who made me feel at home at my first big conference. I am so happy they are only postponing Malice Domestic. I want to hear that you won an Agatha.
Susan, you were missed at the conference, as were many who decided not to attend. I, too, had second thoughts, especially on Wednesday, the day the word “pandemic” hit the news. I sat in on author speed dating for the first time. Despite the low conference attendance, the room was packed! I was at table #19 – needless to say, authors were getting a bit tuckered out by then, but still full of energy! I met your friend, Mike Befeler. He delivered a great pitch, especially regarding “The Front Wing” – about retired vampires who “gum your neck.” As Connie Berry said, it was a sad moment when Lucinda and Stan announced they had to cancel the event. I was one with tears in my eyes. But those of us who did attend, we did so with enthusiasm! I hope to finally meet you in Albuquerque 🙂
Thanks so much, Karen. I can understand why it was such a hard decision. I was really looking forward to speed-dating, because I’d never done it but I had seen it as an audience member. I feel very bad for the organizers, especially since this is a conference that moves around all the time, and I imagine they will have a lot of work to clear away the aftermath. So many people I wanted to see for the first time–like you–and for the second time, like my editor. But I keep telling myself there will be more conferences, and this is just a bump in the road. I don’t know about Albuquerque. I had planned to go to Malice next year because I’ve not yet met my agent, and she goes to that. So I guess we will see! Thank you again, and some day we will meet!
Susan: Thank you for this lovely post–you articulated beautifully how much preparation goes into a conference and how much excitement builds up! Was just talking with someone else about that today. Well, at least now you’re ready for your next conference! Prep work done, check.
You were definitely missed. Was looking forward to our chat but hope that we’ll have a chance to connect at the next conference. And thank you very much again for reading the series and for your kind words. You already know I love your books. 🙂
I’m heartbroken for the LCC committee and organizers and volunteers who put so much work into creating the conference–but the decision to cancel was out of anyone’s hands and, honestly, the time we did have there was terrific and memorable.
And now: onto Albuquerque 2021!
Thanks so much, Cynthia. I, too, am sorry we didn’t get to talk. I just put your Chicks on the Case guest post on my list of increasingly online activities on my website. Things keep getting canceled.
I have already made up my mind to do a post on the blog on my website that will promote your books. Heck, I read them and then didn’t get to do much except an interview for the Guppy newsletter. So I will do that–just briefly describe them, no spoilers.
We’ll see about Albuquerque. I had planned to go to Malice Domestic next year, so I’ll have to think about that.
Again, sorry we didn’t get to meet. Down the road for sure.
You are so kind–thank you, Susan! Can’t wait to sit down and chat, first chance we get. And we are very much looking forward to your visit at Chicks. 🙂
Yes, Cynthia, we will do that. Sorry to have missed you, but I am hopeful.
Sorry you had ti miss LCC. Hope you got your money back. This has been a major bummer.
You are so right, Judy, about major bummer. I was looking forward to this conference; I usually go to Malice Domestic. Anyway, I am over the major bummer part now. I don’t expect the conference fees back, and, frankly, the people organizing the whole thing are going to need that money. However, I did have a pretty expensive airline ticket, and I can use that before December (assuming this ugliness is over by then.) So, not too bad. However, next year will come, and things will be better. I have to be optimistic. Thanks for reading my thoughts on my blog!