The Upside of No Attention (plus Malice Domestic Pix)

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Last week, I had the delight of not being a nominee. I know it sounds ungrateful, but bear with me.

Below, you’ll see pictures of my fourth Malice Domestic. It’s a wonderful, well-run convention that has had a tremendous influence on my career and sense of self as a national writer.

But conventions are odd. These get-togethers are usually conceived of, organized by and manned with dedicated "fan" volunteers. We writers are cautioned to remember our place: these events are NOT vehicles for marketing, they’re NOT designed to satisfy our agendas.

Alas, while good in theory, that’s just not the way it works.

Most writers who are trying to make a living at their craft come to conventions to meet the truly enthusiastic mystery readers, the ones who’ll spend time and money to hobnob with the creators of their favorite works and to encourage newbies.

Going to conventions is a heady experience — almost otherworldly — because they provide such a fantastic sense of community. Still, they can’t be vacations for me — or most writers I know. We have to find a way to justify the expense.

So . . . we end up "working the room," whether we mean to or not. It’s important to be visible, to get on a panel and in the program book. This is especially true for authors from lesser known presses with books not easily found in every corner bookstore.

My first year at Malice, I felt so much pressure to make every minute count. I must have met hundreds of people. My second year, I was a nominee for an Agatha for best first novel and felt even more compelled to use my time well. Fast forward to the next year — another glorious nomination — same drill.

Understand this:
I adore being nominated for awards.

Understand this, too:
I adore meeting people at conventions and learning about them and their lives. I’m just noting that normally, I feel this weird need to perform, to be charming and witty . . . to be memorable

. . . but this year, I didn’t. I was between books. I kicked back and enjoyed myself without frenzy. I had wonderful conversations with people who’d only been acquaintances in the past. Superficial relationships deepened into friendships.

It was bliss. This kind of freedom doesn’t come often in an up-and-coming writer’s life.

I didn’t worry about impressing editors or agents, didn’t worry about connecting with every possible new reader or influencer in the mystery community.

From a marketing perspective, maybe I should have.

Next January, I’ll start working to give THE SOCORRO BLAST the best chance possible for success. I’ll travel more and will schmooze with people all over the country — and I’ll love every minute of it.

But this year, for one brief and scrumptious moment, I got to chill, to simply have fun.

It felt great.

MALICE PICTURES (If only I’d remembered to use my camera more often, I would have gotten Neil Plakcy, Chris Goff, our own Alex, several Mystery Babes, Margaret Fenton {of Murder in the Magic City}, Judy Clemens, Tammy Lynn (of The Book Basket in Wetumpka, AL) and oh, so many more . . .

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R5040001_2 Who doesn’t love Mary Saums? She and I spent an afternoon in the lobby unintentionally holding court. The conversation wound into ideas about national identity and sense of history, patriotism, and so much more. 

R5040002_2If you ever want to delve deep into the human mind, Jacqueline Winspear is a worthy guide. She’s a spectacular conversationalist. I hope to talk many more hours with her in the years to come.

R5040005_4

I met Hope McIntyre at LCC Seattle this year. She’s witty, a fab writer and great fun to hang out with. Next to her is the lovely and talented Mary Frances Makichen. She’s a regular reader of Murderati and a writer who most certainly will land a good agent and publisher soon.

   

Okay, now, I’m going to abandon trying to lay this out in an interesting way. Here are the rest of the pictures with just a bit of commentary.

R5040006_2R5050007 R5050008

1. Peter Pringle & Julia Pomeroy
2. Bruce Cook & fab moderator Laura Bradford   
3. Annette Mahon & Barb Goffman.

R5050009 R5050010_2 R5050011_2

1. Noreen Wald & Ellen Byerrum         
2. Don & Renee Paley-Bain
3. Troy Cook & Leonard Stein

R5050013 R5050014R5050015

1. Margaret Maron, Karen MacInerney & J.B. Stanley
2. Patricia Sprinkle, Honora Finkelstein & Susan Smily
3. Gwen Freeman

R5050016 R5050017R5050020

1. Beth Groundwater, Cynthia Riggs & Deborah Donnelly
2. Sarah S. Shaber, Kathryn R. Wall & Alan Cook
3. Noreen Renier and companion Larry (?) — Noreen was one of the most down-to-earth psychics I’ve ever met. A joy.

R5050018 My agent Joshua Bilmes

R5050019 The dessert we shared when he took me to lunch.

A special thanks to B.G. Ritts for cleaning up these photos. Without her help, everyone would have looked anemic vampires.

17 thoughts on “The Upside of No Attention (plus Malice Domestic Pix)

  1. Christy

    And where are the pictures of your fantastic Agatha Awards dinner companions?

    Just kiddin’, it was great to sit with you again at the dinner, and as you see, I found the Murderati blog you were pimping.

    Reply
  2. B.G. Ritts

    When I first looked at the Noreen Renier photo, I thought it was Sue Grafton. They must have been sisters in another life.

    (I was glad to help with the pix.)

    Reply
  3. pari

    Christy,I’m amused. I thought I was being soooooooo low-key. As to the photos, I always forget to take them except when other people have THEIR cameras out. (BTW–if you want to be on my incredible email list, send me a note . . . )

    B.G.,I’m going to have to find a photo of Sue G. Noreen was so much fun . . . and we got her to ourselves in the bar for about an hour.

    J.T. and Louise,Yeah, it was fun. Malice is ALWAYS fun, period.

    Reply
  4. pari

    If anyone comes back to the post and notices a name change . . . Alex set me straight on one of them . . . but I’ll never say which.

    Reply
  5. JLW

    Going to conventions is a heady experience — almost otherworldly —

    In my experience, that’s because most of us writers are drunk.

    I’m sorry I didn’t get to Malice this year, but JANET didn’t TELL me she was going to print my STORY in the issue of EQMM that would be available there! GRRR!!

    Mary Saums IS simply adorable and she’s got the cutest damn Southern accent anywhere, which combined with a tongue that can cut like a straight razor, makes her very, very dangerous. (Just ask her about Otto Penzler.) She’s sort of a sabre-toothed kitten.

    Jan Burke calls Malice Domestic the world’s largest family reunion. I agree, except that I would add that as it is a family gathering dedicated to murder, it’s the family that puts “fun” in “funeral”.

    Reply
  6. JLW

    >>Going to conventions is a heady experience — almost otherworldly —

    In my experience, that’s because most of us writers are drunk.

    I’m sorry I didn’t get to Malice this year, but JANET didn’t TELL me she was going to print my STORY in the issue of EQMM that would be available there! GRRR!!

    Mary Saums IS simply adorable and she’s got the cutest damn Southern accent anywhere, which combined with a tongue that can cut like a straight razor, makes her very, very dangerous. (Just ask her about Otto Penzler.) She’s sort of a sabre-toothed kitten.

    Jan Burke calls Malice Domestic the world’s largest family reunion. I agree, except that I would add that as it is a family gathering dedicated to murder, it’s the family that puts “fun” in “funeral”.

    Reply
  7. pari

    James,We missed you. I’ve signed up for next year. Will you be there?

    You’re right about Mary. That’s one of the things I love about her. It comes through in her newest book, THISTLE & TWIGG, too. And, yes, the Otto thing still rankles. I don’t get such blatant snobbery — and assume it’s mainly for PR. It’s an old and tired strategy — get people riled up and gain notoriety.

    How boring.

    Reply
  8. Jeff Cohen

    Geez, Pari, I buy you an expensive scotch, pronounce your name right and everything, and not even a picture. Not even a “if I had a camera” mention. It’s enough to discourage a guy. Not me. Another guy.

    It was a delight to see you there, as always. Nice flying under the radar. I should be so invisible.

    Reply
  9. pari

    Oh, crap, Jeff. You did and I didn’t.

    See what I mean about the whole thing being “otherworldly?”

    It was great to see you, too. Really good. I wish we’d had time and the sobriety to talk.

    Actually, as I recall, you were surrounded by adoring women, fans.

    I should be so lucky.

    Reply
  10. Naomi

    Jackie Winspear looks fabulous with her longer hair. And no food poisoning at this convention, I gather, although that dessert looks pretty challenging on the stomach!

    Reply
  11. pari

    Thanks for the picture, B.G. Now I understand.

    Naomi — nope, no food poisoning. The dessert tasted wonderful.

    Stacey — it WAS fun.

    Reply
  12. Jeff Cohen

    You know I’m just teasing, Pari. Besides I had the sobriety–I was working strictly on ginger ale that night, having been robbed of my ability to drink anything else by “convention stomach,” a disorder I get pretty much every time I go to such a function. You don’t want to know.

    Surrounded my adoring women? Fans? Me? That WAS a strong drink, wasn’t it?

    It was wonderful to see you. Hope next time we get to talk.

    Reply

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