I went to the writers’ conference Magna cum Murder last weekend. It’s a small, intimate feeling conference housed in the Columbia Club on the circle in Indianapolis. The building’s old with that faded glamour of yesteryears that I love. I didn’t learn any of the things I went for. The panels were designed mostly for readers, so no panels on publicity or marketing. I was hoping to hear how other writers and their publishers handled those challenges. BUT, the conference was small enough to make it easy to meet fellow conference goers. And the readers who attended read a LOT.
Some of them had attended the conference every year for 17 years. They’d heard the majority of the international guests of honor and domestic guests of honor. And the lists were impressive. This year, they were Reavis Z. Wortham and Peter Lovesey, who sat at our table for the final lunch. Previous guests were M.C. Beaton, Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block, and Mary Higgins Clark, among many others. Most attendees could claim 10 years or more. Only a handful of us were new.
One of the women I met there had recently retired and joined SIX mystery book clubs, 1 nonfiction book club, and 1 fiction club. I asked how she kept track of everything she was supposed to read, and she said she stacked her books in the order of her meetings. I was so impressed! This year, I’ve been making a real effort to read one book a week, if I possibly can. One lady I talked to zipped through one book A DAY. And these people were well read. They didn’t just read one sub-genre, though they had favorites. They read thrillers, suspense, cozies, and PIs. And they read outside of the mystery genre.
By the second day, I was beginning to feel borderline illiterate. But then one of the attendees generously told me, “You’re spending your time writing instead of reading.” What a kind woman! Many people I met encouraged me to come back next year. I sure enjoyed myself, but things have been so busy in my life for the last two years, I don’t feel confident making plans that far ahead. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, though. I wouldn’t mind spending another October at Magna cum Murder.