Monday, June 6, 2011


Ten reasons to attend a wonderful conference

I am just back from beautiful Victoria, British Columbia where I had the pleasure of attending Bloody Words XI, a terrific conference. On the return trip I was musing about how valuable conferences are to writers and readers and how many good reasons there are to attend.

First of all, it’s a chance to reconnect with old friends and to enjoy the shrieks of recognition in the foyer. Shriek and be shrieked at is the norm. And that’s before you’re even registered.

Plus for every old friend there’s a new one to be met in a panel, on an elevator or in the bar. Next time, these brand spanking new buddies will join the growing posse of old friends.

Speaking of bars, where else would you be comfortable in the wee small hours? This turns out to be entertaining and safe, despite the fact that your barmates are used to killing people in so many innovative and undetectable ways.

Of course, the panels are populated by authors, dispensing opinions, advice and witticisms. Just when you think you’ve heard every piece of writing advice, an author on a panel will offer a bit that will change the way you’re viewing your work in progress. Thank you, colleagues. Keep that coming.

While happily watching panels, any mystery writer worth her salt, will naturally come up with a plethora of excellent new ideas for killing people. What’s not to love?

In between panels, murderous insights, clustering with friends and endless meals, there’s the chance to mouse about the dealers’ room and see books by the authors who are present. Each conference showcases the authors from that part of the country (or the world!) Among the books I’ve taken home are A Hummingbird Dance by Calgary author Garry Ryan (NeWest) and Seaweed in the Soup, the fifth book by B.C.’s Stanley Evans published by (Touchwood). I am very much looking forward to these good catches among others to be mentioned in future posts.

Then there are the readers. And aren’t readers the reason we write in the first place? In addition to old friends, I was so happy to meet some people I’d only encountered online. What a treat to put faces to names and to talk about what they read and why. I also was lucky enough to meet new readers and felt very grateful to have that chance. If you want to learn something new, talk to a reader.

One of the conference highlights for me was the awarding of the coveted Bony Pete award for short stories. This year’s winners were: Jayne Barnard, Gloria Ferris and Melodie Campbell. These are all very talented and committed writers and we know we will continue on to create terrific works of crime fiction.

This all adds up to a joyous celebration of the genre and its contributors. We are reminded at a mystery conference that mystery and crime fiction matters, not only as entertainment but as a reflection of our culture, our stories and our desire to have justice done.

Lastly, never overlook the creative value of a tax deduction.

As I look over this partial list of the benefits of such a terrific conference, I must offer many thanks to the organizers of Bloody Words XI: co-chairs Lou Allin and Kay Stewart and their inspired and hardworking committee. When I look over the list of benefits I received, I am so grateful. Bravo!

Bloody Words XII will be back in Toronto. I’m signing up today.

Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three (soon to be three and a half) mystery series and a couple of dozen short stories. Her thirteenth mystery novel, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder, which hit the bookshelves this spring, is brimming with names, no two the same.


  1. I was gobsmacked by the conference and its flawless organization as well as the glorious setting. Does the rest of the world realize what a gorgeous city Victoria is? It takes my breath away.

  2. Phyllis SmallmanJune 8, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    All of us on the Bloody Awards committee appreciated your comments. Kay Stewart and Lou Allin were amazing. They managed to organize the conference and produce books at the same time.
    Phyllis Smallman