When I said I’d have this post up on Monday, I really meant “once I am no longer sleep deprived,” which is kind of the same thing.
Welcome to my first-ever (but hopefully not last!) Malice Domestic Recap.
I was planning on being organized about this, but let’s face it. I’ve never been organized in my life, so why start now?
The first thing you need to know about Malice Domestic, is that it’s amazingly friendly. Apparently reading and writing about murder all day makes you extra pleasant to be around. I got endless warm greetings, compliments, and invitations throughout the weekend. And once they announced that I won the William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers? I’ve never felt so supported. Strangers, new friends, and found family alike all told me how wonderful it was and how I deserved it and how happy they were for me. At no point did I feel alone in the crowd or ignored.
If you’ve ever wanted to go to Malice but been afraid to be on your own, come anyway. Someone will take you under their wing.
I went to my first Author Speed-Dating this weekend and let me tell you, it’ll turn your head. You sit at a table with 10 of your closest strangers and a couple dozen authors all come around, give you swag, and sell you on their books. It’s a lot of fun, and almost guaranteed to grow your TBR list.
All the authors were engaging, but Libby Klein was hands down the stand-out Speed Dater. With twenty or so tables in the room, it got a little hard to hear. This genius brought subtitles! She had printouts of everything she was saying and held them up as she spoke. It saved her voice and meant that table one and table twenty got equally clear presentations. If you’re going to be a Speed-Dating Author, definitely steal that idea.
Since it’s a writing conference, there is a LOT of swag. Here is a list of my favorites, and a link to the Instagram post where I put pictures:
- From the Chicks On The Case panel, an adorable goodie bag put together by Kathleen Valenti. Themed around her Maggie O’Malley mysteries, the bag has “hypodermic syringe” pens with her book titles on them, and a prescription bottle of M&Ms. Cute, perfectly thematic, useful, and edible!
- A tiny spiral-bound notebook. Surprisingly, the only one I received over the weekend. I’d heard they were popular swag (useful, small, good for printing info about your books/website on) but I was extremely grateful for it. I took a LOT of notes and would have been writing them on the back of my program if I hadn’t gotten it, so thanks Barbara Barrett!
- Coloring materials! Two bookmarks, a postcard (which I WILL be sending, tyvm), and a tiny, perfectly portable container of colored pencils. This swag was perfect for downtime (what little you have at a conference) and perfect for someone like me, who may or may not have a coloring book collection. The colored pencils’ container doubles as a pencil sharpener, Fran Schoonmaker really did think of everything with this one.
- I recently learned that the rubber jar openers of my youth are also called “rubber husbands,” so I was delighted to receive one from Maggie Toussaint. I’ve certainly never seen swag like it, and it’s definitely handy. (I don’t know what it has to do with her books, but I’m looking forward to finding out!)
- Fair warning, I’m a little biased about this one because Mary Feliz is one of my favorite people, but her little “book” of sticky notes is one of my top favorite things I received all weekend. It looks like a tiny copy of her newest book, is super slick and professional, and is totally useful! Mary has a history of totally cool swag–at her debut book launch she had “chalk outline” gingerbread men. Just try and tell me that’s not clever.
For the most part, Malice is set up like a regular conference. There are panels during the day and everyone troops to the bar in the evenings. But because it’s the people that make it magic, sometimes you get an invitation to a secret cocktail party in someone’s room:
And yes, the big, beautiful elephant in the room.
I go the call in February. FEBRUARY! It was at the end of a kind of crappy week, but if there’s one thing that can jolt you out of A Mood it’s a phone call from a prestigious conference’s committee saying that they think you’re the best of the best. Harriette Sackler, head of the grant committee, said I could tell my spouse and my agent, but other than that it was a secret so they could make a big fuss with the announcement. So naturally I told Kevin and Dawn, Squeaker, our foster kittens, and my therapist. Then I sat on it like the biggest, coolest secret in the world. As anyone who knows me is aware, I am THE WORST at secrets, meaning this was the biggest and longest one I’ve ever kept. I didn’t tell a single other person! And every couple days or so I’d be hit with the “holy cheesenips, I won the William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers.” Me! It was an amazing boost.
The only downside was that I had to give a speech when they announced it. As John Green says, “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story, but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”
Luckily, I had wonderful people I could reach out to for advice, even if I couldn’t tell them why I needed “a professional acceptance speech.” Kellye Garrett and Mia Manansala were both very good sports about my endless questions and helped me craft a speech that I was reasonably certain wouldn’t get me booed out of the room.
(Extra special thanks to Kevin and Cynthia Tolbert for helping me not lose it in the lead-up to the Agatha Award Banquet. I was much, much calmer than I anticipated being thanks to the both of them keeping up a constant stream of distracting conversation.)
After the speech was over and I could think again, I was surrounded by friends and well-wishes to a dazzling degree. To be honest, I still haven’t fully processed all the love, support, and encouragement I received at Malice.
Winning the William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers (I know, it’s a little bit of a mouthful. But doesn’t it look fancy?) places me as the latest in a fairly long and prestigious line of writers. At least one of the people that won Agatha Awards this year was a grant winner herself. (Hi Ellen Byron!) I’m a little nervous about my ability to keep up the Grant Winner Momentum, but also excited? After all, if an entire committee thinks you have potential, maybe you actually do.
Did you go to Malice? What’s your favorite writing conference? Which of my name drops is your favorite? Let me know!