Here’s the thing about the writing community — they are generous, generous people. As you read this I’m flying to Green Bay for Writers Police Academy. On Monday, I was talking to Aimee and telling her how overwhelmed I felt with my schedule this week. I mentioned needing to write a blog and not having an idea for one. Aimee immediately said, “I’ll do it for you.” So here is Aimee. Go buy her books — she’s a wonderful writer and fantastic person.
SMAF. It sounds like a particularly sweet sneeze. Something that would issue forth from a bunny or another wee animal. It’s actually the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival, a fantastic event in the town of Suffolk in Southeastern Virginia.
The town of Suffolk has a small town feel with historic buildings, wonderful places to eat, and so many wonderful residents – everyone was smiling, all the time.
There’s also the beautiful Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts that hosts the all-day mystery author festival takes place. Aside from the VIP Meet and Greet (which is a ticketed event) and, of course, the cost of any books you choose to purchase – all the events are free.
This was my first year and let me tell you, if they’ll have me again it won’t be my last. Thanks to the amazing, LynDee Walker, who wrangled an invite for me, I was able to attend this amazing event run by the most amazing people. The Suffolk Tourism team did everything they could to make all of the authors feel as special and famous as the headliners – Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner.
You want to talk about making a baby author feel special? I have a poster with my face on it … like I’m a movie star.
And there was a gift bag full of mystery- and Suffolk-themed gear. They even packed water and snacks in the bag so we wouldn’t get hungry. Unlikely, since there was a lunch just for us before the VIP Meet and Greet, also with food. And a hospitality room with infused waters, coffee and tea. AND, finally, a closing reception for the authors, their guests, and the Suffolk Tourism team. Did I mention there was a Welcome Reception and a ‘Haunted’ Cemetery tour with costumed-guide on Friday night?
You’re jealous now, aren’t you? You should be. Not only was the team so welcoming, warm, and generous but the attendees were too. Every person who came to the table to talk to us (LynDee and I shared a table, thank goodness, or I’d have been way too nervous) kept thanking me for offering them bookmarks or personalizing their books. Thanking me!!! Isn’t that crazy? I made sure I told every single one of them that we, the authors, we were grateful for them. That it was because of them that we were there. All readers need to remember that. You’re never “just a reader.” You’re the reason we get to do this job.
It wasn’t all just meeting people and selling books. The Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival also has panels and workshops. The panel I was on was called Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend: Crafting a Successful Thriller. Before SMAF, I wasn’t sure what qualified me to be on a panel about anything successful book-wise. I figured it out though. Success means something different to different people – sales, awards, bestsellers lists, college courses about your work – but for me, it’s being happy with what I’ve created and all that I’ve been privileged to enjoy because of my hard work.
Writing books is hard work. No, not like manual labor is hard work but quieting your inner critic and letting your imagination take hold. Creative work is not as valued as other jobs but just try to imagine the world without paintings, music, film, poetry, or books. It would be a world empty of all the things that make life worth living.
Writing the Willa Pennington PI series has fulfilled me in a way I knew was missing but didn’t know how to find, at first. The second book DARK STREETS COLD SUBURBS carried me through a six-month bout of vertigo and, my sweet puppy girl, Karma’s terminal cancer diagnosis and palliative care. She died three weeks after the release date of my first book, WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU last January. Writing the series allows me to release some of the darker thoughts and feelings I have. It’s cheap therapy.
Meeting people who are interested in the world I’ve created, like the people who visited the Suffolk Mystery Author Festival, are a part of the therapy, the healing too. There’s something special about Suffolk and this festival. I know the biggest part of the wonderfulness of SMAF is Kathleen, Theresa, and the rest of the Suffolk Tourism Board team. I hope you’ll join me next summer so you can enjoy the festival, the people who run it, and the whole town of Suffolk. And don’t forget to try the giant cupcakes at the Plaid Turnip.
Readers: Have you attended a book festival? Do you have a favorite one?
Bio: An inability to pass the sight requirements, and a deep aversion to federal prison prevented Aimee from lying on her FBI application, so she set her deficient eyes on what most Northern Virginians do for work – the non-law enforcement side of the federal government.
After twenty years as a federal contractor, she retired and turned to murder. Fictionally, of course. She began writing the Willa Pennington PI mystery series in 2014 and decided to set it in her “hometown” of Fairfax County because of the rich diversity and opportunities for a private investigator to become entangled in with interesting people.
Aimee lives in Virginia enjoying LASIK-corrected eyesight with her family, three dogs, and all her killer thoughts. You can visit her at www.aimeehix.com.