Guest Cheryl Hollon: Are you ready for in-person conferences?

By Liz, so happy to welcome my friend Cheryl Hollon back to the blog! Cheryl and I go waaaaaay back…one of my fondest memories of her is our impromptu pitch practice session at Sleuthfest 2008. And today she’s talking about the return of in-person conferences. Thanks for being here, Cheryl, and for making me feel like I was at Malice since I missed it!

It’s only been a week, but it feels like last night and last year! I went to my first post-COVID convention, Malice Domestic, from April 22-24, 2022, in Bethesda, MD. It was filled with happy squeals from mystery writers and readers who hadn’t seen each other in two years.

The first person I saw was the fabulous Dru Ann Love, the Fan Guest of Honor and CEO of Dru’s Book Musings, and Kristopher Zgorski, founder of the BOLO Books Blog. She volunteered to staff the registration desk on Thursday night and handed me my badge and bookbag. It was lovely to hug her first.

On Saturday morning, I was lucky to be on a panel moderated by Fan Guest of Honor Dru Ann Love. The subject was How to Keep a Series Fresh. The panelists were Amanda Flowers, me, Edith Maxwell, Barbara Ross, and S.C. Perkins. We had an absolute blast! Dru Ann’s questions were well-researched and kept us on our toes. We didn’t have a preview of the questions beforehand! We truly enjoyed being with our attendees and laughed like children.

After that, you can imagine my delight when I went to the Book Signing session and sat beside one of my mystery writer heroes. Maureen Jennings, the author of Murdoch Mysteries, an 1895 Toronto detective series, had a signing line to envy. I was a complete fangirl. Also in the picture is Risa Rispoli taking around her e-book cover to get signatures so she can frame them. What a clever idea!

It was sheer joy to see Edith Maxwell receive her long-awaited Agatha teapot for CHARITY’S BURDEN, the 4th book in her Quaker Midwife Series. 

My fellow Floridian and President of the Florida Mystery Writers of America, Alan Orloff, was awarded an Agatha in Children/Young Adult category for I PLAY ONE ON TV. 

What a fantastic return to a treasured conference. Even better was seeing all our online writer friends and reader fans in 3D instead of 2D. See you next year.


There’s a 3-book #giveaway and some lovely SWAG (Stuff We All Get)! Post a comment telling me what you look forward to and what might concern you as we inch into a new normal in the comments.

My Paint & Shine Mysteries are set in the Daniel Boone National Forest. My parents were born, raised, and now rest in the Adams Family Cemetary in Wolfe County, Kentucky. The characters spend a lot of time preparing traditional southern meals and creating moonshine cocktails. Please consider buying local. Our independent bookstores need your help during this challenging time. 

62 Thoughts

  1. We just got back from a trip up north on Friday to visit family. So good to see everyone again especially my 3 beautiful granddaughters. We are already planning on going back for Christmas. I really miss a good ole family Christmas with kids running around and the joy and laughter. I’ve read Still Knife Painting and enjoyed it and would love to win the other 2 in the series. That you so much for this chance. pgenest57 at aol dot com

    1. I’m also looking forward the more normal holidays with my family. Since my immediate family lives less than ten minutes away, we’ve been enjoying outside celebrations on the waterfront. Florida might be crazy, but it was wonderful to spend time together.

  2. So great to see you and everyone, Cheryl. Glad we got a minute to have dinner outdoors together! And that’s a great picture of everyone on our panel – a rare thing.

    1. That dinner away from the hustle and bustle was a highlight of the conference. It was nice to take a breath and catch up.

  3. It was fabulous to see everyone at Malice! 3D is so much better than 2D (although I still thank heaven for Zoom because I can’t imagine the last two years without it.) I have two more conferences to look forward to. Pennwriters this month and Sleuthfest (my first!) in July. Plus several in-person book events next month.

    1. I have three more conferences for this year. ThrillerFest, SleuthFest (I’m so happy you’ll be there), and Bouchercon. I masked up pretty often at Malice Domestic and will mask up even more at the others. It worked. I didn’t get COVID.

  4. I’m looking forward to not wearing a mask every time I go to a store. It concerns me that people now will go out in public when they are sick with no consideration of the people they come on co tact with.

  5. I loved seeing everyone at Malice! For anyone–reader or writer–wondering if they should go next year, my answer is YES. I highly recommend it. You’ll feel like you’re with life-long friends even if you’ve never met them before. I have a few more small events planned this year, but none can take the place of Malice. It’s the best.

  6. Pretending that I could afford to go to a book conference, I would say that I would be ready to go.

    Well at least I was. Until I learned that at least a couple of authors I read came home with an unwanted souvenir…Covid.

    So while I would love to be able to go around and meet all the many and varied authors that I spend hours reading, I would prefer to do it without the overall worry of coming home to find out I have to miss out on 5 more days of work.

    I guess I’ll have to live vicariously through everyone’s photo and essay recaps of their times at the conventions/conferences.

    1. You’re right that the chances of get COVID are not zero, but I needed the connection to others to improve my wellbeing. It worked. I’m energized and inspired.

  7. It seemed things were pretty much returning to normal, now I’m reading about more outbreaks! I don’t feel like I’m missing too awful much cuz I really don’t travel, but I am very glad my kids can travel so I can see my grandkids. Your pics are great!

    1. I think you’re right to follow you’re instincts. Everyone’s tolerance to risk is different. So glad you get to see your grandkids. Good luck in the drawing!

  8. Oh my goodness, Cheryl, I was on the other side of Maureen Jennings and was bursting with excitement, too! What a fabulous weekend. Looking forward to the next Malice!

    1. Maureen Jennings doesn’t put on airs. Even though she’s the author of the Murdock Mystery series and she writes at least one episode per season for the TV show, she was gracious and kind to everyone who came up to her. I’ll never forget it.

  9. It was great to see everybody at Malice! The first person I saw was the woman in the row behind me on the plane – a new author. Since I crossed an international border, there are protocols I have to follow for 14 days, outbreak or no outbreak (all tests negative so far)…Looking forward to live theatre (I was supposed to go to a play this past weekend but it was postponed again, this time because of an outbreak in the company), live concerts this summer and Ottawa Comic Con (unfortunately the same weekend as Bouchercon so I’ll have to cancel my registration). You don’t have to enter me in the contest; international postage is too expensive.

    1. Hi Elaine! It was great catching up with you at Malice. It’s a smallish conference, and I felt like I got to chat with everyone at least for a few minutes. I appreciated that the Guest of Honor interviews didn’t have competing events. Choosing panels gets tough. Good Luck in the drawing.

      1. I think I saw everybody I knew and I met new people. Choosing panels is always tough. I’ve read books by everybody on your panel but went to the New Authors panel at that time.

  10. I am looking forward to seeing some of my family that I haven’t seen for 2 years – that’s much too long. I am not too worried in this area about Covid, though of course it still is around, but traveling is still iffy for me. We, like many others, had hoped to go overseas before Covid, and I am not sure that I am ready to do that yet.

    1. When I leave St. Petersburg, Florida, I’m almost always going to a place with a lower number of cases. I still wear a mask in the grocery and we only eat at restaurants that have outdoor seating. I’ll be doing both of those things all through the summer. Good luck in the drawing.

  11. Thank you Liz for inviting me to appear as your blog guest here on The Wickets. Little did we know when we were practicing our book pitches to agents, that we would be pitching nearly all the time. It’s an important skill and we made our pitches work better that day. Hope to see you soon!

  12. It was great to see you at Malice, Cheryl. I am so glad I went although I will be more careful with the mask wearing at the next conference after the Covid outbreak that occurred at Malice. I’m so careful normally that I don’t know what happened last weekend! But so far I’ve been negative and fingers crossed that continues. But hugging people and catching up was the best.

    1. I loved seeing everyone after such a long absence. I’ve been negative, but I’ll certainly been more careful at ThrillerFest in June. It’s so easy to slip up. By the way, I love, love, love your natural hair color — it’s beautiful and makes you glow.

  13. It was great seeing you – and everyone else – at Malice, Cheryl. Dru Ann was my first hug as well.

    I’m looking forward to the Pennwriters conference this month and in-person book events later this summer.

    1. I’m still inspired by all the energy from the writers and readers who attended. My next event is ThrillerFest in June. Not quite as huggy/feelly as Malice, so it will be easier to distance. I need these conferences to bring out my best work.

  14. I am looking forward to our friends from Ohio coming to stay with us for a few days and going to some flea markets, antique stores and wineries together. They we supposed to come two years ago, but covid happened. We had so much fun when they were here before all this.

    1. Hi Laurie, Making the rounds to the antique shops is one of our favorite things for company. I have a mid-century décor and almost always find something perfect. Good Luck in the drawing.

  15. Two delayed conferences have resumed. Getting transportation to the airport is difficult. The neaby airport has lost some airlines. Trying to get airport transportation to and from led to being stranded and having to find last minute ride to the airport. Tried another and they put me on hold and the message said “no one was ahead of me. After 20 minutes i gave up.
    Booked hotel for the night before the flight and the hotel called. It’s impossible to get the hotel. Every number i call gets the ‘please call the hotel direct” even when I call the number that called me, call the number listed on the hotel web page.The airline lost my liuggage anfd I didn’t get it back until the last day of the conference.

    Southwest Airlines says flights not available for several months. Hawaiian Airlines flies 3 times a week and the return is different from flying out.

    The airport that lost the airlines have flights that cost a thousand.
    Called airport transportation and they left me on hold with the message “you are first in line. There is no one ahead of you.” After waiting 20 minutes, hung up the phone.

    Another one charged me a waiting fee while I was searching for them in the airport. They stayed in the car and did not look for me.

    I am looking forward to the paid conferences, getting to the airport is more of a hassle than getting a flight.

    1. Oh my goodness. I’ve had similar problems when I travel, but not like that. I live in St. Petersburg, Florida. We’re a tourist town so that most services are usually available. I did get stranded at the airport when a Shuttle Service simply shut down without telling their clients. Gack! Good Luck in the drawing.

  16. I’m looking forward to getting together with family and friends outdoors as some are immunocompromised.

    1. Hi Mary, I understand your concern perfectly. I have two close friends who are immunocompromised. I try to be extra careful because I enjoy their company so much. Good Luck in the drawing.

  17. From the photos everyone has posted it looks like you all had a wonderful time.

    I’m looking forward to going to Bouchercon. It’s been way too long.

    1. Hi Karen, I’m going to Bouchercon as well. I just made my flights and will mask even more than I did at Malice Domestic. Still, talking to readers and other writers inspires me to write better and faster.

      1. Hi Karen! You’re the winner of my book giveaway! Happy Reading!

  18. What am I looking forward to? Not wearing a mask when out in public. Going to movies, theater and conferences. Approval of the vaccine for the littlest ones so I can visit my grandson and we can go out to public places. I have started eating at restaurants and meeting with my knitting group indoors, & I signed up for in person classes at Vogue Knitting in August (I’ll be masked!), but I’m still waiting for a new normal when covid will be like the flu – a shot every year and less fear!

    1. I would certainly enjoy not ever wearing a mask again, but since that’s not certain, I’ll continue to eat outdoors and mask when I feel there are too many people near me indoors. Good Luck in the drawing!

  19. I’m so happy to hear that everyone had such a grand time at Malice. It’s heartwarming to read about your joy.

    In 2011, I was extremely fortunate to sit next the Maureen Jennings at the Arthur Conan Doyle Conference, “A Study in Scandal” in Toronto. It was completely by happenstance, but what luck! She was the speaker for the banquet, and a delightful person.

    Just before Covid ;hit, I was planning on doing a ’round the country drive and visit a lot of people I haven’t seen in very long time. Well, that didn’t happen. Last October I finally did get to Illinois and see a cousin I hadn’t seen in 50 years when I was in his wedding. Next month, I hope to visit another cousin who I last saw at my mother’s funeral 22 years ago. I”m very slowly ticking off the names of the people I want to see, but large get togethers still make me a bit nervous.

    1. What a great goal! I have a cousin that lives about six hours away that I haven’t seen yet. You inspire me to give it a try. Good Luck in the drawing.

  20. It was so great to see you in person at Malice, Cheryl. And you’re so right, Dru Ann’s questions were fabulous. I’m going to Thrillerfest, too! First time ever. Can’t wait.

    1. ThrillerFest is fabulous! There’s a lot of energy and so many of my writing heros are available to quiz about the business of writing. You’re going to love it.

  21. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but the truth is that I don’t think we are over the Covid pandemic yet. There are too many people that I know who are still getting sick from it. I am fully vaccinated but very careful because I am an old gal!

    1. I agree that it’s not over at all, but I think it’s important to carve your own path through our path back to living our lives. For me, that means going to conferences and masking up when things are too crowded. I need the interaction and inspiration. Good Luck in the drawing.

  22. All those pictures make me wish I could have been there.

    I am looking at a vacation this year, just trying to get all that figured out. I swear, at some point my life will not have all this drama in it. It’s exhausting.

    1. The drama is what tires me out. I live in Florida where the spread has been consistently above average, but we learned to use our town as a walking tour and take note of the restaurants who were concerned about their diners. Those are our favorites now. We still mask in Publix because the store is small and there’s no way to get good separation. About 25% of their shoppers do the same. You have to find your own way. Good to hear from you.

  23. It was my pleasure moderating our panel. You guys were great with your answers. I’m also glad the audience enjoyed it as I got lots of kudos from the attendees.

    1. Hi Dru, I received so many compliments on how much everyone seemed to enjoy our panel and that we looked like we were having fun. The truth is that we were having a blast and it showed. Thanks for doing the hard research that made those questions unique and interesting. LOVE and HUGz

  24. I’m looking forward to seeing family this year. Been way too long! We are fully vaccinated and boosted. I’m still cautious tho! Stay safe!

    Thank you for the chance!!

    1. I was so lucky to travel up to Ohio to see my Mother twice before she passed. We were both newly vaccinated and were thrilled to be together. Good Luck in the drawing.

  25. My Sister and I went to a book conference in Green Bay WI on April 23rd. It was a small get together and it felt good to see everyone. When I sat down at our table the girl next to me told me she had been vaccinated and double boosted, so Covid was still present. Hopefully one day we won’t have to worry about Covid making an appearance at the gatherings we enjoy.

    1. So glad you got to a book conference. I need the energy that they provide. I think that COVID will be with us for a long time. I’m also confident that we’ll learn to work around its sneaky ways.

  26. We haven’t been anywhere for three years other than to go across state line a few hours drive to check on Hubby’s Mom. Now being fully double booster vaccinated, we have decided to bite the bullet and venture out to an Amish community that we love to visit – both for the scenery and the awesome food. We always come home feeling refreshed and in such good spirits. In fact, we left home this morning and after 470 miles we are staying over and will arrive after a short jaunt tomorrow. Been so looking forward to it after having to cancel all plans for the last 3 years that I’ve been fearful that we would have to cancel again. However, on the other hand, with medical issues I still worry about those that didn’t take advantages of the preventive measures we did that might be the person standing next to us. Thankfully most events will be outdoors in the wide open spaces where we can distance and we will be wearing mask – even if we are the only ones doing so. Pray that within my lifetime that we can once again come and go without such worries.

    Thank you for the chance! Shared and hoping to be one of the fortunate ones selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Hi Kay, My husband and I are venturing out to our favorite vacation — a Caribbean cruise to Aruba and Curacao. After my Malice Domestic experience where I masked more than most, I’m trusting my instincts and vaccinations to keep us safe. At Malice, everyone was kind and generous with anyone who felt the need to mask up. That’s what we’ll do on the cruise. I hope your trip cheered you.

  27. I look forward to getting to see my Mom in the nursing home tomorrow. We have not been able to see her since December 26. I have low immunity. There have been cases of Covid in the facility. She has also battled infections. Therefore, I had to stay away. We talk on the phone quite a few times a day, but it is not the same. I am not sure that much will change with us since I have low immunity. We will still have to wear our masks and llimit the amount of people we are around. My husband has multiple health issues. The doctor’s want him to be careful also. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

    1. I hope you had a fabulous reunion with your mother. Being careful is the only way to keep sane these days. My first post-vaccine visit with my mom was absolutely wonderful. On the phone is not in person. Good Luck!

  28. I most look forward to not having to worry so much all the time. I have been extremely cautious and have, thankfully, never caught COVID. But I worried constantly that I might get it. In April I flew from Ohio to California for my niece’s wedding. It was so wonderful to see so many family members and friends after so much isolation! And even though the mask requirement was lifted for air travel just before I came home I still wore my mask the entire time on the flight other than when I was eating. It seemed to be the responsible thing to do since I had spent so much time with dozens of people at the wedding and associated events. And I will continue to mask when I am in crowded indoor settings until it finally feels safe not to. I have never been to a mystery book convention but I would love to attend one after seeing so many people enjoying themselves.

    1. I feel exactly the same way. I don’t have any particular health issues, but my two besties are both immunocompromised. I like spending time with them, so I’m ultra careful. It hasn’t hurt me at all. Good Luck!

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