Friday, July 06, 2007

And how was your week?

from Jacqueline

(Sorry, no pics with this post. I had one particularly good one of Cornelia and me together, however, we both look as if we're about to enter the "I look like a fresh tomato" contest. Paid good money for that camera, and look what happens, not one shot worth sharing! I have entertained the thought that it might be me. I'm also clueless about Photoshop and iPhoto. Oh well ...)

It’s been what my mother would call a “funny old week” (sometimes she'll refer to a “funny old year” or a “funny old day”). What that means is that it’s been a bit of this and a bit of that, neither exceptionally great, but on the other hand, no catastrophic events, at least not in my house – and if the gods are listening, I would just as soon it stays that way, thank you.

Actually, there was a major highlight that, technically, was last week – which is why you didn’t hear from me. I thought I would have time to pen something, hence not lining up a stand-in, but then the demands of the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference just ran away with me. I have the honor, along with Sheldon Siegel, of being Co-chair of the conference, which means I run around with a clip-board trying to look efficient. All joking aside now, the conference is one of the best events of the year. Originally the brainchild of the late Marilyn Wallace (who passed away last year), and her dear friend, Judy Greber (aka Gillian Roberts), the conference is for aspiring mystery writers at all stages of the game, who come to immerse themselves in a four-day program jam-packed with panels, writing intensives, “in conversation” sessions and other delights. And the conference is all about those aspiring writers. Established mystery writers fall over themselves to be invited onto the faculty, and the great thing is that ... it’s all about those aspiring writers. You don’t see any grandstanding, no one going on about the books they’ve published – they are there to teach, and boy, do they do that job well. The faculty just put their all into planning the sessions, and to advising the attendees on a one-to-one basis. They are “on” all the time. The collegial atmosphere is one of the conference hallmarks, and though we all go home tired (on Monday I walked around as if I had just disembarked from a really long transatlantic flight), it leaves you feeling as if you’ve done a really good long-weekend’s worth of work.

Our Cornelia was on the faculty, and not only that, she’s a conference alum – which makes her really famous in the annals of the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference. MInd you, she's really famous anyway. This year I asked her to be on a panel called “The Arc of Grief.” We first added this panel last year, not quite knowing how it might fly. Tony Broadbent, David Corbett and I were “in conversation” on the subject of grief and how it can be touched in the mystery genre. The idea grew out of a conversation between David and I about the fact that, here we are, in a genre where there is great loss (of life, of belongings, reputation ... etc), and it’s rare to see a writer address the issue of grief. We continued talking about the idea with Tony, and then we stopped talking about it. The “in conversation” sessions are unscripted, with no preparation, so if we spoke about it beforehand, then there would be nothing to talk about in the session. It was among the best sessions last year, and gave our attendees a new dimension to explore in their fiction. The root words for “conversation” mean “learning together” – and it worked. This year I decided to sit on the sidelines and instead invite Cornelia to be part of the panel to bring a fresh voice to that conversation, and again, it went really well.

The other big winner, in terms of additions to the conference, was the “Inside The Writer’s Loft.” I have always loved “Inside The Actors’ Studio,” with James Lipton, and thought it would be great to adapt it to the author’s path. Tony Broadbent accepted the invitation to channel James Lipton, and Mike Connolly was his guest. It was a blast! Tony followed Lipton’s interviewing technique to the letter, and put in hours and hours of work researching Mike’s history as a writer and journalist, and it was brilliant! We all learned so much, and Mike was game from the start, although seemed really quite taken aback when Tony kicked off with a list of his accomplishments and awards before inviting him up to the podium. And at the end, when Tony turned to Mike and said, “Here are your students ...” the first question came from a woman who gamely said, “My name is [x] and I am a first year writing student.”

Oh, and Tony did include the French bloke’s questionnaire – and Mike’s favorite cuss word is “Shit.” To the blog censors of this world: Put that in your R-rating and smoke it!

I can’t list all the faculty here, but if you go to the Book Passage website ( you will see their names listed. One of the delights was Evan, the youngest ever attendee at the conference. At fourteen years of age, he wowed us all (though he had to run from the late-night session with, “My dad’s outside waiting for me.”). Watch out for that boy, in a few years he’ll be writing up a storm and keeping his parents in the manner to which they dream to be accustomed – which will make waiting outside Book Passage all worthwhile.

OK, that’s it from me this week. Amazing, no politics. I didn’t even mention Scooter Libby and the miscarriage of justice once.


  1. I have heard great things about Book Passage. I did wonder where you were last week.

    Sounds like a good fuuny old week.


  2. Our J, I think that Book Passage this year was among the finest four days I've ever had, especially consecutively. You and Sheldon did a magnificent job, the students were phenomenally talented and interesting and fun, the faculty rocked, and it was just a pleasure, through and through. Better than a bucket of Prozac...

  3. Better than Prozac? Hell, I was already interested in this thing before you threw that part in.

    Is there any dancing after all the talking? Because I am so there next year.

    I could be a real writier, I think. All my boyfriends say so, because I tell such good stories and stuff.

    Me, Margie

  4. Dude Margie, for you we will dance our little butts off... OPA!!!

  5. from Jacqueline

    Oh, didn't I mention the champagne reception at the end of the conference? And the evenings? Yes, you are so there next year, Margie. And yes, Jim, it was a great funny old week!

    You're right, Cornelia, the whole event just rocked!

  6. I wish I'd been there. :-( Sniff. Where is it being held next year?

    I think I'd spend the whole time just quietly absorbing all the information and contributions, and making notes. Mind you, if Cornelia catches me, she'll feed me Dark and Stormies and make me tell airforce stories. I think I could stand that. :-D

    Dang. Glad you all had a great time. It reminds me of the intensive Clarion Writers workshops each year for science fiction writers.


  7. from Jacqueline

    The Book Passage Mystery Writers' Conference is held each year at Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera, California - just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. I think the "Intrepid Traveler" award went to the lady who came all the way from Singapore to attend. That's someone who deserves a best-seller!

    If you're interested in the conference, go to, or call Karen West who coordinates all conferences and special events at the store - you'll find all contact details on the website.

  8. "Me,Margie".....liked your FABLE on TLC.......[the OTHER learning channel]
    Still trying to figure out why you'd be Barry Bonds, surely a home run hitter but a defensive liability...on a last place team, the Giants.But, what do I know?

    You APPEAR to be a writer to me, no matter how good a "story teller" [as in the emperor = king "story teller"] you may be.

    hope you'll continue to contribute to this blog....and I'll be checking out your blog alot more, too.


  9. Jackie, I had a blast at the BP Mystery Conference. The students were wonderful ... you and Sheldon made it such a nurturing environment ... and it was so fine to catch up with old friends.

    Yep, it's the best event of the year.

  10. Jon (Anonymous Jon? Hmmmm)

    *I* didn't say I was Barry Bonds, honey, I think Paul did. I don't use steroids, I'll tell you that. Do you know what the biggest side effect is? Good God. All for a bigger neck? What the fuck?

    Me, Margie

  11. ..or I guess, to be correct, what NOT the fuck?

  12. Joining the party late. Just got back from Fresno where it was 111 degrees. I attended a Book Passage writers' conference led by Elizabeth George some years back and it was faboo. It's a great bookstore.

  13. yes, I know, "Me,Margie" was indeed the fabled Paul who gave you that moniker.....I didn't understand why....and given your response, I guess you didn't either.

    I just stay in the fringe arena,on this blog, so I don't take on a PUBLIC persona....thus, I remain, the humble and anonymous......

  14. Louise, it was great to see you last weekend, and you are such a good teacher - thank you for being there. And Patty - 111 degrees? I just cannot stand the desert, and anywhere that gets that hot is desert to me, just reclaimed desert. Hope you had a good time and managed to stay cool (you are always cool anyway!).

    Oh, and Me, Margie and Jon - not quite following the conversation, but it looks pretty wild to me ....

  15. Hi Jackie (and Cornelia),
    I'm a conference attendee and aspiring writer who stopped by to check out the blog. I just wanted to say thank you! The conference was the most amazing experience. I came home inspired and have been revising my manuscript like crazy ever since - helped by the fact that my consultation led to a request for more pages from an agent I really admire! So thank you, thank you, thank you!

  16. Hey, Kim - great to hear from you. And you are welcome, welcome, welcome.

    We'll be welcoming you back as an alum when your book is published!

  17. Congratulations, Kim--that is great news, and we will keep all appendages crossed for your success!

    GO YOU!!!!!!

  18. Jackie and Cornelia -
    Thanks for the support!