|View of the Roberts Lobby, Showing the Mary Higgins Clark Piano|
|The Columbia Club, New Home to Magna Cum Murder|
The driving force behind Magna is Kathryn Kennison, a great friend to mystery writers and book lovers in general. Kathryn set Magna's classy and welcoming tone back in 1994, and has maintained it ever since. And every year she works the miracle of drawing a big-name guest of honor to a small Midwestern conference. This year's honoree was Steve Hamilton. Our banquet speaker was Hank Phillippi Ryan. They still come to Indiana for Kathryn.
|Guest of Honor Interview: Hank Phillippi Ryan and Steve Hamilton|
A big advantage of a small conference for the writer is the opportunity to speak with a good percentage of the attendees. That's assuming you "work the room," making yourself available to fans and doing such daring things as sitting down at a table full of strangers. It's not the easiest leap for some writers to make, including this writer. Small conferences are good for the fans and for aspiring writers (as yet unpublished writers, someone called them this weekend) because of this same intimacy.
|Magna's First Panel: John Desjarlais, Albert Bell, Molly Weston, William Kent Krueger, and Unidentified Moderator|
One of the reasons I sometimes fail to work the room at Magna is that I'm too busy catching up with writers I only see there. (I'm not naming names for fear of leaving someone out.) As important as book promoting is, it's also important for me to keep in touch with writers I admire, to be encouraged by success stories and to condole over the frustrations of the writing life. This year, I even got to watch another World Series game in another Magna bar. (And yes, I do remember who was playing.)
|Two Award-winning Writers, Sandra Balzo and Ted Hertel, Jr.,and Two Distinguished|
Critics, Gary Warren Niebuhr (holding his favorite book) and Ted Fitzgerald
Next time you're on Facebook, check out the Magna Cum Murder page. You'll see some very professional photos of the attendees and of the Columbia Club (unlike the grainy group shots reproduced here, which were made with my very small camera.) And if you're looking for a weekend away with new old friends next fall, consider Magna's twentieth anniversary celebration in October. Next year's details should be available soon on Magna's web site, along with an online registration form. I'll remind you later.