The Edgars…In Absencia

By PJ Parrish

The cruel irony of our awful time is that we have all the time in the world and little will to bend it to our means.

Okay, that’s just me talking. I hope it’s not you. I hope you are using this time of isolation to dig deep and find good stories inside you, and that these stories are finding form on your computers and note pads.  I know, from talking to friends, that this is happening. That gives me comfort.

I’m having problems staying focused. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for, that I am retired with some money in the bank (last time I looked), so I don’t worry about basic human needs. That I am not a front-line worker who carries their day into their nightmares. I am among the very lucky.

Still, I am distracted. I have not written anything in weeks.

I can barely concentrate to read.  The papers, yes, I devour them every morning. (After I spray them with Lysol). I spent too much time on Facebook, clicking on links that give me hope or cast me into despair. By venting on FB, I made a new friend who is a hard Republican. I lost a friend who is a Democrat. There is no playbook for this.

Einstein was right — time stretches and bends. April lasted 97 days and today, if it weren’t for the fact that my phone alerted me that my blog was due, I would not have known it was Monday.

Thank God for the Edgar awards. At least I have that.

If you didn’t hear, the winners were announced last week. But the banquet — that grand black-tie atta-boy-atta-girl affair — it was cancelled, of course. The Edgars are always a fun time for me because I am the banquet chair and I love my gig. I edit the program book, which means working with great writers who contribute essays. (Who else can say they have edited Stephen King, Sara Paretsky, Walter Mosley, Robert Block, Michael Connelly to name-drop just a few). I produce the Powerpoint that displays the nominees as their names are announced, and it’s really cool seeing your cover on a forty-foot screen in the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt while 450 people applaud.

Margery hard at work setting up banquet.

Second, I help MWA’s Executive Director Margery Flax, who is the real force behind all things Edgar, prepare the ballroom, which entails setting out registration tables and name tags, testing the sound systems and unpacking the Edgar awards. (Margery puts tape on the nameplates so, no, I don’t know who wins ahead of time).

Once things are set up, I grab a quick shower, slap on some makeup, dress and heels and head down to man the nominee check in.  I love this part. Some writers are old hands at this but most sidle up to the table and politely ask, “Is this where I’m supposed to be?” It feels great to hand them their ribboned badge and shepherd them to the nominee champagne reception.  When everyone’s checked in, I get to go in and mingle. I am not shy about asking for fan pictures.

Kelly and me with some British guy who was hanging around.

Although I’ve been doing this for more than a decade, I still get nervous that things could go wrong. They have. Dave Barry screwed up and tried to introduce Grand Master Stephen King when it was supposed to be Don Westlake’s job. We had to wave King away and get Westlake on stage, whose first words where, “What am I? Chopped Liver?” And there was the time one of the porcelain Edgar heads arrived in two broken parts but Sandra Brown didn’t miss a beat and said, “And both pieces of the Edgar go to…”

I get  to go to New York, see old writer friends, enjoy the giddiness of the winners. The food is pretty good for hotel fare.

So, how do you hold an Edgar Awards in our times of social distancing? It wasn’t easy. Margery led a great team who live streamed the event as the awards were announced. You can find the winner’s lovely acceptance speeches on YouTube if you type in Edgars 2020.

My sister Kelly, who produces the videos every year, put together a touching tribute to Mary Higgins Clark. Click here to see it.

We are in the process of putting together a special edition program book that will be mailed out to nominees, winners and MWA members.

The only thing missing was…us. I missed the human touch. I missed seeing friends. I missed seeing the faces of the nominees. I missed hearing the tribute to this year’s Grand Master Barbara Neely. I missed hearing the winners’ speeches. I didn’t miss the high heels.

We’ll all be back with each other next year. For now, go here to read the Edgar Award nominees and winners. Buy their books. Then, get busy on writing your own. I am going to try very hard to do that.


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About PJ Parrish

PJ Parrish is the New York Times and USAToday bestseller author of the Louis Kincaid thrillers. Her books have won the Shamus, Anthony, International Thriller Award and been nominated for the Edgar. Visit her at

21 thoughts on “The Edgars…In Absencia

  1. Kristy, thanks for the behind-the-scenes insights.

    As someone on the outside, looking in, I’ve got a question about MWA. (I’m sorry if this question doesn’t fit here, but I think it’s a question a number of us wannabe-published authors on KZB might have.)

    I’ve not joined MWA, because it seems from the website that I’d be a second class citizen, that I’d even be a second class citizen after I self-publish and sell a few books. (What I like about SinC and Guppies is that everyone is a first-class citizen, even men.)

    Is that right? Is there reason to give MWA my $$?

    • I understand your issue here, Eric. MWA (through its board) has grappled with this for at least the last decade. There are basically two categories of membership: Active (professional writers) and Associate open to allied fields (agents, editors, librarians etc). In the bad old days of vanity press, the lines were clear. You got active membership only if you were published by a traditional publisher (who have to meet certain criteria on royalties, advances, etc). But the self-publishing revolution meant the old system wasn’t reflecting the new realities of publishing. So a couple years back (I don’t know exactly when; haven’t been on the MWA board since the 90s.) the board changed the Active rules to include self-published authors. Basically, you had to show income of 5K in one year.

      Here’s the exact rule:

      So yes, self-published folks can qualify. Professional, by definition, is getting paid for your work. At this point, self-pubbed books are not eligible for Edgars, but the discussion is ongoing.

      Whether you feel shelling out hard-earned money, that’s a different question. Does this answer your question?

      • Thanks, this helps.

        There’s now also the category of “affiliate membership.” It may be that the ff is the only difference now in terms of member bennies: “Only Active status members may vote, hold office, and serve on Edgar® committees in MWA.”

        So if and when I publish my first book, it’s a question of elasticity of demand and how to price if I want to meet the $5K standard. Economists draw nice curves about relation between elasticity of demand, price and total revenue. 🙂 All of which assumes one knows the shape of the demand curve.

        • Yup. All of us who self-pub are working that formula. Just FYI, my latest Louis book was self-pubbed. We were going to go with a small press publisher, but once we did the math, it made sense to put it out ourselves. Couldn’t send it into the Edgars, alas. 🙂

    • In ancient times, I was a member of MWA for a year until I realized that I was a second-class citizen who paid for a cool clubhouse for the published authors who live in NYC and got nothing myself, not even some education or professional elements. National RWA is and always has been a trainwreck, but its chapters have always provided first-rate value to all its members, published or not.

  2. Kris, thanks for this entertaining glimpse behind the scenes.

    The cancellation or postponement of many writing-related events is disappointing. This year would have been the 30th anniversary of the Flathead River Writers Conference on which I’ve worked (w/o heels!).

    Gatherings provide the rare opportunity for usually isolated writers to connect with other writers. We leave energized and inspired by each other’s successes, as well as reassured that we are not alone in our setbacks.

    I look forward to next year at this time when hopefully you’ll be able to write a post about the 2021 Edgars celebrated in the real world instead of just the virtual one.

    • Yeah, we are all missing life events. A banquet is nice but it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. So many life rites being cancelled — weddings, family reunions, graduations and funerals of course. But on a better note, we will have our little TKZ community.

  3. You are not the only one with problems focusing. I’ve had to accept that for this season of time, focus on concentration are out the window. However, I will say this past weekend I got in a **little** bit of focused time. It’s a start.

    Loved the “…and both pieces of the Edgar go to…” LOL!!!!!!

    • I read a good post on the concentration thing the other day. The psychologist basically said, stop beating up on yourself if you’re having trouble working, sleeping, etc. And don’t even think of comparing yourself to all the people on Facebook who are getting buff in home gyms, harvesting gardens, baking braided bread or reading 15 books a week. (He didn’t talk about *writing* one). You just have to do your best.

  4. I really wanted to go to the Edgars the year I was a judge, but … wow! NYC hotel, airfare, and the most expensive banquet ticket of any conference I’ve ever been to escalated things way beyond my budget. I’d have liked to have had a virtual option that year.

    • Yes…it is not cheap. Believe it or not, there aren’t that many hotels in NYC that can handle an event of this size (the Thriller Writers use the Grand Hyatt as well). I stopped going to writer cons, esp Bouchercon, about four years ago because of expenses.

  5. The human touch. Digital just doesn’t do it for us, huh? Thank you for this post. It brings into focus the damage this tiny microscopic bug has done. Even we introverts are beginning to rattle our cages to get out.

    I volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center when I’m not at my keyboard. At this writing, I have seven students, with their new babies, whom (or who…?) I mentor. I haven’t seen them since February, and I’m in withdrawals. Usually get to hold their wee ones while we discuss things. We text each other once a week, and they send me pics, but it’s not the same.

    My take is, even though I am a confirmed introvert, I am human and can’t do without other humans. We seem to be wired that way. I say, we throw a Grand Global Party when this is over… 🙂

    • Aw man…I can only imagine how much you miss your time with the babies and new moms. I hadn’t even thought about what this has done to the volunteer culture of our world. I know how badly folks miss their churches and synagogues. Virtual services are nice but you have to be there to be there.

      • On a brighter note, PJ, I work on call at our town’s local cancer center, NorthStar Lodge, which utilizes volunteers big-time. I used to be the volunteer team’s coordinator, for about three years, in addition to my paid duties. But now, the volunteers have all been “furloughed”. I bet they’re missed by the full-time staff.

        But the cool thing is, the volunteers have now banded together in a new endeavor. They make masks! How beautiful is that? I love volunteers/volunteering…!

  6. The Edgar is big-time award. I hope all of your efforts are appreciated by the guests. I have to say that I’m envious of that shot with Mr. Child… But I got a better one at a conference last year in Indiana with TKZ’s very own John Gilstrap. 🙂
    The Edgar’s a big-time award, and yet a lot of it seems to be just folks setting up tables and chairs, arranging for food and drink, planning stuff out, and then there was a broken award… It humanizes the whole thing. I’m sure there’s a large human element behind the Oscars, and other huge award ceremonies as well. I’m wondering how many spare Oscars are kept on hand in case one shows up missing a head or something. I’d love to read a book on the subject.
    Thank you for a very interesting post.

  7. I feel for you on the concentration thing…I’m in the same boat. I think I’ve written two paragraphs in the past month. I look forward to things returning to normal…if ever. Great post and I’d love to attend the Edgars someday!

    • May you attend as a future nominee…

      I am starting to feel the writing gears turning of late. Maybe the urge is returning. But if it does, I want to be able to concentrate enough to make it a daily thing.

  8. My two writing groups have cancelled their meetings, but we have moved to virtual meetings. Having those has made me feel a lot less lonely.

    Our romance conference down here has been cancelled, so there goes the opportunity to mingle with my tribe later down the track too.

    Like everyone else, my productivity hasn’t been as good as it used to be. Mostly, it’s been paralysis by analysis in the editing phase- does this scene work, should I move it/get rid of it, where is the conflict in this scene, what does X want in this scene. Editing a book is a new feeling- hell, this is the first book I’ve ever finished writing, so it’s all new to me.

    I’ve been reading a lot though in the last six weeks: finished Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers, and in the middle of Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire, with a couple of romances in between. Haven’t read that many books in one go in a very long time.

  9. Sounds like a blast. I’d love to attend the Edgars one day (hopefully as a nominee). In the meantime, I’ll check out the virtual banquet. Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look!

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