Events, Schmevents: aka “Yes, we’re open to suggestions”

by Michelle Gagnon

The Illustrious MWA Board

As of last weekend, I’m the newly minted president of the Northern California MWA chapter (please, hold your applause). On the plus side, I was privileged to spend a few days in New York with such luminaries as Charlaine Harris, Greg Herren, Bill Cameron, Harley Jane Kozak, and Jess Lourey; aka, the current MWA board.
 
However, I also suddenly find myself in charge of organizing between 6-8 events this year that will appeal to both crime fiction writers and fans of their work. And let’s just say that all things considered, I’m not much of a planner. Heck, I never even plot out my books.

So frankly, I’m at a bit of a loss. I spent the past few days trying to remember all the local MWA meetings that I’ve attended–and honestly, only a few stick out in my mind (which is probably my fault. I also have a lot of difficulty remembering my parents’ birthdays, and when the cat’s teeth are supposed to be brushed. Which lately has turned out to be: pretty much never. Sorry, Mr. Slippers. I’m sure that someday soon they’ll invent feline dentures.)

Ted Kaczynski

The most memorable meeting for me happened a few years ago, when a retired FBI agent who had been on the Unabomber case from the beginning outlined the entire manhunt for us in the world’s most dramatic and fascinating Powerpoint presentation. In the end, he was also one of the three agents who entered the cabin to arrest Ted Kaczynski. His talk went on for hours, yet I could have sat through it all over again immediately after it ended.

We’ve also done “State of the Industry” panels, featuring an agent, librarian, editor, and bookseller. They always offer frank (and occasionally terrifying) insights into…you guessed it…the state of the publishing industry. That will be a repeat this year for sure.

DO NOT eat here. Seriously.

I’d like to shake things up a bit, though. Maybe have some “field trip” meetings–I have an in with the SFPD Bomb Squad, so possibly a tour of their facility. Or a trip to the morgue (which ironically, former chapter meetings almost sent me to, twice.  For years we held meetings at John’s Grill, which has a really cool Maltese Falcon display, and a really terrible kitchen. I contracted food poisoning not once, but twice, during chapter luncheons. And the second time I had only consumed coffee. I still cringe when I remember their club sandwich.)

But who better to ask than the vast community of mystery readers and writers here? In the interest of that, I’m turning the matter over to you. What are the most memorable local mystery events you’ve attended, author appearances aside? And what kind of dream events do you wish your chapter would hold? (within reason, of course. I’m pretty sure my budget won’t allow for a Bruce Springsteen performance, or anything in that range). Ideally, I want to achieve a balance, so that they’re not all focused on the writing craft. I’d also like to continue avoiding food poisoning, if possible.


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