by Barbara D'Amato
Several previously popular mystery conventions and workshops canceled this year, and others, like Malice Domestic, one of the best-run and best-liked, almost didn’t happen. Love Is Murder on Dark and Stormy Nights is taking a year off. I won’t list the ones that have closed down—I just hope they bounce back. But things are looking bleak.
It’s the economy, stupid? Well, yes, but I don’t think it is entirely the economy.
Some say the conferences are competing with each other, drawing from the same customer base. Too many conferences with, too often, the same speakers and same panels. And it is certainly true that conferences proliferated in the last ten or fifteen years.
I think there’s something else going on, though.
When I first joined MWA in 1982, the chapter meetings were the only place I could chat with fellow authors. Who else was going to sympathize with complaints about covers? Who else cared whether your publisher was a hyphen-phobe or hyphen-phile? Those were days when the only other ways to chat with fellow writers were to telephone or to send a letter. On paper! So real discussions were obtainable only at chapter meetings or Bouchercon, one of the very few conferences in existence then. Of Dark and Stormy Nights was the first mystery-writing workshop.
For years I went to every single chapter meeting and enjoyed them and learned a lot.
Now it’s DorothyL or Murder Must Advertise, or any of a dozen socialnets and hundreds of blogs, let alone the websites of the organizations and even of the conferences. I feel part of a large, chatty, opinionated, vigorous world of writers without leaving my keyboard and monitor.
Really, I still enjoy conferences. There’s something exciting about the gathering-of-the-clan feeling you get when you belly up to the check-in desk and see friends from California and Virginia and the U.K. checking in, too. But attendance is down.
I’m wondering how people feel about this. Do you think virtual fellowship is enough? Has it replaced some of your conference-going?
Is this blog diminishing the delights of meetings?