Tuesday, April 14, 2009
On Saturday I was part of a panel for NorCal MWA, talking about the various subgenres of mystery fiction. Other panelists were Penny Warner, Robin Burcell, and Sophie Littlefield (next to me at the table), and brilliantly moderated by Tim Maleeny. Our own Terri Thayer was present and added much to the discussion. We covered topics ranging from the conventions of different subgenres to finding a niche market for our books.
I won't rehash whether we thought "the cop boyfriend" is overused, or whether talking pets add to or detract from the cozy genre. My biggest insight is best described by the photo.
Notice the pile of STUFF in front of me. I have promotional postcards, souvenir rulers, a folder of articles from my research, a one-page handout on the conventions of the cozy, 2 book covers from my first series showing the difference in approach for the same book, a notebook and pen for jotting down thoughts from others, a mini reading scene I put together featuring the books of the panelists and others, a badge with my bookcover on it, and a Writers Digest version of the subgenres to pass around.
Sophie's place at the table is bare—not even a pencil. The paper you see is MINE. Yet she managed to talk quite a bit, be very entertaining, and give a great deal of information. So did Robin, whose place was also bare. Penny had some STUFF, but not as much as I did.
Is it me or is it the genre? Cozies do lend themselves to tchotchkes, but I may, just may, overdo it. Does it come from teaching science for so many years, when I always had demo equipment or a model of the atom in front of me? But even when I taught philosophy, I had STUFF -- a cartoon, a page of quotes, a video clip of a piece of dialogue that was pertinent.
Do you need stuff to make your points? Do I?
I have thought about going cold on this. STUFF is heavy to carry around (unless you're traveling with Ann Parker, who will carry your bag for the price of a cup of coffee, or less!) and it takes a long time for me to pack, even for a simple book signing. But the fact is, I have fun doing it. I might always do it.