Wednesday, May 6, 2009


The first adventure was simply getting there. I got on the Internet a couple of weeks in advance and searched for cheap airline tickets. Success! I thought. But I was wrong. Oh, not in the price, but the landing field. The lowest price was coming into Dulles. Because it was the older name (the other airport is Reagan), I thought it was the one closer in. I was so wrong! The wonderful Washington Metro doesn’t go as far out as Dulles. My hotel didn’t offer a shuttle. My choices were to take a city bus to the nearest Metro line, then change at least once to get to Crystal City; or, take a cab. I was tired and burdened with a huge purse, a big, heavy suitcase, and a hatbox. And my feet already hurt – I had to wear my biggest hat and so had to wear an appropriate dressy outfit so I didn’t look like a total dork. The cab fare was over fifty-five dollars, not including tip. I will say, however, the cab was incredibly comfortable. Also, on the flight from Minneapolis, a man with a very loud voice sat behind me and confided many details of his personal life and career to his seatmate (poor woman). My own seatmate grumbled about it the whole trip. Not a fun journey, so when I decided to take a cab, I asked the driver to be quiet, and he was, the entire trip. I sank into new leather seats, cracked a window to the refreshing spring air, and recovered a lot of lost equilibrium on the long, expensive, silent journey to the Marriott Hotel.

The Marriott is a fine hotel, and I had a room all to myself. As I was suffering from a mild medical problem, it was sweet to be able to retreat to my room now and again and not bother or be bothered by anyone.

I didn’t get a lot from the panels. I’ve been going to these events for a large number of years, and there isn’t a whole lot I haven’t already heard. But one panel, "Get a Clue," quoted from a lengthy oath that a writers group found back in the twenties in England made its members take. The moderator asked the panelists if they would be willing to swear to two parts of the oath, copies of which were handed out to the audience. After a bit of hemming and hawing, every member did. The two parts: "Do you promise that your Detectives shall ell and truly detect the Crimes presented to the, using those with which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance upon nor making use of Devine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, or Act of God?" and "Do you solemnly swear never to concdeal a Vital Clue from the Reader?" I thought about that oath myself and decided that yes, I would take it, even though I agreed with one panelist that Feminine Intuition is just a short cut the mind will take from Point A to Point C – there is a Point B in there, but it slides by so fast it’s unnoticed.

I spent more time than I should have in the Dealer’s Room, and spent more money, too. One thing I found was a patterned velvet scarf – or rather, the dealer found it. I brought down the jacket to the teal-velvet dress I was wearing to the banquet and asked if she had a thin scarf I could tie around my head that matched the jacket in color. Well, no, all her scarves were big squares. Fringed squares. She had to dig in a box under a table to find one the right color and then spend five minutes tying it up into a turban with a tail down the back and fringe in front of my ears, pinning it together right on my head. I looked in a mirror and thought, "My God, I look like a character from a silent film, the one who insists on telling people at a party their fortunes." But two passers-by said I looked wonderful so I got out my credit card, swallowed hard, and said I’ll take it. As it turned out, people at the banquet were either universally kind, or the turban was a hit. Or both.

The banquet was terrific. I have sat through a lot of awards banquets, and find them too often a bit tedious. But a very large portable movie screen was set up near the stage and an overhead projector went close by it. Someone rigged up transparencies to announce the nominees, first announcing them in a long sentence that incorporated the names of the books. This is not the actual sentence – I didn’t write them down – but the nominees for the Young Adult Agatha (Into the Dark, A Thief in the Theater, The Crossroads, and The Great Circus Train Robbery) were introduced with a sentence like this: A Thief in the Theater ran Into the Dark but was caught at The Crossroads before he could pull off The Great Circus Train Robbery. Nominees were individually named and the transparency for each featured a photograph of the author, the cover of the book, and a picture of some theme from the book or story. The person running the machine had problems with fingerprints on the glass and her fingers could be seen at intervals rubbing them out – but not before giving Anne Perry an interesting Pancho Villa mustache! The speeches were heartfelt, amusing, and brief. All in all, a terrific event.

Getting on board the plane going home, the cheery stewardess said, "I’m sorry you’ll have to take that hat off – " She grinned. "And give it to me!" We laughed and hugged, and we talked off an on about hats the whole trip. She is a church-going woman and says the rule is, you can’t wear the same hat twice for three years. I don’t have enough hats to follow that rule. Yet.


Camille Minichino said...

Count me as one who thought your banquet outfit was smashing! A beautiful green -- the turban and dress looked as though they were cut from the same bolt of cloth.

Not enough hats for that church rule? I find that hard to believe!

But anyway can't you take all your scarves and make them into turbans to match your dresses?

Terri Thayer said...

All of your hats were beautiful on you, Monica. It was lovely to have dinner with you on Friday and hear your stories. And our panel rocked!

Betty Hechtman said...

Your hats and the stories that go with them are great. Ditto whatTerri said. Our panel did rock.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Monica, I loved sitting at the Malice banquet with you. You looked so charming!

Monica Ferris said...

I think our panel was one of the best. We were asked some great questions and we all seemed up with some sharp answers.