The MWA Agents and Editor’s Cocktail Party is one of the many events making up the Edgar Awards festivities in New York City each April, and this year I got to go. I could lie and be all blasé about it, but it was pretty much as fascinating as it sounds – a room full of writers, editors, agents, and publishers at every level of experience and success sipping wine and sampling an impressive variety of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres carried by wait staff who were a great deal better dressed than I. I’m pretty sure I sampled them all – the hors d’oeuvres that is, not the wait staff. (Anything that fits in your mouth without the need to unhinge your jaw is too small to be counted as calories, right?)
This cocktail party was no evening soiree filled with tuxedoed gents and bejeweled ladies in cocktail dresses, but rather a festive business casual happy hour. Instead of a darkened glamorous room filled with hushed voices and the quiet tinkle of ice cubes floating in gin, this setting was exuberant, filled with laughter and the pearly gray light of a New York April evening. It was the kind of party where the participants stand in intimate little knots leaning toward each other with bent necks and cocked heads because it is too noisy to do otherwise. All around, little groups form and pause before breaking, swirling, and regrouping into new formations like the best kind of kaleidoscope. It’s the kind of party where friends who’d seen each other yesterday hugged, where acquaintances who hadn’t seen each other since the last Edgar Awards caught up with the happenings of a busy and fruitful year, and where strangers met for the first time, often with cries of recognition: “I’ve heard so much about you!” The energy and excitement were invigorating and…did I mention the wine and snacks?
Of course, the crowning moment of the evening was the presentation of the Mary Higgins Clark award by Mary Higgins Clark herself. The award is for a traditional mystery featuring a female amateur sleuth. This year, the nominees were
Yes, that’s my name there in the middle, and I’ll end the suspense: Learning to Swim was the deserving winner, and although winning would have rocked, I was truly honored to be among such a wonderful group of nominees. For one thing, being nominated gave me an excuse to go to New York. For another, it gave me a chance to meet and speak with some of my fellow writers. As always, I found myself both pleased and startled to observe how truly nice they all are. For a group who spends a sizable portion of their time devising ways to kill other people, almost all my fellow writers are exceptionally kind and supportive. I say “almost all” only because I haven’t met all of them and surely there are one or two bastards out there. So far, though, I’ve never come across one. (Hmmm…maybe that means it’s me.)
In any event, the party made one of the best and brightest memories in my writing career so far. Getting to meet Mary Higgins Clark and my fellow nominees didn’t hurt. Getting to go to dinner with my fabulous agent David Hale Smith and editor extraordinaire Matt Martz didn’t hurt either. They have my heartfelt thanks for creating an evening that a very new writer will treasure forever. My next stop is the Malice Domestic mystery writers conference held in Bethesda. I’m looking forward to another few days of intrigue and suspense. Wonder if there will be wine and hors d’oeuvres…
Janice Hamrick’s first novel, Death on Tour, was published after winning the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel award. The second Jocelyn Shore mystery, Death Makes the Cut, is now on shelves and she’s working on the third. Janice lives in Austin.