by Kathleen Ernst
Last week Deborah Sharp posted about writers at conferences who don’t play well with others. Most of the comments revolved around people who take over panels.
I have my own particular pet peeve when I attend conferences: writers who bash other writers.
My introduction to the mystery community came long before my Chloe Ellefson series launched last fall. I published my first middle grade mystery in 2000. I soon learned that while some writers and conference organizers welcomed children’s writers, others did not. The first Bouchercon I attended did not include even a token panel about J/YA writers, even though there were a handful of us there. I was told that one of the organizers had made it clear from the beginning that Bouchercon was for and about those writing for adults.
Many conference planners have, of course, not only welcomed J/YA writers, but put great energy into fostering literacy efforts and engaging local kids. If nothing else, most people realize that authors who write children’s mysteries are hooking future adult-book buyers on the genre.
But the bias is still out there. At one event I did after Old World Murder was published last fall, the author who introduced me said something about me now being a “real writer.” Ouch.
The so-called cozy writers also seem to take it on the proverbial chin. At Bouchercon Chicago, I attended a panel titled something like “Things That Bug Me.” An author I greatly admired was on the panel, along with three authors I didn’t know. I thought they’d be discussing poor characterization or unfair reviews or some such. Instead, it turned into an hour of cozy-bashing. The panelists were very funny—in a mocking and condescending kind of way. One writer was singled out for special ridicule.
If I hadn’t been in the absolute middle of a packed room, I would have walked out. (And was I ever disappointed in the Writer I Used To Admire.)
Although that was the worst example I’ve seen of sub-genre bashing, it pops up from time to time at other cons as well. Interestingly, I’ve never heard cozy or traditional writers criticize those who write other types of books.
My advice? If you don’t like a particular sub-genre of mysteries, don’t read them.
Another example of writer-bashing happens when published authors get their shorts in a wrinkle by aspiring writers. I taught writing for years, and I’m one of those people who uses the phrase “pre-published” instead of “unpublished.” The mere term drives some writers to outbursts of peeve.
I don’t assume that everyone who wants to write a mystery will find a home for their manuscript. But I know how much courage it sometimes takes a novice to walk into their first MWA chapter meeting, or to participate in their first serious writing class. If I can encourage newcomers by referring to them as pre-published, I will.
The mystery umbrella is pretty big. I think there’s room for us all.