I’m not a mystery writer. I registered for Mysterium: The Mystery Novel Conference held at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, because two of my friends had planned to go—one who’s written a mystery novel and another who’s planning to work on one—and I wanted to spend time with them because I don’t see them very often. Their plans fell through and I thought about skipping it, but I had already paid the $100 registration.
Before the speakers arrived, I heard fascinating snippets of conversation from people around me in which they talked about the cozy mysteries they’ll have coming out in the fall, the deadlines they’re facing and the lure of procrastination.
Lippman talked about the importance of place in her novels. “I love books that have a strong sense of place,” she said. “Place to me is integral. I don’t understand stories where there is no place.”
Lippman’s “place” is Baltimore. She worked for a number of years at the Baltimore Sun, alongside her father, and talked about writing books that take place in Baltimore and the Baltimore suburbs.
She said she especially finds inspiration when writing stories that she sets in the suburbs. “I write dark stories there,” she said. “This reflects my thoughts about the suburbs.”
Mysterium is billed as a celebration of readers and writers, combining pleasure, instruction from writers, intellectual stimulation and great fun. This description is accurate. I thought I would feel out of place not only because I was alone, but because my writing focuses on general fiction, essays, and journalism—not mystery or crime writing. But once I took my seat at the keynote presentation, I felt at ease and the discussions were applicable to my own writing.