Coastal Virginia residents who want to rub elbows with authors and learn more about the craft of writing can do so at the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival, taking place Saturday, Aug. 12. What started out as a book signing request to Richmond mystery writer Ellery Adams mushroomed into a day-long festival that includes writers from a variety of genres, as well as panels and workshops catering to aspiring writers.
“When we invited Ellery, she asked if she could bring several of her author friends,” explains Kathleen Kelley, tourism development specialist for the city of Suffolk. “We had no idea it would turn into such a huge event.”
Geared toward readers and aspiring writers, festival events include book signings, author meet and greets, author panels and workshops. Previous workshops have included literary agents discussing publishing, as well as lectures on craft from Mystery by the Sea, the local chapter of Sisters in Crime, an association that provides support and resources for female mystery authors.
“There are so many fan conventions out there for readers, but we also have lots of writers in this area,” says Kelley. “In addition to introducing readers to writers, we also want to help aspiring local authors reach the next level.”
Eleven authors attended the inaugural festival in 2014. By 2016, that number had grown to 29 authors. While the festival started out featuring mystery writers, it now includes writers in a range of genres, including suspense, horror, paranormal, romance and women’s fiction. Authors come from all over the United States, and some even travel from Canada.
Local author Nan O'Berry signs books.
The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts offers the perfect milieu for readers and writers alike, but the historic venue has limited space. “I have to be choosy when I decide which authors to invite,” says Kelley. “The selection criteria depend on a myriad of factors, including how many books an author has written, how many books sold, the author’s rank on book lists, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and social media presence.”
One distinction between the Suffolk event and other book festivals is that both traditionally published and self-published authors are welcome. “I wanted to make it very clear from the beginning that we don’t discriminate against self-published authors,” says Kelley.
Author Nancy Naigle greets a fan.
For Kelley, the festival is all about camaraderie. “Sometimes the quiet people get forgotten,” she says. “There are lots of festivals in Coastal Virginia, but none especially for people who love to read. The Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival fulfills that niche.”
The Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival takes place Aug. 12 from noon–6 p.m. at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, located at 110 W. Finney Ave., Suffolk. The festival is free and open to the public. For more information, including a complete schedule of events, visit SuffolkMysteryAuthorsFestival.com.