On August 10, 2019, Suffolk (Virginia) Tourism and the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts hosted the sixth annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival. As many of you know, this is my favorite bookish event of the year.
Suffolk is the largest city in Virginia in terms of land area (430 square miles), but visiting the city is more like visiting a small town where everyone is friendly, welcoming, and eager to show visitors everything their corner of Virginia has to offer.
The history of Suffolk is fascinating and full, and much of it has been preserved for future generations. From its settlement in 1608 to its involvement in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to its international recognition as the home of Planters Nuts, Suffolk has played an important role in the cultural history of the United States.
Visitors can tour Riddick’s Folly (which served as a headquarters for the Union Army during the Civil War), Cedar Hill Cemetery (home to one of Virginia’s Civil War trail sites), Planters Peanut Center, and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, among many other attractions.
The authors who have participated in the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in past years have had the opportunity to visit Riddick’s Folly and the Cedar Hill Cemetery, as well as participate in Ghost Walks and storytelling walks.
The festival itself is always held on a Saturday afternoon at the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts, a beautifully-restored building that operated as a high school until 1990. Since its reopening in 2006, it has become widely known as a popular venue for musical and theater productions, lectures, art exhibits, and visual and performing arts classes. It is a breathtaking backdrop for the authors to participate in panel discussions, hold workshops, and most importantly, meet and mingle with readers.
This year, the festival highlighted forty mystery authors of all subgenres, from traditional to paranormal to horror and romantic suspense. The featured author was Julie Hyzy, the New York Times bestselling author of 22 mystery novels and lots of short stories. Her interview, conducted by the talented and hilarious mystery writer E.A. Aymar, was a delightful way to learn about her journey as a writer from her beginnings to her crowning achievements.
Panels and Workshops
I was on a panel called “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and the authors on the panel talked about the importance of setting and story ideas. The writers had interesting views on setting and it was great to hear about all the different ways they use setting and atmosphere in their books to heighten suspense.
Other panels included “Strong Women in Fiction and Why We Love Them” and “License to Thrill: Shivery Suspense to Keep You Turning the Pages.” Workshops included “From Novice to Novelist: How to Write a Novel,” “You Wrote Your Novel, Now What?: Publishing World Options,” and “Short Stories vs. Novels: Pathways to Publication.”
The Best Part
The art gallery spaces of the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts are used to showcase the authors and their books, which are available for purchase and signing all afternoon. It’s a great place for readers to meet authors, talk with them, and take photos. These rooms are where the most enjoyable parts of the day take place.
Every year hundreds of readers come to see the writers, to reconnect with them, to chat, and to talk books. For the writers, it’s a wonderful time to see readers that we can only see once a year and to meet new readers.
For a full list of attending authors, visit https://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/.
As always, Suffolk Tourism and the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts are due a huge debt of thanks and gratitude for hosting what many readers and writers consider to be the friendliest and most welcoming book festival of the year.
If you’re interested in reading what the Suffolk News Herald wrote about the festival, you can check out the article here.
I hope to see you there next year!
Until next time,