I attended the first ever Daddy’s Girl’s Weekend this past weekend in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. I cannot recall the last time I had that much fun but it was probably at a writer’s conference. (Although US Pony Club Annual Meetings are fun too! It was at times hilarious, rowdy, wacky, but always, always in good fun. In addition to the first Big Daddy contest, won by my dear friend, Dean James, there was a peignoir contest, won by a demure Mississippi housewife. Yes, that was her dripping her feathers all over the room while taking her victory lap.
Despite all the fun, I managed to learn something too. Sessions on writing and things of interest to readers took place, and good solid information was exchanged. Speakers included authors Carolyn Haines and Dean James, literary agent Marian Young, screenwriter David Sheffield, publisher Ben LeRoy (the other Big Daddy candidates) and Murder by the Book owner McKenna Jordan. Sarah Bewley did an outstanding job balancing all that work and making it look effortless.
I feel like I was away from home for a week instead of three days and came back so filled with good writing energy I want to go back next weekend. That’s a good thing. I first started attending mystery-fiction conferences in the 80’s, going to Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, Mayhem in the Midlands, Bouchercon, Magna Cum Murder, Sleuthfest, Cozy Cats and Hardboiled Heros are among the many offerings. I’ve been to Florida and Alaska, Muncie, Indiana and Tuscon, Arizona. Pretty good national coverage! I came home from each one with a renewed vigor for writing — and a long reading list.
This conference was no different. Listening to David Sheffield talk about his three-year stint on Saturday Night Live was informative. While I have no notion of writing a screenplay, hearing his talk was fodder for my thoughts. (I got a terrific idea for a short story during his talk, but I’m not saying what it is until I write the darn thing.) Carolyn was her usual gracious self, inviting the audience into the discussion when she brought up the subject of characterization during one of the writer sessions. The Big Daddy candidates — including a surprise visit from the King himself — were all such good sports about being front and center in one of the most challenging contests I’ve ever seen.
Above all, we had fun. While the world was going to hell in a handbasket — husbands being laid off from work, Japan dissolving under the worst earthquake and tsunami in recorded history, Bahrain going the way of so many other Middle Eastern nations, we laughed, chuckled and just plain old enjoyed ourselves.
Some might call us shallow for laughing on a weekend filled with such world events, but recall that this took place in an area recently decimated by hurricane Katrina — and which is now pulling itself back up. Hope in a time of despair, so to speak. I know I needed this respite — and the creative stimulation all the attendees contributed. Where’s the next conference? Signing up now!