In addition to becoming an annual event, the second Mystery Writers Key West Fest will launch a writing award to honor an author who made Florida his home.
The first Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award—“The Jerry”—will be presented during the event, August 14-16 in Key West, Florida. The winner will receive a book publishing contract with Absolutely Amazing eBooks, free Mystery Writers Key West Fest registration, hotel accommodations for two nights, and a bobble-headed Jerry trophy (shown at left).
Healy, who died in August 2014, was the author of 13 novels about Boston-based private detective John Francis Cuddy and, under the pseudonym Terry Devane, wrote the Mairead O'Clare legal thriller series. Healy’s writing career began while a professor at the New England School of Law, where he taught for almost two decades. Healy wrote 18 novels and over 60 short stories, 15 of which won or were nominated for the Shamus Award.
A graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School, Healy’s career path included stints as a military police lieutenant and a trial attorney.
For nearly 20 years, Healy lived in Fort Lauderdale, where he was active in the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America and the writers conference Sleuthfest. He also served as moderator and panelist at the first Mystery Writers Key West Fest in 2014.
“The Jerry” is sponsored by Absolutely Amazing eBooks. Candidates for the Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award should submit the first three pages of a finished, unpublished manuscript no later than June 30, 2015. There is no fee to enter, finalists will be notified August 1, and will have until August 10 to submit full manuscripts.
The award judging committee will be led by Healy's fiancée, mystery author Sandra Balzo, and includes Shirrel Rhoades, author, film critic, media consultant and publisher of Absolutely Amazing eBooks; Ted Hertel, attorney, author, reviewer and immediate past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America; and Gary Warren Niebuhr, library director, reviewer and author of numerous nonfiction works on crime fiction, including Make Mine a Mystery: A Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction and Read 'em Their Writes: A Handbook for Mystery Book Discussions.
This year’s Mystery Writers Key West Fest—“Murder & Mayhem in Paradise”—includes multiple workshops, presentations, panel discussions, and social events with crime fiction and true crime writers.
For information on the Second Annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest and complete Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award competition guidelines and submission details, visit www.mysterywriterskeywestfest.com.
My recent trip to New York City was terrific—a chance to catch up with friends, see some wonderful theater, and shop.
But the main reason for the trip was to attend the Edgar symposium, where I moderated a panel, and, of course, attend the Edgar Awards.
Now that I am unpacked, mostly, and caught up laundry, mostly, I’ve been thinking, What is the value of the Mystery Writers of America, which will celebrate its 70th year in 2016, and the Edgar Awards?
In my opinion, both matter a lot and both should be embraced by published writers, unpublished writers, planning to be writers, and, of course, readers.
And we should celebrate it.
Mystery readers, and writers, know that the genre often goes where no other form of literature can.
Mysteries, or crime fiction, or whatever label you need to use, show us who we are as a society. These novels act as today’s social novels, how we deal with contemporary issues as well as how we handle crimes and punishments.
I’ve said all that before, and why would we not want to celebrate that?
Any time the mystery community gives an award, the grumbles begin.
Actually, that happens any time an award in the arts is presented, whether it is the Edgar, the Oscar, the Tony, or any regional arts award. I hear everything from “We shouldn’t be competing against each other” to “They never honor [fill in the blank…cozies, thrillers, hard-boiled, women, minorities, etc.]” to “It’s all political” to “The awards don’t mean anything” to “When is it my turn?”.
I disagree with just about all those comments.
The awards don’t mean that authors are competing against each other; the awards are honoring some of the best books the genre has to offer. With so many wonderful books published each year, it’s fitting and right to honor as many books as possible.
Were the Edgars winners my picks?
Some were, some were not, but I am not going to elaborate on that.
It is not my place to second-guess any of the judges, of any awards.
I do an annual best-of list and some of my picks overlap the Edgars and other awards, and some do not.
And I think that is good because it points out how there are so many worthy books that no one list can have them all. I actually like when our lists contain some differences because it brings attention to more books.
And if an author’s book doesn’t make it to the list, that doesn’t mean it is bad. It just means that others were a notch above.
The genre is filled with many books I’d label B+ and A….and a large number I’d call A+. The competition is stiff, so stop grumbling about not making the list, and instead celebrate the best of the best.
The Edgars truly are the Oscars of the mystery world, and we need that.
I also love that the Agatha Awards celebrate the traditional mystery and the Anthonys are a fan-based award.
As for why MWA, Sisters in Crime, and the other organizations matter...
The mission statement says it all: “MWA is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre.”
Crime fiction and crime writers deserve respect and organizations fight for that respect. These groups are not just about established writers, but for anyone who is related to the genre.
These organizations educate us about the genre, keep us informed about the legalities, offer scholarships, discounts, sometimes can offer insurance, and make us think about why we love mysteries.
Sisters in Crime is entering its 28th year; MWA celebrates its 70th year in 2016; The Private Eye Writers of America has been going for 34 years.
Writing is a solitary enterprise, so having a group of others to be with is invaluable. And you cannot get that just from the Internet or social media.
One gets out of an organization what one wants to, and what a person puts into it. And these organizations are so worthwhile. Plus, the membership dues are quite affordable.
One more thing: anyone, whether a member of MWA or not, can attend the Edgars symposium, the Edgar banquet, or the seminars and workshops it sponsors around the country.
Likewise, Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and the other conferences, are open to anyone.
So all this matters; it matters a lot.
Enjoy who we are, honor the books that compose the genre, and, most of all, read and buy books.