Monday, August 22, 2016

The Family You Choose

         On August 12th I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival (SMAF) in Suffolk, Virginia. It’s a one-day festival celebrating all kinds of mysteries, from cozies to paranormal, from noir to thrillers. There’s something for every mystery lover.

Me in Suffok

             I wrote a bit about this festival on Novel Spaces back in 2015 (, but I want to give it a little more space today. 

            The first big difference between the SMAF and other, larger, festivals is that there is no registration fee for authors. Having shelled out hundreds of dollars at the bigger conferences only to find myself lost in a sea a gazillion other authors, this has a strong appeal for me. I’m not saying that the SMAF will always be free for authors to attend, but for now it’s a bargain that can’t be beat.

            The second big difference between SMAF and many other festivals is that it’s free for readers and fans, too. My husband was recently charged $185 to attend a conference with me, just so he can see what a writers’ conference looks like. Again, this perk at the SMAF has a strong appeal for my family. There is one caveat to the SMAF: there is a VIP Meet & Greet before the panels begin on the day of the festival, and currently the cost for a reader to attend is $20 (including hors d’oeuvres)- it’s free for the authors. It’s a great opportunity for readers and authors to mingle and chat for an hour before the real business of the festival begins.

            Third, there is a limited number of authors who are able to attend the SMAF. Due to space considerations, the author limit was thirty this past weekend. There may be an increase in the number at some point in the future, but this cap on author numbers helps foster the friendly, even cozy, atmosphere at the festival.

            And that brings me to my next point, the most important of all, which is that I’ve never felt as blessed to be an author as I do at the SMAF. I connect with readers and writers I only get to see in person once or twice a year, and from the moment the authors get there on Friday night to the closing dinner we share on Saturday night, I feel like I’m with family.

This is me with Katie Kelley, the Suffolk Tourism Development Manager and best hostess ever!

            The SMAF hosts panels much like you’d find at any other festival, but here’s the difference: for the most part the panelists know each other (often from prior visits to the SMAF) and their panels become more of a friendly discussion than a series of nervous questions and answers.

            And the building where the SMAF is held- don’t even get me started. It’s an old high school that now houses the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts. Think soaring ceilings, light-filled classrooms where authors hold readings and workshops, and a gorgeous restored theater where the panels are held.  The author signings take place in an art gallery. The paintings and photos only add more character to a space that is already steeped in history.

            And speaking of history, the authors and their families are treated on Friday night to an historical tour of some sort in Suffolk- last year it was a Ghost Walk, this year it was a tour of a stunning 19th-century home that once belonged to generations of one of the most prominent families in Virginia.   

            If you want to learn more about the SMAF, you can visit their website at I encourage you to try to attend someday, whether you’re an author or a fan of mysteries.

You’ll be glad you did.


Sharon Aguanno said...

Attending one of these conferences and meeting tons of authors in one spot is definitely on my bucket list.

Very nice article.

Have a great day


Amy Reade said...

Hi Sharon! This is such a nice one- you probably know half the authors there! Happy Monday!

Maggie said...

I agree, Amy---it's a great event, my absolute favorite. And it was wonderful to meet you!

Amy Reade said...

I feel the same way, Maggie! And it was wonderful to see you in person!

Ruth Barrineau-Brooks said...

I've attended this festival ever since it started three years ago, and I love it. The setting is beautiful, and the authors are so gracious. Because everything except the VIP Meet and Greet is free, that also allows me to buy more books! said...

Well, I've never had an urge to attend an authors' festival, even though I'm an author of two books with more to come, probably because of the reasons you mention regarding the LARGER over priced festivals. But this one sounds absolutely delightful. I'd want to attend even though I don't write mysteries! Thanks for sharing your experience here.

Cindy McKenzie said...

Hi Amy,
Great that you can get to attend a festival you enjoyed. I fantasize about, going to book fairs and festivals, but of course cannot afford the luxury!

Linda Thorne said...

We have the Southern Festival of Books here in Nashville each year. It's totally free and I have one since I first moved here. I always run into people I know there and then meet new people who come from all over the place. It's always a hoot (as they say here in the South). I'm glad you have an event like this too.

Sunny Frazier said...

When I was at Bcon last year, many seasoned authors complained that this would possibly be their last convention as prices were too high. Filtering in travel costs, hotel, food and convention fees, it's just not worth it. I love seeing writer friends but I'm almost thankful that dialysis prevents me from being tempted to participate anymore. I don't even want to be a speaker.

Liane Spicer said...

This festival sounds delightful, Amy. I'd love to attend but like Cindy, I'm much too far away.