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S.J. Rozan on Why Genre Matters, Next Week at Madison, N.J. Library

Sometimes genre fiction gets a bad rap for being "less than literary." Nothing could be further from the truth. But, believe it or not, as popular as crime fiction is, it still retains a certain stigma to many readers. Award-winning author and Mystery Writers of America, New York member S.J. Rozan, will endeavor to correct this misconception at the Madison Public Library in Madison, N.J., next week, on July 20, as part of the library's free Summer Seminar Series. For more than 30 years, Madison Public Library has provided a wildly popular series of free academic lectures each summer. Targeted at a local audience with a desire to learn more about history, politics, and culture, these free lectures offer something for everyone. Past topics have included Manhattan Bridges, New Jersey Gardens, and the music of Scott Joplin.

Rozan's lecture, “Categorization and Its Discontents: Why Genre Matters,” will be held Thursday, July 20, at 10:30 a.m., in the library's Chase Auditorium, 39 Keep Street, Madison, N.J. The event is free and open to the public. Further details and contact information can be found by clicking here.

This year Jeffrey Payton, the library’s program coordinator, decided to offer a lecture on the mystery genre and he reached out to the Mystery Writers of America for input. "Now that we are in our 33rd year of our summer seminars, I found that there really hadn't been any seminars focusing on literature, much less books, fiction, reading, or mysteries," says Payton. "So this year I wanted to rectify that slight and end the fiction drought. We decided to focus on mystery." Mysteries are very popular with the local community as proven by regular attendance at the library's Wednesday Film Nights, which often feature mystery and film noir, and its annual cozy mystery reading series, Bones & Scones.

Recently selected by Mystery Tribune as one of the 25 best female crime fiction authors of the past 50 years, Rozan is the perfect choice for this presentation. Fortunately for the library, she accepted the invitation and will be able to offer her very passionate perspective on this issue. "To be able to get S.J.Rozan, a multi-award winner and an articulate speaker, to present a seminar, well, we feel very fortunate, and we look forward to a successful and popular addition to the seminar series," says Payton. "I would like to see this open the door to more literary and publishing opportunities for seminars and other programs."

—Robert J. Daniher

Robert J. Daniher lives in New Jersey where he works as an IT Support Technician for Madison Public Library and Library of The Chathams. He has been a member of MWA since 2009 and assists the MWA-NY Library Committee with planning author events at North Jersey libraries. His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for the Mysterious Photograph Contest and in the annual Deadly Ink Short Story Collections of 2007 and 2008.

MWA-NY Authors Teach the History of Mystery in Chatham, N.J.

Authors from the Mystery Writers of America, New York Chapter, will present four lectures covering the history of mystery and crime fiction at the Library of The Chathams in Chatham, N.J., throughout next month.  These lectures will be part of the library’s Chatham Adult Lifeworks Learning (CALL) program, an adult continuing education series partially sponsored by Friends of the Library of The Chathams.

Launched in 2016, this unique library series is intended to offer the local community an opportunity to learn a variety of subjects through a series of month-long courses facilitated by experts in the subject fields. “Reaching our community in new ways is something we constantly try to do,” says library Reference Supervisor Robert Schriek. “The CALL program is a way for the library to offer academic opportunities to residents who now have the time to learn new things and are looking for affordable classes.” In the past the series has covered topics such as: Classical Music, French Impressionism, and American Foreign Policy. The program has hosted university professors, political science experts, and educators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This year, in an effort to broaden the program’s appeal, the Library of The Chathams invited MWA-NY to facilitate a series of courses on the history of mystery and crime fiction. “It's great to get MWA involved because mystery is such a popular genre that the subject will have great appeal to the public,” says Schriek. The lectures will be held at the library on four consecutive Tuesdays in June. Each week will focus on a different period of crime fiction history beginning with Edgar Allan Poe and concluding with hardboiled crime fiction of the mid-20th century and today. Four MWA-NY members will speak on a different topic he or she specializes in for each week of the program. All programs will be held on Tuesdays at 1 p.m.

June 6 Peggy Ehrhart on "Edgar Allan Poe"
June 13 Jeff Markowitz on "Anna Katharine Green, the Forgotten Mother of Mystery"
June 20 Lyndsay Faye on "Sherlock Holmes"
June 27 Dave White on "The Hard-Boiled School of Crime Fiction in the U.S."

Registration through the library is required, and there is a fee of $40 for the four-week program. The library may be able to make exceptions at a fee of $10 per lecture for those who cannot attend all four lectures. You can register online and get further information by clicking here or by calling the library at (973) 635-0603.

—Robert J. Daniher

Robert J. Daniher lives in New Jersey where he works as an IT Support Technician for Madison Public Library and Library of The Chathams. He has been a member of MWA since 2009 and assists the MWA-NY Library Committee with planning author events at North Jersey libraries. His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for the Mysterious Photograph Contest and in the annual Deadly Ink Short Story Collections of 2007 and 2008.

Do You Really Need to go to Another Writers’ Conference?

"But you've written and published five books," my husband said. "Do you really need to go to another writers' conference?" It was a fair question. I've been writing for years. I have a shelf full of how-to books covering every possible subject from poisons to punctuation. There are endless online sources and courses. Did I really need to hear "Show, don't tell" and "Write what you know" for the bazillionth time? And on top of that, did I need to fly to Los Angeles to hear it?

Um — yes. Not to compare myself to the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), Roger Federer, but even he needs a little coaching every once in a while. A different voice. Maybe even saying the same thing but in a slightly different way. Or maybe reaching ears that weren't ready to hear it before the bazillionth time.

Last fall, I attended my first writers conference — as a listener, not a speaker — in years. And it was a revelation. The best conference I'd ever attended. I came away energized and with a whole new way of looking at my work-in-progress, which, truth be told, had not been progressing.

Were the speakers especially brilliant? Did they give attendees the secret handshake? The key to James Patterson-level bestsellerdom? In fairness, many of them were brilliant — James Scott Bell, David Corbett, Paula Munier. But, I already owned some of their books. The message wasn't new, but the delivery was. And maybe I was. And that's the difference between simply reading about what you should do and hearing it from the pros. Being able to ask questions. Get personal feedback.

On Saturday, June 3, our chapter is sponsoring a one-day Fiction Writers' Conference at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Conn. Connecticut may seem like Canada to some of our members — but hey, aren't people going to Canada for Bouchercon this year? As a Nutmegger, I can tell you it's way closer. A short train ride from Grand Central. And way less expensive. Thanks to our president, Laura Curtis, and the rest of the MWANY board, this all-day event which features 10 sessions with publishers and Edgar, Agatha, Anthony and Black Orchid winners and nominees like Reed Farrel Coleman, Jane Cleland, Charles Salzberg, Lyndsay Faye, Chris Knopf, Dru Ann Love, Tim O'Mara, Jill Fletcher, James Benn, Linda Landrigan, Steve Liskow, Laura K. Curtis, Jason Pinter, and Maggie Topkis is being made available to MWA members for only $65. And that includes a continental breakfast, boxed lunch and wine bar wrap-up. Try getting that in the city 😉

I'll be there, notepad in hand. Listening and not speaking. Except to ask questions and learn from some of the best in the biz.

Check out the full schedule here.

—Rosemary Harris

Rosemary Harris is a former president of MWANY and of Sisters in Crime New England. She is the author of the Dirty Business mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Paula Holliday.

Year Two: The Leon B. Burstein Scholarship

The MWA-NY Board is pleased to announce that the Leon B. Burstein/MWANY Scholarship for Mystery Writing is returning for a second year. The scholarship, which has been made possible by a donation from one of our members, is designed “to inspire aspiring mystery writers by offering financial support to writers who want to take a specific class, attend a conference, or do specific research as demonstrably necessary to a mystery work they are creating.”

Last year, we awarded Burstein Scholarships to Becky Muth and to Mally Becker.

Becky Muth is an aspiring mystery writer and the wife of a disabled fireman. In her application, she wrote:

"Attending Bouchercon 2015 was a life-changing event. It defined the art of mystery writing for me in ways that books or websites alone couldn't achieve... After returning home from Bouchercon, I put what I learned to use. My local writing group says my voice is stronger and my writing has improved leaps and bounds over my early efforts. I believe attending events like Bouchercon help. In an industry that seems custom-tailored for introverts (like myself), conferences are the one place where mystery enthusiasts - cozy, thriller, anthology, true crime, urban fantasy, whodunit- can connect. These are my people. They get me."

Muth had plans of returning to Bouchercon in 2016, but financial hardship prevented her. Thanks to the Burstein Scholarship, she will continue to pursue her writing goals and will attend Bouchercon in 2017.

Mally Becker is currently attempting to sell her first manuscript. She wrote:

"When I began writing, my goal was simply to write a story. My historical mystery, Neutral Ground, tells the tale of the two unlikeliest spies in the colonies. Rebecca Parcell is a young widow who's too busy fighting for her own freedom to give a fig about the War for Independence. Daniel Alloway is a former prisoner of war who will do whatever it takes to leave the colonies and his nightmares behind. I'm astounded by how much I like the cacophony in my head as these and other characters argue with me about plot and the real villain's identity. I like — and sometimes hate — the challenge of wrestling the right words onto the page. And I appreciate the sweet irony of smiling at neighbors in local grocery store aisles while contemplating whether one of my characters should push another down the stairs. In short, I've discovered that writing mysteries makes me happy. It's as simple as that. Except that it's not."

Now Becker wants to learn more about the craft and the business of writing mysteries. Thanks to the Burstein Scholarship, she will have an opportunity to do just that, by attending CraftFest and PitchFest this summer at ThrillerFest.

At this time, we are pleased to open applications for the second year of the scholarship. We will accept applications until September 22. We expect to award two scholarships on or about November 8.

Aspiring writers can learn more about the Leon B. Burstein Scholarship and can obtain an application by following this link. Questions about the scholarship should be sent to

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