Back in Flannel Again

For a night, I was a princess.

That’s what I felt like at the Edgar Awards Banquet, dressed in a long beaded gown, photographers’ flashbulbs going off all around me. One of the photogs leaned in and whispered into my ear: “Wow! Great dress!”

So I think I’ll digress for just a moment and tell you about that dress. Forgive this unapologetically girly story, but it really is relevant to the whole Edgars thing.

Some years ago, I spotted the dress — gray satin with aqua and silver beads — in a very nice store. It was not cheap. It cost way more than I have ever paid, or expect ever again to pay, for a dress. My husband asked, dubiously: “Where will you ever wear it?” It was a good question, because where we live, in Maine, getting “dressed up” simply means putting on a clean flannel shirt. Where WOULD I wear this dress I coveted so much?

“If I ever get nominated for an Edgar Award,” I told him, “I’ll wear this dress.”

Which tells you what an Edgar Award represented for me: the ultimate honor. A reason for buying a fairy-princess dress.

For years, that dress hung in my closet, never worn, just waiting as though in hibernation. Oh, I could have brought it out for a special occasion here and there — a doctors’ formal evening, for instance. But I never did. Somehow I felt that dress had to be reserved for something truly magical, and if I wore it for anything less, I’d be giving up on a dream. (If there are any men reading this, I’m sure you’re wondering “Are all women this insane?”)

But then the amazing thing happened: I got nominated for an Edgar.

And so the dress came with me to New York.

Even though I didn’t win the Edgar Award, the whole experience was a blast. It started off on Tuesday evening with a boisterous street party outside the Black Orchid Bookstore on E. 81st Street. There I caught up with old friends. I saw charming Ken Bruen, with whom I’d shared an evening in a Dublin pub back in January, and Jim Born, who’s a guy you’d want on your side if a fistfight ever breaks out. I saw the ever-gorgeous Laura Lippman, met the writing team of PJ Parrish (I’m addicted to their blog) and caught up with Chris Grabenstein, whose zingy new book is due out in June.

The next day was the Edgars symposium and a mass book signing at Borders on 57th Street. There I was reminded of my lowly place in the universe as I sat idle and watched the endless line of fans waiting for Janet Evanovich to sign their books. Which gave me time to chat with Reed Coleman and get acquainted with the amazing Catherine Crier. Now there’s a gal I could happily talk to for hours, about anything.

Then it was Thursday. Edgars night.

It started out with a nominees’ private cocktail party, where I was so overwhelmed by all the new names and faces that I’m sure I said a lot of really stupid things. I got up the courage to introduce myself to Michael Connelly, saw old friends Jeff Deaver and Jerry Healy, and marveled over Twist Phelan’s sleek dress — blue satin, if I remember correctly. Then it was on to the general cocktail party, where I saw Sarah Weinman and Ron Horgan, two of my favorite bloggers, and I barely missed meeting George Pelecanos because he got lost in the crowd before I could make my way to him. Much of the chitchat wasn’t about mystery writing but about the recent plagiarism scandal. In Hollywood, they whisper about who’s sleeping with whom. In the publishing biz, this is the best gossip we can come up with? Who’s stealing words from whom? We have got to get us some sexier scandals.

The ceremony itself is a bit of a wine-soaked blur for me. My category, Best Novel, was the last one awarded, so I had to wait until ten PM to hear the winner. Although it wasn’t my name that got called, I was delighted to see the Edgar go to Jess Walters (CITIZEN VINCE).

Afterwards, there were the expected rounds of congratulations or sympathy pats. I chatted with my fellow Camden resident Richard Russo, who, like me, was heading to the Newburyport Literary Festival the next day. I had a last cocktail in the lounge with the ever-dapper Andrew Gulli of THE STRAND MAGAGZINE. Then it was time to shed the princess costume and pack.

So now I’m home, and back in my old flannel shirt.

Most of the time, writing books is a flannel- shirt sort of life. I sit at my desk, my hair uncombed, unseen by anyone except maybe the UPS driver. I go months without wearing makeup, and forget how to wear high heels. Then my book gets turned in, the publication gears grind into action, and it’s time for the book tour.

And I have to leave the house.

That’s the business. One day you’re a slobby hermit. The next day you’re on TV.

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