Some Thoughts On Printers Row Lit Fest And Signing For Non-Mystery Readers

Photo by Thomas Bychowski

That’s me with Heather Ash, Secretary of the Midwest chapter of Mystery Writers of America and the woman who did a great job getting me set up for two signings in the MWA tent at the Printers Row Lit Fest. I had a blast hanging out with my new friends in the tent and at a Mexican buffet party afterward, but the key moments for me were getting a chance to talk to readers who would likely never step into a mystery book store or the mystery section of a Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million

Because the Lit Fest is sponsored by the Chicago Tribune and located in a chunk of town home to at least three universities, the crowds swarming by the MWA tent were loaded with readers of all stripes and lots of writers as well. Two key demographics I was able to hit at this event  were teenagers, specifically teenage girls, and college writing students.

MURDER BOY is not just about a disgruntled creative writing student, it’s about figuring out what being a writer means in the real world and the dichotomy between the type of writer we want to be and the type of writer we end up being. It’s also A LOT about identity and maturity and failed attempts at adulthood. This is the stuff that resonates with lots of readers outside of the genre, but who I may never get the chance to come across except at events like this.

The mystery community is great and I love signing at conferences and great  indie bookstores, but the excitement of selling books to two sisters who liked my tattoo and had no idea who Elmore Leonard was and selling a book to a passing guy who had a Tom Robbins and a Charles Buckowski book under his arm were a different kind of thrill and one I’d like to do again. The crime fiction genre is in a desperate need of youth and diversity and I think events like BEA (next year in Chicago) and The Associated Writing Programs conference can be great for this, but I’m at a loss after that for how to get in these readers’ orbits. Any suggestions are welcome.