RHYS: Today it is our great pleasure to welcome Barb Goffman to Jungle Red. Barb was our high bidder at last year's Malice Domestic auction and won the right to be Queen for a Day on Jungle Red Writers. We told her she could do anything she wanted--within reason.
Barb has chosen to have us interview her and we're delighted to do so.
RHYS: Welcome to Jungle Red Writers, Barb. It's so good to have you here, and especially nice to talk to a writer who specializes in short stories, as this is a specialty within our genre we don't often have the chance to talk about. So tell us a little about your background and how you were drawn to the short story medium.
BARB: Hi. Thank you all for having me! I'm a former newspaper reporter and now make my living as an attorney. Early in my law career, I needed a creative outlet, so I started taking mystery writing classes at a wonderful place in Bethesda, Maryland, called The Writers Center. I took several classes run by author Noreen Wald, who introduced me to Sisters in Crime.
Around 2004 or so, our local SinC chapter was planning a short story anthology. I thought it might be an easier way to break into the mystery field than with my then (and still) unpublished novel, so I read a lot of mystery short stories (especially by Jan Burke), got a feel for the genre, came up with an idea, and sat down and wrote the story (which was published in the anthology (Chesapeake Crimes II) and subsequently received an Agatha Award nomination). I loved how I could start writing and just a few hours later have a completely finished product (sans editing). I've been hooked on shorts ever since.
RHYS: And your other major role in the mystery world at the moment is as program chair for Malice Domestic, isn't it? Now that's a tough assignment .
HANK: Program chairman for Malice Domestic! You're amazing. That must be the most challenging job in the world! Tell us your secrets. (And later, I want to ask you how we all can help)
BARB: Ahh, Malice. I absolutely adore being program chair. Oh, for those who don't know, Malice Domestic is a fan convention held every spring in the DC area. It celebrates the traditional mystery. This is my second year as program chair. The job matches my skills really well. I love organizing things, I love coming up with creative ideas (panels), and I love telling people what to do!
I think programming the conference must kind of be like figuring out who will sit at which table at a wedding. There are lots of things to keep in mind. Who would be best to be on this panel? Which panels shouldn't be scheduled against each other? Who's not available after 11 a.m. on Sunday? Who hates who? I end up with a lot of slots that get moved around and around until, walla, the perfect schedule materializes. I love how much freedom the board gives me. Last year I was able to come up with several new panel ideas last year, which I think gave the conference a bit of freshness. You got to participate in one, Hank, when you played Nancy Drew. You were excellent!
HANK: Aw. Thanks. It was quite a--treat. Tell us tell us--what's in store for this year? C'mon. You can give us SOME scoop.
BARB: Well, it's hard to say, because so much of what happens depends on who registers. I'm hoping to have a panel on outdoor mysteries, for instance, but whether we will depends on whether we get enough authors who write that type of book. So far we have two authors registered who could fit that bill. I need two more. So Sandi Ault and Nevada Barr, if you're reading this, have I got a panel for you! C'mon. Register!
That said, here is a little bit of scoop: Authors and attendees from the DC area sometimes skip the Friday night activities to go to dinner with friends or their publishers or simply to go sleep in their own beds. Well, I'm going to give them a reason to stick around the convention. While nothing's definite, I'm pretty sure that this year, the panel showcasing the authors nominated for the Agatha Award for best novel will be held on Friday night, followed by the humor panel. These sessions are often standing room only. Friday night is going to rock this year!
HALLIE: I love that your story was about "Murder at Sleuthfest" - is there a series of these in the offing? Murder at Malice? How would the conference affect your plot?
BARB: That's a really good idea, which I may explore. "Murder at Sleuthfest" was written as a stand-alone short story (as most are, I think). I had attended Sleuthfest in 2004 and left a beautiful sapphire and diamond ring sitting by the sink in the women's restroom. By the time I realized it 15 minutes later and ran back, the ring was gone. The conference attendees were the only ones on that floor, so I feel pretty certain someone who attended the conference found my ring and kept it. (I guess it could have been hotel staff, but what are the odds they would have cleaned that bathroom in that 15-minute period?) I had announcements made at every session for the rest of the conference about my lost ring, but I never got it back. I vowed murder on the thief. In "Murder at Sleuthfest" I made it happen. I was very inspired. Of course, a good mystery writer can find inspiration in a lot of places. Perhaps I'll write "Murder at Malice," and I'll kill whichever author gives me the hardest time this year. Just kidding! (Maybe.)??
RHYS: Barb, we thank you for visiting us at Jungle Red. We congratulate you on the success of your short stories and we promise to be well-behaved authors at Malice.
And by the way, Barb's latest story is The Worst Noel in The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press). We look forward to featuring Barb's first novel here in the future.