I’VE MENTIONED BEFORE that one of the nice things about going to conferences is meeting the other attendees. My favorite conference is LOVE IS MURDER held every February in Chicago and I’ve met many great friends through that conference. One of the people who is a fixture at LIM is Hanley Kanar, a college teacher and avid reader who has always been my “go-to” person whenever I’ve needed anything. Hanley works year round with a volunteer board to make sure LIM remains the premier mystery conference that it has become. This year’s conference is February 4 – 6.
Mike: Welcome, Hanley. I may be a little biased, but I think Love is Murder is one of (if not the) best mystery conferences offered each year. If we can, I’d like to start with a little history of Love Is Murder.
Hanley: Love is Murder is the brainchild of Evelyn Hopkins. She conceived of the idea in 1995 when she was leading the Continuing Education Department at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. She felt that there needed to be a fan-friendly writer’s and readers’ conference in the Chicago area, something sorely lacking to that point. It was a small conference then, more like a large seminar, but she had big plans for it. If I have my history straight, that first year had about 60 people in attendance, a few who are still faithfully attending every year.
When Evelyn left Harper for College of DuPage she took the conference with her, where it continued to grow. This wasn’t a very good fit, however, so she decided to take Love is Murder out of the academic sphere, and it was this move that really helped LIM, as we call it, grow and expand to be more inclusive adding bigger names, more New York agents and publishers, and making it more fan friendly.
M: Who, besides you, are involved with putting on the conference?
H: The Love is Murder Board of Directors consists of Luisa Buehler [see my interview with Luisa last August here], Wally Cwik, Silvia Foti, Susan Gibberman, Hanley Kanar, Marlene Leonardi, and Terri Stone. We all work together on all aspects of the conference, but we all also have specific areas where we concentrate our efforts. And we have lots of wonderful volunteers. Love is Murder is almost entirely run by volunteers, though some of us have more limited roles than the board. Wally is in charge of the non-board volunteers this year and he does a great job pulling them all together. We could never handle it without our volunteers.
|2009 Board, Hanley is 2nd from Left|
Speaking of this, though, reminds me that Love is Murder is really starting to need new people to step up and start learning the ropes. We have lost and will lose key people, as happens to all groups, and we will need to train new people. Wally Cwik joined the board two years ago, and he has been a great asset. Ophelia Julian has had to step down after years of fantastic involvement, along with her husband Jim, and boy do we miss them. Evelyn Hopkins is returning, and we are hoping that Diane Piron-Gelman will be working with us more as well. The conference is a year round commitment, so we need people who can help during the conference itself, but also people willing to do a lot of the grunt work of planning.
M: How did you become involved with LIM and what has been your experiences?
I first got involved in when it was still at Harper College, where I was teaching English and also working in the Access and Disability Services office. Someone working on Love is Murder heard me speak at Of Dark and Stormy Nights about language and disability. Evelyn found me at Harper and asked if I would be interested in working on Love is Murder. I think the first thing I did was moderate a panel. I was peripheral for a year or so, and I remember one year in between when I did not attend at all. That changed when Evelyn moved Love is Murder to College of DuPage. I remained part time at Harper but I also took a position at College of DuPage in the Continuing Ed Department, which took over the operations of Love is Murder. Evelyn was Dean of CE at COD then, but I moved into playing a much bigger role with LIM. This was 2001. I have remained in leadership positions since then, but the actual titles on the LIM board, though a very solid core of people volunteer every year and keep the thing moving ahead and changing with the times. That core consists of the current board, of which Luisa Buehler is the current president, and she has been for the past few years. Having Luisa move into that position was HUGE!!!! She is a much better business woman than I have ever been and she really knows how to keep us all on track. It is funny, actually....I may not even be a titled board member at all this year! It doesn’t stop me from working away, like always.
M: What are the Loveys and the Evie?
H: The conference always includes a ballot so that attendees could vote on their favorites from the past year, and in fact the award itself was called the People’s Choice Award, but in a stroke of genius, writer Raymond Benson suggested that we should give them an affectionate moniker like the Screen Writer’s Guild when they started calling their awards the Oscars, and he suggested calling them the Loveys. We all loved the idea and it became what they are now. We have had lots of fun with this every year, and people proudly claim them.
A funny story about them, too. When David Morrell, of Rambo fame, tried to take his home after he won one, he was stopped by airport security and detained. It showed up in the x-ray as suspicious! He blogged about it hilariously afterward.
The Evie, named after Evelyn Hopkins, is a special award given every year to a person or group who does something notable in the service of writers or writing.
M: Why do you think LIM is so popular? What does LIM do that other conferences do not do?
H: I think the thing we hear most often is how accessible Love is Murder is for readers and writers alike. There is no other conference where you can actually meet and even share a meal with the stars of the show like you can at Love is Murder. Plus we build fun, and lots of it, into the program every year. We are very careful with the programming so that people who want only to meet their favorite authors or find out about publishing or learn from our experts aren’t bored by an author heavy program with little fun.
You can get your business fix, plus rub shoulders with all of the witty and interesting writers just hanging with each other. I can say this about writers...even though writing itself is a solitary and very quiet activity, writers themselves are, as a rule, neither quiet nor solitary. When they get together they like to party and talk...let some of the steam they build up being solitary off for a while. Authors are a lot of fun...but then Mike, you know all about this yourself! You are not exactly the quiet retiring type yourself!
M: I know LIM provides an opportunity for new writers to “pitch” nationally recognized agents, editors, and publishers. How did that come about? And do you know how many writers were first published through an LIM pitch?
H: Gosh...well, getting published is every wannbe author’s dream, and the holy grail of this dream is getting an agent. I think that Evelyn always knew that getting agents to come and hear book pitches was something that we needed to get if Love is Murder was going to meet its potential, but it wasn’t so easy. When LIM was just starting, agents didn’t want to come, but as our reputation has grown the agents have come. We had some help getting them, of course. Ben Leroy, from Bleak House Books and now Tyrus Books, helped us with some of his contacts in New York. Jon Jordan from Crime Spree Magazine, too, but our contacts with them is an offshoot of LIM growing so we all help each other.
M: What is planned for this year’s conference?
|Hanley with Author Lee Child at '08 LIM|
H: Tons....First, there is the dynamite line-up of featured guests—writers and experts in many areas. Writers include Rhys Bowen, Joseph Finder, Carolyn Haines, Joan Johnston, Jon Land, F. Paul Wilson, plus Michael Allen Dymmoch, who is our local guest of honor, and James Strauss, who writes for the television series House, and the graphic novelist Brian Azerella, who will be giving a Master Class on Graphic Novels that are so hugely popular now. In fact, if you are only interested in this, you can just come on Friday and take part in it alone. Love is Murder is very user friendly. We always have a great lineup of experts, and this year is no exception. We have a whole forensics track. Back by popular demand is DNA expert for the State of Illinois Kara Stefonson, plus FBI computer expert Lee Williams, gun expert Allan Reed, blood spatter expert Jeff Gurvis, plus agents, publishers, publicists, a book discussion on The Girl With The Dragoon Tattoo, and Joe Konrath will be with us again this year, he is always a crowd favorite. There will be a fascinating talk on Dick Tracy, and his creator Arthur Gould. Dick is out Ghost of Honor.
M: How late is too late to register for this year’s LIM and what is the cost?
H: It is NEVER too late to register....at this point, it may not be possible to get on a panel, BUT you can come to all of the conference, take a Master Class, learn about marketing, blood splatters, ebooks, guns, writing great sex scenes, and even pitch a book, if you are interested...plus a High Tea and lots of afterhours events planned. Love is Murder is a great time. Ask anyone who has been there or better still, come and find out for yourself! You can get all of the information at www.loveismurder.net And let me say, it is a GREAT DEAL!!!
If you want to stay overnight, which we recommend for the best chance to really mix and mingle, we got a great deal at an absolutely beeeeooootiiiiful hotel, the Intercontinental O’Hare. Rooms are only $89! If you register for the full package, all of you food plus the tea are included, as are all of the panels all day and all of the evening events as well. Of course you can register for less time and for no food, but I highly recommend the meals and banquet, there are interviews and other things that make them really special.
M: What else do you do besides your work with LIM, what other activities or hobbies are you involved in?
H: I am pretty boring. Currently I teach English at the Illinois Institute of Art, Schaumburg, I do a little freelance editing and writing, I love music, reading..natch..my Husband, Kirk, who has been great about helping out and long-suffering through the frantic January lead-ins to Love is Murder for ten years!
M: Thank you, Hanley – not only for taking time with us today, but for all your work on LIM. Good luck for another successful conference next month and I’m looking forward to attending.
This year’s Love Is Murder will be held at the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare February 4 – 6. If you would like to receive the LIM newsletter, go to the website and scroll down the left side of the home page and sign-up for free.