Back in 2013, two fairly conspicuous Florida Keys characters – Michael Haskins and Shirrel Rhoades – put their heads together and hatched a plot to further advance Key West’s literary foot-print both locally, nationally and internationally, and stir up some fun in the process.
“Key West has a remarkable literary tradition that we wanted to build on, as well as a provocative reputation for mystery and intrigue. Our goal was to create an ongoing vehicle to celebrate that Key West is still a writer’s paradise,” said Haskins, who is author of the popular Mick Murphy Key West Mystery series.
With a lifetime of media, literary, publishing and entertainment business experience between them, it wasn’t long before the two were supporting and promoting Florida Keys and South Florida writers with a series of Key West based author’s events, produced under the umbrella of their jointly owned company, Key West Writers Bloc.
Just one year after launching KWWB, Rhoades and Haskins debuted the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest. Headlined by several mystery genre celebrity heavy-hitters including W.E.B. Griffin (William Butterworth IV), Heather Graham, Carla Norton and Jeremiah Healy, the 2014 Fest drew an enthusiastic crowd of authors, from the up-and-coming to the widely acclaimed, along with an audience of aspiring writers and non-writing fans of the genre.
“I attended last year's Mystery Writers Fest and learned so many helpful writing tips on character creation, plots, etc.,” commented Crystal Ruffo, an artisan soap crafter and part-time aspiring mystery writer who lives and works in Key West. “The panels and presentations were fun and thought provoking and I loved meeting the authors and hearing about the trials they encountered in creating their first stories. I am really looking forward to this years seminars and meeting Jeffery Deaver, one of my favorite writers!”
The 2015 Mystery Writers Key West Fest will launch on Friday, August 14, with two back-to-back panels on crime scene investigation led by professional true-crime law enforcement investigators; a Social Media & Writing session presented by Irish mystery writer Laurence O’Bryan and an Audio Books session with Mike Dennis. With the evening comes a party presided over by New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Heather Graham followed by a Key West bar stroll.
Panels, presentations and social events will continue through Saturday and into Sunday, August 16, with highlights to include a luncheon with international bestselling and global multi-award winning suspense-thriller writer Jeffery Deaver followed by a panel discussion titled “Does Sex Sell,” featuring Deaver, Don Bruns, Nancy Cohen, Vicki Hendricks, and Laurence O’Bryan, moderated by Heather Graham.
Other Fest highlights include the opportunity to participate in a roundtable editing critique session with Deni Dietz, Senior Editor for Five Star Publications, presentation of the inaugural Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award and a dinner with award-winning Florida author and former undercover agent James O. Born, to be followed by a showing of “Swingers Anonymous” at the Tropic Cinema. Based on a short story by MWKWF panelist Jonathan Woods and directed by Quincy Perkins, the 25-minute neonoir mystery was shown at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival.
At just $125, the “Murder & Mayhem in Paradise” themed Fest is “a penny-wise mystery aficionados dream come true,” says co-producer Rhoades. “For less than the cost of dinner for two in many Key West restaurants, our guests will have full access to three days of panels, presentations and social events, plus three meals. It’s practically criminal.” For a full Fest schedule, online registration, list of sponsors, and links to accommodations visit www.mysterywriterskeywestfest.com.