Thursday, November 12, 2015

Farewell Wordharvest

I attended my first Wordharvest, Tony Hillerman Conference back in 2012, the first year of my insane journey into writing. Since then it’s been an annual pilgrimage for me, a trek across the desert in the fall, always over my birthday, to Santa Fe to see how things are done in New Mexico.

Tony Hillerman
It took two days to drive down there, but that was alright because it was through some of the most beautiful country I know. Michelle would go with me and we’d make it a couple’s vacation, at least until we got there and I’d disappear in classes and she’d spend the days exploring the city. We’d attend the formal banquet and then take the short way home and make it back in a a day.

I met some great people down there, members of the tribe of writers I’ve come to appreciate so much. I’d see them only there, but every year we’d meet again and renew friendships in a strange familial way that set that conference apart. Since it was a small conference, I got to meet and befriend real heavy weights in the business. Anne Hillerman I must count as one of my most favorite people now. David Morrell and I are chums. Steve Havill was also a regular and this  year I got to buy Steve Brewer a drink. I hobnobbed with agents and Big 5 editors and met the new Tony Hillerman Prize winners and kept company with authors of all stripes. It helped my career, I won’t deny it. The knowledge and connections are invaluable and still serve me.

But all good things must come to an end. After eleven conferences spanning twelve years, the conference is no more. This year was the last one. I knew this going down this year and I won’t deny that it cast a little shadow in my heart as I hugged and talked to my friends wondering when I might see them again now that things were ending. Luckily, we have the internet and I have a car and writers run into each other if they try.

I go to a lot of conferences. I go to learn and network and just hang with my people. Each one has a different feel to it, a different vibe. Some are similar, but each is unique and none was as unique as Wordharvest. Whether it was the mystery angle, or the western scene, the Tony Hillerman fans, the contest, the mature attendees or the green chiles, it had a flavor all its own. Snow in the desert. It was distinct and wonderful and I’m going to miss it. 

Steve Brewer, Anne Hillerman and Me
At times like this I remember that great quote from Dr. Suess: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." I count myself lucky that I got to attend as many Wordharvests as I did and grateful I was there for the end.

When fall rolls around next year, and my birthday approaches, it’s going to feel weird not to be planning a trip to New Mexico. When that happens, I’ll make myself some green chile stew, toast my friends with a good drink, and write some words worth reading.


  1. Thanks, Johnny. I'm already missing my friends and contracts. But, hey, it's great to have more time to write. I'm sorry you never met Tony Hillerman. He would have enjoyed your company, and visa versa.

    1. I feel like I know him. What I didn't get from his books, I saw reflected in you <3

  2. A beautiful tribute, Johnny. Thank you for creating this!