Remember WENN at the International Mystery Writers Festival

Rodney Walker at the International Mystery Writers’ Festival 2008, or,
In Search of Remember WENN 2008

This is an overall summary of my trip to the International Mystery Writers’ Festival 2008. This is their second year and future years seem assured.

From Thursday Morning to Friday Afternoon, or,
From Home to My First IMWF Event


Map centered on Owensboro showing distances from major cities 
up to 500 miles away.

It was a twelve-hour trip from my location in the Baltimore-DC metro area. I hadn’t expected West Virginia to remain so hilly for so long. West of Charleston, WV, I was able to engage my cruise control and relax a little. Prior to Charleston, due to the steep incline of the hills, the cruise control would find itself struggling and, suddenly, would floor it. People in a nearby car would have thought I was trying to race them.


I stayed at the Comfort Suites. Not as expensive as some, but certainly more expensive than the Executive Inn Rivermont, the 550 room hotel a few blocks from the RiverPark Center (where most of the Festival was hosted). But more on the Executive Inn later. For me, the main consideration was that the Comfort Suites is a smoke-free hotel. I’ve stayed in no smoking rooms in hotels that still reeked of cigarette smoke. I can tolerate that. What I can’t tolerate is that that some smoke particles make it past the filters on my CPAP machine (used to battle sleep apnea while I slumber) and rest inside the machine where I can’t clean it out. As a result, it’s like having smoke blown at me while I sleep for a few weeks afterwards as the particles are slowly dislodged, blown out of the machine, and blown into me. I have found some filters that can be placed between the machine and the hose to mitigate the problem. But I’d prefer to avoid the problem in the first place. The entire hotel is a smoke-free environment and a pleasure to breath in.

Waffle iron for making Golden Malted waffles, available only 
to hotels.

I’ve also been disappointed in the “continental breakfast” most hotels provide. A continental breakfast is meant to be a light meal but its name makes you think it must be extensive (continental=continent=huge). The continental breakfast at Comfort Suites is much closer to what I think of when I hear the phrase. There was coffee and juice and milk. There was fresh fruit. There were breakfast cereals. There was sausage. There was French toast and pancakes and and bagels and muffins and danishes. There were egg squares (or were they round?) and other items I’m sure I’ve overlooked. But on the last day, I tried the Golden Malted waffle. You fill a cup from the batter dispenser and pour it into the waffle iron. Then you lower the top half and rotate 180° to initiate the baking. Two minutes later, you have a large, fluffy, golden waffle. Delicious!

I had hoped to make good use of of an exercise bike in their exercise room. However, not one of the three machines they had was a bike and all required standing. I have back problems which currently prevent me from being able to stand up straight. Using the machines they have puts too much of a strain on my back. I did try one for about 5 minutes. I got a good heart rate going and some really sore quadriceps. I didn’t try their swimming pool; there was too much else to do.

Friday Morning

Friday was torrential rain day. It keep coming in prodigious amounts, on and off, all day long. I started the day with a quick trip to Evansville to use two 40% off coupons I received as part of the Borders Rewards program. (Doctor Who: Beneath the Surface and The Beatles Anthology 3 for the curious.) Then it was time to go the RiverPark Center and experience the Festival.

The Rest of Friday, or,
From “Writing Compelling Fiction” to Dinner

“Writing Compelling Fiction”

After parking, I didn’t immediately go to the RiverPark Center. Instead, I went to the Senate Gallery in the Museum of Science and History one block away. The first in a series of writer’s workshops was being held with the author Kit Ehrman speaking on “Writing Compelling Fiction.” She was very good, speaking clearly of the basics of submitting and editing out the crud from your compositions. I really enjoyed it.

Reasonable Prices

While this trip has been expensive, it’s been the hotel room and the gasoline that has made it so. The prices of the Festival are very affordable. For instance, the workshops were free!

Owensboro Area Museum of Science and History

Owensboro Museum icon featuring the mastadon

After the workshop, I decided to actually tour the museum. The fee was only $3. Mind you, there’s not a lot to see, but there were old vehicles, stuffed critters, a construction of mastodon bones, a small section devoted to Owensboro native Tom Ewell, best known for The Seven Year Itch, SpeedZeum, dedicated to local motor sports, and the Wendell Ford Government Education Center. I've put together a page of pictures I took in the museum. For those who keep their screen resolution low or have low bandwith, I've also made a lite version of the museuem pictures page.

Missed Workshop

By the time I completed my walk through the museum, it was time for the second workshop. This one featured Richard Reed presenting “The CSI Effect: How Fiction Stacks Up to Reality.”

Unfortunately, with the first play I was attending only two hours away, I decided I needed to go to RiverPark Center and learn my way around the place and be sure to be in line to get a good seat. As it turned out, I had plenty of time. Because Erhman’s hour was so engaging and because I liked the topic for Reed’s hour, I’m sure this would have been entertaining and informative, also.

RiverPark Center and Barnes and Noble

The Kentucky side of the Glover Cary Bridge
The Glover Cary Bridge crosses the Ohio River into Indiana

So, a short block later and I finally entered the attractive RiverPark Center. Tall, wide windows fill the north side of the lobby looking out at the outdoor entertainment patio and the Ohio River beyond. Despite the constant overcast and near-constant rain, the lobby remained bright and friendly.

I quickly realized that I had plenty of time to do plenty of nothing. So I wandered around the walk way on the bank of the Ohio River. However, after four or five minutes, the rain would pick up and drive me inside. Twice was enough for me. But I did get a couple of pictures of the Glover Cary Bridge before I went inside and to the book store.

Barnes and Noble had a one-room store on the premises filled with books related to the talent participating in the Festival. One book was filled with the scripts for the 14 plays being performed at the Festival. The material was current as of 23 May, 2008, just under three weeks before the opening ceremony. Unfortunately, a quick thumb through of the book revealed Remember WENN to consist of only two pages: the piano/vocal sheet for “Remember When.” While I wish the script had been there (particularly as my memory has never been the best and it’s what I’ll have to rely on when I write my comments on the play), it’s likely the gem of a script was still being polished to perfection as the book went to press. As a bit of a perfectionist myself (always trying, ever failing), I can only admire the care that was being lavished on the radio play.

The script wasn’t the only Rupert Holmes material missing from the store. Neither Where the Truth Lies nor Swing could be located. Neither of the two cashiers knew why.

Logo for Nick Danger Private Eye from long playing record of 
How Can You Be Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All

David Ossman and a Brief History of Stereo Audio Plays

What’s in an Acronym?

Image of same microphone as LRT microphone, but with 
	WASL edited onto it; from glossy brochure for all plays. Image of same microphone as WASL microphone, but with 
	LRT edited onto it; from program handed out on the night 
	of presentation.

Early brochures advertised “WideScreen Audio Live.” But the program guide used “Live Radio Theater” as did the Angie Awards. “Snoops and Scoops” smells a controversy.

However, I did find books by David Ossman!

I was pleasantly surprised when reading about the Festival in May that David Ossman would be the prime force behind the Wide Screen Audio Live! performances (hereafter referred to as WASL). As I expected, WASL is a performance in the style of old time radio shows that were performed in front of an audience. It’s just a guess, but I would expect calling it “WideScreen” is a nod to Rupert Holmes’ debut album, Widescreen, which ended in a 10 minute radio play.

Ossman has been involved in audio plays of some fashion or other since the sixties. As part of the Firesign Theatre troupe, he was involved in several comedy albums with a touch of radio about them (and more than a touch when it comes to “Nick Danger, Third Eye”), albeit through a hazy, sixtiesh, stream of consciousness point of view. The thing that astounded me most was their marvelous use of stereo, a tool not available in the days of X Minus One, Suspense, or The Jack Benny Program.

Radio graphic from long playing record of How Can You 
Be Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All

I once had a discussion with a friend of mine over which period of the Beatles was the best: the early years or the later years. My argument was for the later period because of the use of the studio itself as an instrument that could add to the audio experience. He disagreed for essentially the same reason; he felt the albums should hold only music that could be played live and not rely on studio-altered sounds or studio-created effects. While I appreciate live music now more than I did then, it still doesn’t overshadow how you can create a 360° world of the imagination with the layers of sound that a studio affords.

Ossman also did a solo project (although the remaining three Firesign Theatre members were in attendance) called David Ossman’s How Time Flys. It was a “Hi-Fi Sci-Fi Comedy” with a more linear plot than the typical Firesign album. It even had a “Free 3-D Diorama Inside!” I’ve been passing my vinyl LPs to a good friend of mine as I’ve replaced them with compact discs. But, although I purchased How Time Flys on CD from some time ago, I held on to the original LP out of sentiment. And, I suppose, because the artwork isn’t near as much fun when it’s shrunk to fit a jewel box.

New Audio Plays

HTF was loads of fun, not surpassed until I heard The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy over American Public Radio in the early eighties. When I read the books, I couldn’t understand how they sold so well. To me, they didn’t hold a candle to the original radio plays that filled my head with wonderful performances and sounds. There’s no way reading prose could beat images conjured up by the sounds of Marvin tricking the Frogstar robot into shooting out the floor underneath it.

So I really enjoy a good, well-crafted audio play. David Ossman, along with his wife, Judith Walcutt, has continued to work with audio plays through Otherworld Media Productions. They’re one of many things I keep meaning to get to (I have too many interests!). See, also, the New Audio Plays sidebar.

I’m not really big on autographs. What am I saying when I ask for an autograph? That the autograph signer is more special than me? Every now and then, though, I have given in to the impulse. I have several mid-eighties comic books signed by Mike Baron and Steve Rude at a Charlotte convention, including the Encylopedias stories they collaborated on before Nexus. Once, when I stopped by Forbidden Planet in London, there was a sign that Arthur C. Clarke was around the corner at a coffee shop signing books. Knowing that any appearance by Clarke outside of Sri Lanka was a rare event, I quickly purchased his latest, Rama II, the first Rendezvous With Rama sequel, and got his autograph.

Looking at who might be at this Festival, I selected two items to take. There was a chance that Ray Bradbury might attend, so I took the hardback Bradbury Stories. He may have attended the end of the Festival; I don’t know. But it was too late for me; I was back home. And I don’t know for sure that he was physically able to do much autographing.

Meeting David Ossman

Logo for ficticious Nick Danger, Third Eye weekly

As you may already have guessed, the other item I deemed autograph worthy was my How Time Flys LP. I wasn’t sure when I might have a chance to approach David Ossman for an autograph. There were free socials at 9 PM each night with the various casts where I might catch him. But, Friday night I would be eating with James and Linda Young. And I didn’t know for sure what I’d be doing after Remember WENN on Saturday night. My best hope might be to catch him after one of the other two WASL plays I was attending.

David Ossman (l) and Rodney Walker (r) with David Ossman's How 
Time Flies

Back in the Barnes and Noble, I had decided to pick up Dr. Firesign’s Follies by David Ossman. I suppose it could be termed a side-ways autobiography as it collects various writings and radio theatre scripts from over the years with some new material. Then it was out to the lobby to await the ending of the first WASL performance.

The rain had been going on and off, as it had been the whole day, during the performance. I believe this is what prompted a man, after the first show had let out and we were waiting for them to let patrons into the second WASL play, to walk out of the theatre into the lobby, gaze through those big windows, and try to gage whether the next performance was going to be troubled by the weather. I looked at him; I looked at the picture on the back cover of Dr. Firesign’s Follies. It was David Ossman! There he was, not surrounded by and being pestered by other people. Good, this was my opportunity to pester him.

I rushed up and tried to mumble out an introduction. No doubt thinking I was a psycho-nut, he tried to distract me: “Look at that equipment, it’s going to get ruined.” Outside, the large entertainment patio was going to be used for some free Friday evening entertainment by the river. According to the Owensboro material I received with the play tickets, this happens each Friday during warmer weather. Microphones and stands had been abandoned, uncovered, during the latest cloudburst, and were still being drizzled upon.

David Ossman (l) signs diorama included with How Time Flies for 
Rodney Walker (r)

I managed to turn the attention onto myself. With a loan of a pen from a nearby stranger (“Thank you, passing stranger!”) because I was too rattled to find my own pen, he autographed the book. Then, I whipped out the LP. He was pleasantly surprised to see the diorama was in good condition, still intact, uncut, after all these years. So, something autographed. Is it worth so much more now? Millions to be made? As I told Mr. Ossman, in 2048, my grand-niece will probably be going through my things, look at this LP, go—“What is this?”—and toss it aside. Still, I’ll always treasure what he wrote: “Get away from me, you psycho-nut. David Ossman.”

It Burns Me Up and My Gal Sunday: A Crime of Passion

Finally, it was time for a double play in one performance. The first was Ray Bradbury’s It Burns Me Up. The second was an adaptation of a story, “A Crime of Passion,” from the Mary Higgins Clark book, My Gal Sunday. Together, they formed The Ray Bradbuy / Mary Higgins Clark Radio Show.

The Long Way Around to Dinner

Moonlite Bar-B-Q restaurant advertisement

Kentucky rain kept pouring down with much thunder and lightning. Due to the bad weather, the phones were not working properly back at the motel room, though not malfunctioning in a way I, nor the front desk, was able to recognize quickly. The dial tone worked properly and it gave a busy signal just fine. I wondered if I was doing something wrong, having rarely called a cell phone. Unfortunately, it was later, rather than sooner, before I realized it would always give a busy signal not matter what you dialed (except for the front desk).

In the interim, there was much to-ing and from-ing while trying to contact James and Linda. Eventually, I tried to call their mobiles from a pay phone (they weren’t in their rooms nor able to answer my e-mails) which was attached to a big, tall, metal pole, naked to the weather, which included truly amazing bolts of lighting, the like I haven’t seen since my childhood, if even then. Luckily, I contacted them without being fricasseed. Because of the lateness of the hour and with no contact between us, they had proceeded to eat at our planned dinner location, the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn. Thinking this was still a good idea, I proceeded to the Moonlite for my own late buffet. And it was good. Very tasty. I was especially pleased that they had banana pudding in the buffett.

Saturday and Sunday, or,
From Breakfast to Home

The Short Way Around to Breakfast

Saturday morning, I wanted to eat out, and went to a Cracker Barrel that was close to the hotel. I was introduced to the good Cracker Barrel breakfasts by my mother the previous Christmas. I had thought it was just a souvenir place and had no idea it was a restaurant, as well.

But I Digress Until Lunch

I spent the rest of the morning looking over some material for an Ajax class I was taking the following Monday. Also, I had listened to several new compact discs on the trip, but hadn’t had time to read any liner notes. In particular, the liner notes with the Days of Future Passed, Deluxe Edition, by the Moody Blues. This two disc set, with the DoFP album in dual disc format (one CD layer, one SACD layer), has only been released in the UK and I had just received it from Amazon UK the day before my trip. The other interesting one was William Shatner’s Has Been from 2004. I picked it up from a used CD store and found it much better than I expected. I hadn’t expected it to be bad, mind you; it’s just the lyrics were more thoughtful and insightful than I anticipated. One song seems to be about his wife’s death in their swimming pool and seems a little too personal. My favorite track is probably “You’ll Have Time,” which might be more accurately titled “You’re Gonna Die.”

I’d never ate at a Steak ’n Shake [sic] (hereafter called S’n’S). Since I was dispensing with my usual low calorie, low glycemic, good fats, good protein diet for the duration, I felt this was the perfect time to check out S’n’S. Good stuff; I just wish I’d realized that you pay at the cashier and not through the waitress.

The End of the Executive Inn Rivermont as We Know It

Next was Flemming: An American Thriller by Sam Bobrick in the Jody Berry Cabaret Theatre in the RiverPark Center, where all the WASL plays were being performed. Unfortunately, the previous play was running quite a bit over.

While waiting outside, I struck up a conversation with a school teacher and her parents. I had never looked much beyond the Comfort Suites for a play to stay, but Linda Young had sent a query to the Executive Inn Rivermont. She never heard back. Perhaps it was intentional. According to the teacher, the Executive Inn had just closed! Channel 14, WFIE, reports that even the employees were only told on Friday, the 6th, with the hotel closing the following Monday. It’s by far the largest hotel in the area. She had reservations since the previous Festival a year ago, and had to scramble to find new lodgings for her, her daughter, and her parents. As of 17 June, reports are that an “interested developer would tear down the existing hotel. However, they might re-open the tower portion of the hotel to get Owensboro through the summer tourism season” (also from Channel 14, WFIE).

Flemming: An American Thriller

The preceding play finally let out and, after another 10 or 15 minutes, we were allowed to enter. It was quite entertaining and took 4 Angie Awards at the close of the festival.

Rodney in his mix of 40s-era and modern-era suit.

Where I Mix WENN-era and Modern Styles in Fashion

Since the play began late, we, of course, got out late. I rushed back to my room to change for the evening. I’m not much on dressing up. I’m a blue jean and Docker’s man. But, on the rare, special occasion, I can get motivated to get decked out. The last time I remember dressing up was for another Rupert Holmes’ play, Thumbs.

I had decided to try for something of a mix between the 30s/40s clothes worn on WENN and modern styles. I purchased a new pair of shoes, which I needed anyway. Black slacks and a black shirt formed the core of my new suit. A dark red tie with a pattern was added; it was much too long for my short body, but I did some folding and tucking to hide that fact. A black and dark red belt was next. Then some dark red suspenders purchased over the Internet. I toyed with the idea of a new jacket, as well. But I decided to stick with a nice black jacket I already had. I didn’t think of a dark red handkerchief for the jacket pocket until too late. I checked out a few stores on the trip down and found none with red handkerchiefs, so I had to settle for a plain white handkerchief. And the topper was a fedora. I’m not much of a hat person, but it was practically de rigueur for the WENN era.

Dinner With WENNers

Famous Bistro restaurant advertisement

I finally got it all on and rushed out, running slightly late for dinner. Luckily, it was only a few miles back to the parking garage across from RiverPark Center. And the parking garage was only two blocks from the Famous Bistro where a few WENNers were meeting for dinner.

Because of the S’n’S lunch earlier, I wasn’t particularly hungry. So I had a simple Fettuccine Alfredo. Everyone else was ooh-ing and ah-ing over their dishes and I wished I had been hungrier and more daring.

Among the others at the dinner table were James and Linda Young. Linda, of course, is the webmistress of, one of the first WENN websites (content-wise; we all moved around to different domains a bit in those early, heady days of the Web), and (I would doubt the rationality of any who disagree) the best Remember WENN site. James is a friend to crafts of the air and sea; Linda is a friend to all budgies.

Also at the table was Cindy Neidt. She took the lead in arranging the restaurant reservations. Thanks, Cindy! She also took the lead in a WENN gathering in New York City in June, 2001, which I heard went off very well. I was aware of her from that event and from the rare newsgroup post.

New to me were Maurice and Diane Terenzio, a couple who had discovered WENN after its heyday. They travel around quite a bit and had a few amusing (and sometimes horrific) stories about hotels where they’ve stayed. And, thanks to an observation by Diane, another customer was able to find his lost sunglasses...they were hanging off his back.

Owensboro 7 Jennier Payne Cindy Neidt Diane Terenzio Maurice Terenzio Linda Young James Young Rodney Walker
L to R: Jennifer Payne, Cindy Neidt, Diane and Maurice Terenzio, Rodney Walker, Linda and James Young.
Empty image

Roll Mouse Over

Dinner Image

Jennifer Payne



Cindy Neidt



Diane Terenzio



Maurice Terenzio



Linda Young



James Young



Rodney Walker



Also new to me was Jennifer Payne, a lovely young woman who had diligently budgeted so that she could fly in all the way from Seattle, Washington! Suddenly, my concerns about driving and hotel bills seemed insignificant. She, and her sister, who could not attend, discovered the show one evening and fell in love with it.

After much conversation about WENN, hotels, our jobs, old movies, and new television shows (and the ooh-ing and ah-ing about the food), we made our way to the big show, the main event, the prestigious premiere, etc. (Okay, okay, technically, the premiere of Agatha Christie’s lost play, Chimneys, and Stuart Kaminsky’s new Sherlock Holmes play, The Final Toast, were the big shows. But WENN was closer to our hearts.)

Remember WENN: Armchair Detectives

The play was wonderful, based mainly on “On the Air” and “Armchair Detective,” but with sprinklings from other episodes. The performances were great and the audience loved it. Clearly many other WENNers were there making up the congregation but the rest of the onlookers loved it just the same.

Extended Goodbye in the #wenn Tradition

The Clover Cary Bridge at 
night with RiverPark Center in the foreground.

Cindy, Diane, and Maurice said their good-byes, leaving James, Linda, Jennifer, and myself. Outside, on the patio, local-lad-made-good Josh Hutcherson was speaking. They had set up a huge screen and were showing clips from earlier films of his including an interesting Gatorade scene. This was a prelude to showing material from his latest role in this summer’s Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D. Out on the Ohio, the Clover Cary Bridge was decorated with a display of lights.

Rodney Walker, Linda Young, Jennifer Payne, James Young
L to R: Rodney Walker, Linda Young, Jennifer Payne, James Young.

We walked on towards our cars, but didn’t want to let this moment end so soon. So we strolled back inside, found some benches, and continued to discuss WENN, and the play for another half hour, at least, but probably for 45 minutes to an hour. Another WENNer, Katie McNamara, who couldn’t attend, suggested we might end up “sitting there reciting dialog.” I remember thinking the suggestion a bit strange. And yet, unbidden, we did begin interjecting many of the series’ lines as we sat there.

Finally, it was time to go. I said good-bye to Jennifer, James and Linda. Back in the room, I packed, chatted on the IRC channel, and then went to sleep.

Comfort Suites room before departure.

So Long, Room

The only sour note about the hotel was the next morning when it took several minutes before someone showed up for the check out despite several rings of the bell. With the 12 hours of road ahead of me, I wanted to get an early start and get the drive over with.

The Never-Ending Road

Then I was home and just a little four-lane loopy.

All Good Things

A wonderful time had come...and gone.


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