Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tea and Poison

As Events Coordinator for SinC Nor Cal chapter, it's sometimes a challenge to come up with interesting and affordable events for our monthly meetings. My boyfriend Dave (who is very into the whole Sisters in Crime social scene) thought it would be fun to have a toxicologist as a speaker. I loved the idea and took it one step further; have the meeting at a teashop and discuss poison over tea and scones. The idea was met with enthusiasm by the rest of the SinC board members, so Dave and I set about trying to find both a location and a speaker for the April meeting.

I researched local tea shops and found The Secret Garden, a cute little teashop on Lincoln across from Golden Gate Park with a private cottage in back of the main restaurant that sounded perfect for our needs. The price was right and the selection of foods mouth watering.

Meanwhile Dave contacted the City of SF and a private forensics company in an effort to snag a toxicologist interested in telling a group of blood-thirsty writers and readers about the best way to get away with murder when poison is the weapon, but got no takers. Someone on the board had mentioned Tim Maleeny, author of the 2007 Macavity Award-winning story, "Till Death Do Us Part," for which Tim did a hell of a lot of research on various poisons. I contacted Tim and asked if he'd be our speaker in exchange for tea, scones and adulation. He agreed (we negotiated the number of scones and scantily clad fans) and we had our April meeting nailed down.

The event was a success, partly because of the food and service provided by the Secret Garden staff (I would recommend it highly for anyone looking for a nice venue for a private event; just be warned that the bathroom in the private cottage is labeled 'Little Princesses' and you must wade through a cornucopia of tiaras, tutus, hats, and glittery jewelry on hand for children's parties), which was excellent. Yes, it's kinda twee, but it's a tea house, so bone china with flowers, lace doilies, and an abundance of pink is pretty much to be expected.

The other factor that made the event so memorable was Tim Maleeny's charm, wit and humor as a speaker. The man is funny and intelligent, and his story, "Till Death Do Us Part," was a hoot. He read it out loud to start his presentation and also brought a bunch of books on poisons that are must haves for any mystery writer's library.

I won't say anything else about the story to avoid spoilers, other than to say I agree with this review from Book Fetish: "Till Death Do Us Part by Tim Maleeny was laugh out loud funny, in a perverse kind of way." I can't imagine a toxicologist being as entertaining as Tim's presentation, although I'm not ruling it out for next year.

My only regret about the Tea and Poison event is my failure to buy almond essence and slip it into a few cups of tea...just to see if anyone got the joke. Ah well. Next year.


Adele said...

you are twisted. :)
I like it. Also, those little bottles are adorable!

Morgan Mandel said...

Those illustrations are priceless.
Only one question: Were you afraid to eat the scones and drink the tea? Sounds like it was a fun time. Great atmosphere.

Morgan Mandel

Dana Fredsti said...

I wanna get some of those little flasks, Adele!

Morgan, I figured no one else would be twisted enough to add almond essence to anything, so no, I had no fear of mass consumption of nummy sandwiches, scones and other delightful treats!

Margot Justes said...

What a great idea-poison and formal tea, a little almond essence-delightful. I need to mention it to our program chair. I'm president of the Chicago Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I even have the tea shop picked out.
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Dana Fredsti said...

Margot, please let me know when you do this and how it goes! And DO remember the almond essence. I'm still kicking myself for forgetting that...