Conferences, how I love thee. Let me count the ways.
A writer’s time is so stretched—not just or merely with writing, rewriting, editing, copyediting and the rest of it—but with trying to get the word out about the book. So marketing and PR take up at least as much time as creating the novel, and with attention spans growing shorter, and the great vast Internet growing vaster and more splintered, who has any social time except for those wonderful events called conferences?
Hanging out with writers, readers, agents, editors and publicists is an incredible high and enormous fun (and relatively cheap therapy). And don’t forget panels … they can give you a kick start, spark an idea or provide the motivation to keep going down the mean and dirty streets.
Case in point? My very first large conference, which will always be my special, misty-eyed favorite.
I was a publishing virgin at Bouchercon Alaska (2007) … a small press author with a sort of agent (long story -- catch me at a conference bar and I’ll explain), and my debut novel coming out the following July.
I was overwhelmed by the hospitality, the energy, the excitement … and by the friendships I forged at that seminal event. My first panels, my first author’s showcase (and those dear friends like Bill Cameron who showed up for it), my first everything. And yes, it was the first time for a fedora ... I wore it so friends I'd met online would know me.
I soaked up knowledge and advice like a sponge, learning enough to realize what I needed to do with my career. And after attending my first noir panel, and developing the friendships and experiencing the raw beauty of Alaska and the kind of magic that it can exude, I decided to plunge ahead with an idea for a new book that had been simmering for awhile.
I dedicated CoD to that Bouchercon, to the Alaska Sisters in Crime, to the big family I was now a part of. It gave me the courage to create the world, to write Miranda, and to dream deep.
I normally attend three conferences a year (Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime and Thrillerfest), and hope to expand that repertoire. If finances allowed, I’d go to ‘em all.
And in a short few years, I've made a lot of special memories. Hawaii (the whole friggin' state) will always be super-special to me because of Left Coast Crime and quite unexpectedly winning the Bruce Alexander Award (when I say I thought I was going to faint, I'm serious--ask Becky).
Then the following year at Left Coast Crime in LA, and seeing Becky win--equally special. Here's the video she wouldn't show you, from talented filmmaker/writer Eric Beetner:
The people you meet and the friends you make.
BTW, that photo up top was taken by our own multi-talented Bill Cameron outside Anchorage at my first Bouchercon.