Thursday, September 2, 2010

The First Time

I'm emerging from the self -imposed exile of copy editing this week ... and talking about one of my favorite subjects.

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.

That book became CITY OF DRAGONS.

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:

A Trace of Smoke wins at Left Coast Crime 2010 from Eric Beetner on Vimeo.

And that's what conferences are ... unique, transitory, liminal. They’re not just social events or a chance to promote your latest book. At the core of a good conference is the reason why writing crime fiction is such a wonderful career …

The people you meet and the friends you make.

‘Nuff said.

BTW, that photo up top was taken by our own multi-talented Bill Cameron outside Anchorage at my first Bouchercon.


Meredith Cole said...

My first (and only) Bouchercon was Baltimore. I met you there, Kelli, and the rest is history.

I wish I had been able to go to Alaska and Hawaii (sigh), but I'm really excited about San Francisco this year and meeting all of you west coast folks.

Sophie Littlefield said...

it's amazing how many people count bouchercon alaska as their "first"! It was mine too - except for the many RWA cons I went to before that.

Kelli Stanley said...

Meredith, this will be a super Bouchercon ... as was Baltimore. I have precious memories of each of them, meeting friends like you, learning more about the biz, getting to meet readers (I think it will always surprise me when I meet people who've read my books). :)

Can't wait to see you!!

Kelli Stanley said...

And it was the first time I met you, Soph, along with many other super-duper friends. :)

Bouchercons are always special, but Alaska had a certain magic. And how funny to think Sarah Palin spoke to the conference ... I was out touring the countryside with friends that morning, so I can't share any anecdotes.

Shane Gericke said...

Cons are great, aren't they, Kel? So nice to catch up with fellow authors, and with fans.

Aw, Rebecca was so cute in that video!

My first Bcon was Chicago, about 30 miles from my house. I caught the very tail end because the day before it ended, I signed my first book contract--and the editor said I should go to Bouchercon. What, said I, the hell is a Bouchercon? Go see, said she, and I did. Woulda been great being at the whole thing :-)

Shane Gericke said...

When are you-all getting to San Francisco? I'm arriving Wednesday afternoon in order to go to the BEAT party that evening. Can't wait to see all of you.

Kelli Stanley said...

Shane baby, I'll be around Wednesday waiting to greet people as they come in and plan to be at Stephen's party, too. Not staying at the hotel because it's just too damn much money, so will be crashing in our messy, messy house at nights.

This means I won't get to close the bar, which is a traditional habit of mine at Bouchercon, but I'll try to make up my lack of party-hardy in other ways. ;)

Oh, and here's something funny: I originally thought Bouchercon was pronounced as if it were French ... like Boo-shay. ;)


Bill Cameron said...

That Alaska B'Con was so wonderful. What a time. Remember looking out your hotel window at the drug bust going on in the street below? So noir! :)

But, of course, Alaska wasn't all drug busts and gunplay. It was just a grand time, the great highlight of which was becoming friends with you and Tana.

Kelli Stanley said...

Ah, yes. . Haven't seen one since that equaled B'con Alaska! ;)

And yes, the pinnacle of pinnacles was becoming friends with our delightful, wonderful, fabulous and fantastic author, pal and fellow CM, Bill "Bacon" Cameron, whom we love to distraction. :)


Terry Stonecrop said...

Oh wow, you make conferences sound like fun. I see them as one more horrible thing writers are forced to do. Maybe I'm wrong:)

Kelli Stanley said...

Terry, you'll LOVE conferences!! They're kind of like mega Criminal Minds gatherings. In fact, I like to think of CM as a virtual conference blog. :)

Copy editing falls under the "horrible things writers have to do" category. ;)


Shane Gericke said...

Kel, I'm rooming with Stephen, so we can both save half the outrageous room cost. So, par-tay, then we'll compare notes. Long as we don't have to do each other's hair and wear jammies like y'all (!) it'll be a lot of fun hangin' out with him.

Actually, boo-shay sounds a lot classier than bow-chur-con-con. Me like.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Great post, Kelli! I can't believe I missed the Alaska Bouchercon and the trip to my little home town of Talkeetna. Glad I managed to meet you at Thrillerfest though. Even if I do want to hide in a cave a bit during conferences, they are fun.

I'll never be a Kelli Stanley of conferences, but you are my role model.

I'm going to be a Bouchercon on the 13th (for Stephen's party) and stay at least through the 17th (for MY party). Can't wait to see you guys again!

Shane Gericke said...

YOU'RE having a party on the 17th, Rebecca? Are we invited? Can we git drunk and throw up on yer editors and tell 'em they suck cause yer not No 1 on the Times stead of that Patterson scamp?

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Shane, I'm launching IDRAKULA on October 17 at Books, Inc in Laurel Hill (San Francisco) at 5.

No editors will be there.

But PLEASE bring a Shane!

Kelli Stanley said...

2 parties?? Wow, what a B'con! :)

Can't wait!! But Shane, I may have to bring over some Dippity-Do so we can properly style your hair ... ;)

Becks, I know the Books Inc on Laurel Hill very well--it's a nice store.

Also, y'all, I'm part of a super-secret round of Subterranean Noir on Thursday night, which will be held at an undisclosed (but awesomely cool) location, and I'm sure there will be drinking involved. So mark your calendars! ;)



Gabi said...

Alaska B'Con was your first? I didn't know. You weren't the reason the cops kept coming were you? Is that a story you're saving for the bar? It also explains the hat - very basic gumshoe following a mark disguise.