by Robin Spano
The best, for me, is Bouchercon. It's big (over 1500 people) and bustles with positive energy. Conversations with booksellers, readers, librarians, and other authors wait around every corner. Even when I'm feeling shy and introverted, all I have to do is keep a (small) smile on my face and either a stranger will start chatting to me or oh look, there's a crowd I know walking toward me.
My favorite Bouchercon was St. Louis (2011), maybe because I lucked out with a Thursday morning panel that was lively and fun (where I sat beside and met Criminal Mind Alan Orloff for the first time) and resulted in a lineup in the book room so long that I had to send my husband back to our hotel room to reload three booksellers with extra stock my publisher had sent me.
But I think what I love is more general than fleeting moments of success. It's the warmth in the air, the like minds that populate the panels and the hallways and the bar. I've made hard and lasting friendships at Bouchercon.
When I was super shy at my first B'Con (San Francisco, 2010), I wandered into the hospitality room and stuck close to the buffet. Total wallflower move, but Hilary Davidson beamed at me and started chatting, and I'm glad she did, because she's become not only a great partner in events and touring, but a true friend. (She's actually the reason I'm here on 7 Criminal Minds; I took her place when she left a few months ago.)
Also in San Francisco, I found myself watching Nora McFarland and Sandra Brannan on a panel. They both seemed kind and smart, so I struck up a conversation afterwards. Turned out, we'd all had our first books published a week or two before the conference, and we all felt like deer in headlights in the big scary world of publishing. Our five minute conversation gave me courage to go out and meet more strangers, and made me two friends for life.
It's always very exciting for me when a stranger (or even a non-relative) tells me they've read and enjoyed my work. So imagine my delight in Cleveland (2012), when Michigan librarian Kathy Fannon approached me, tongue-tied because she was so thrilled to meet. Kathy has also become a friend outside the book world. When she was in Vancouver for American Thanksgiving, her daughter (who lives here) invited my husband and me to join their family holiday celebration, and we had a blast.
I could keep going with stories like this for pages and pages. Instead, let me just recommend Bouchercon to anyone who's curious. My advice, if you're shy like me: Go with an open mind, talk with anyone you see, and let the good times come to you.
Disclaimer: I have never been to Left Coast Crime. It's on my hit list for the future though, because I hear from Susan Shea (yesterday's 7CM panelist) and others that it's like a mini-Bouchercon, with even more warmth (if that's possible).
The worst—ah, who cares? I just won't go to those again. (You know who you are...)