Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bouchercon and Why it Rocks

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...)


Paul D. Marks said...

Good piece, Robin. Particularly like your comments on the bad experiences. Some things are better left unsaid.

Kristopher said...

Hi Robin,

I agree with you completely. I have met some great friends at Bouchercon.

I remembering running into you near the registration desk at one of the Bouchercon's - I think it was San Francisco, but might have been St. Louis. Anyway, we were standing near each other, I think we were both waiting for someone, and proceeded to have a brief conversation about Canadian mystery authors.

That is simply how friendly Bouchercon is. You can talk to anyone it will feel like you have run into an old friend.

Dana King said...

Bouchercon is my primary experience with conferences, having attended four of the last six. I have never been disappointed--even though I worried in advance a couple of times--and always have great takeaways.

I'm not good at introducing myself to strangers, but the combination of social media and name tags makes things a lot easier for me, especially now that I know quite a few people, who are happy to introduce me to others. (As John McFetridge introduced me to Robin in Cleveland and Robin introduced me to Hilary Davidson in Albany.)

I can't recommend Bouchercon highly enough. I like it so much I'm flying to Long Beach this fall, and there are few things I like less than cross-country plane flights.

Catriona McPherson said...

San Francisco was my first Bouchercon too and ditto - a slew of new friends who're now firm friends, including Clare O'Donohue.

And Dana - that's so true about social media. It's lovely when you see someone's face life-size and moving for the first time instead of in a thumbnail and you blurt out their entire name - "Priscilla Caporaletti-BEAN!"

Meredith Cole said...

Bouchercon is tons of fun! Baltimore was my first one, and it was so funny (and fun) to have people come up and give me a hug (and then I would realize that we had only ever met "online"!).

Alan Orloff said...

Hi Robin, Yes, our Thursday morning B'Con panel was fun. Being so early on the first day of the convention, I thought we'd be lucky to get five people in the audience, but we had a great turnout. Which was a good thing, because you were very, very funny talking about the mayor of your city, and I'm sure that's what led to your healthy book-siging line!

Dru said...

I love attending reader conferences because it's a great place for a shy introverted person who love books to be an extrovert even if she's holding up a wall.

And it's true, you do meet life-long friends there as well.

Will you be at Long Beach?

Robin Spano said...

Dru - No, I'm skipping Long Beach this year. I definitely picked the wrong year to sit out, with both Bouchercon and LCC in gorgeous California locations. But I'm pulling an introverted writing year--staying out of the promo scene so I can WORK.

Kristopher - That's a cool story. Perfect illustration.

Dana King - We're only being nice so you can introduce us to your cousin Stephen.

Meredith - So true about meeting online first feeling so real, it makes you comfortable to continue the conversation live.

Alan - Funny? Really? All I remember are nerves!