UN-CONVENTIONALby Clare O'Donohue
Q: What do we love about crime fiction conventions?
My first crime convention was Bourchercon, San Francisco. I remember walking into the lobby of the hotel and seeing crowds of people hugging each other. It was a party and I didn't know a soul. I'm not shy, but I'm not one to rush over to strangers and start introducing myself either. I hung back and watched people run around, screaming with excitement, throwing their arms around each other, laughing, and celebrating. I figured I wasn't one of the in-crowd so I'd do my panel, maybe see one or two others, and call it a weekend.
But mystery conventions aren't like that. Hanging back isn't really allowed because everyone at a mystery convention is part of the in-crowd. Bestselling authors, middle-of-their first-book writers, publishing professionals, readers.... we're all "in" because we all love mysteries.
I met Catriona McPherson and Ellen Crosby at my panel, and we linked arms to head to Lee Child's party in the lobby bar later that night. And at the bar (as anyone knows THE place to be at any mystery convention) I met a bookstore owner, a blogger, a few other authors, and a publicist... and that was day one.
The next year I went to the lobby in St. Louis and hugged a few people I'd met the year before... and the year after that in Cleveland, I knew dozens of people... and the year after that in Albany, I was running into old friends every five steps... and in Long Beach, I not only made new friends, I jumped in with a group of amazing women to organize Bloody Murder - Voices From The Margins. In just a few years I'd gone from lonely author in a lobby to standing beside - not just friends - but sisters and brothers-in-arms.
This year was the first time since San Francisco that life and a lack of a new release kept me from heading to Bouchercon. It felt odd not to go. And a little sad.
We may call these get-togethers "conventions" but they are really community gatherings. It's our block party, our after-work drinks, our support group. I felt a lonely twinge knowing my friends were together and I wasn't there. I missed the catching-up, the running into people, the scads of new books, and everything else that makes these weekends so fun.
I made a promise not to feel the same way next year so look for me in the lobby of the hotel in New Orleans - and be prepared to get a hug.