Monday, November 23, 2009

Because You Never Know

What big name author is enough to get you to a conference?

By Rebecca Cantrell

I thought I was going to be the first curmudgeon of the week, but CJ beat me to it. She’s right though. I don’t go to conferences hoping to meet big name authors. Not that I’m not thrilled when I do. It was wonderful finding out that Lee Child is as charming as everyone says, the James Rollins is very funny, and when I met R.L. Stine it took all my self control not to go all fan-girl on him.

But the people I spend most of my time with are other writers whom I know and don’t get a chance to see enough of, such as our very own Kelli Stanley and Sophie Littlefield, both of whom are pee-in-the-pants funny. Or wise and funny CJ Lyons. Or the ever charming Tim Maleeny and Shane Gericke. I’ve never met Gabi, but I want to, even if I won’t eat anything she gives me after reading her questions to Lisa Black, whom I also met in Indianapolis.

And then there are the wonderful wild cards. This year I finally got to meet Jen Forbus. I didn’t spend as much time with her as I would have liked because I got cornered by a guy who wanted to talk about Prague in 1589, which was likewise fascinating.

I also met a former world champion fencer and writer, Mitchell Graham, who actually met Helene Mayer (she won the silver medal for Germany in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and was the only Jewish athlete competing on the German team). She shows up in my next novel, A GAME OF LIES, as do references to fencing that are now much more accurate.

I once sat next to a very shy woman at a technical translation conference who turned out to have written her PhD thesis on Weimar Germany and had translated novels and autobiographies from some its major players. This was a few months after I decided to set my book in 1931 (the end of Weimar-era Germany).

You could never get away with this in a movie, as the coincidences are just too great. But for me, conferences are always like that. I just happen to stand next to someone who has the most amazing story to tell. It’s not always a big name, although it sometimes is (I don’t think I can ever look in Joseph Finder’s freezer without cracking a smile). Sometimes it’s another early career writer like me, or a writer who isn’t yet published, or a reader, a historian.

It’s not the big names that get me to a conference, it’s everyone.


Sophie Littlefield said...

Okay, so - other than swilling caffeine drinks with the likes of you RC dear - I generally end up making the most unusual friends. Like, not the ones who want to discuss their advanced degrees with me. I often find myself in the stall between the two gals who are evaluating the prospects in the bar. No really -happened to me again this weekend, at the Berkeley Mystery Intensive around 11pm. The more voluble gal says "seriously, do you think he's hot? Or at least hot enough?" and her pal to the east says "well, not really, not for any kind of regular thing" but then gal #1 rejoinders with "i ain't lookin for regular, just reliable'll do me okay."

Um, sorry. That's not really on topic. I just kinda popped into my head. Maybe i ought to trundle off to bed :)

Jen Forbus said...

O.k., Sophie, but when we hang out in the Hoosier bars, we're likely to find those sorts of folks, you know? ;) And in all fairness, we WERE trying to put coins in a lamp, so people COULD be saying the same thing about us! ;)

Rebecca, it was wonderful to meet you! I wish we could have had more time, too...but I tend to be selfish, I want to keep everyone to myself and just bask in the fun of getting to know you. I must have failed in sharing when I was growing up!

You guys make the conferences amazingly fun. I can't imagine wanting to go to one of these to stand in line for 30 minutes and see the author for 30 seconds.

Can't wait 'til next time!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Man, Sophie, you always have more fun than I do. :) I always suspected it, but now I know. Interstingly enough, I just described a guy in my latest novel like that "Is he handsome?" "No, but he's very reliable." But I guess if I'd been in that middle stall I would have had to get names to attribute the quotes to.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hey Jen! I'm sure we'll get longer to talk next conference. Well, the way those things are one can't promise anything.

I do always feel for the people who wait in long lines just to get 30 seconds. I only had a 30 minute/30 second line once and I wished I had more time for everyone. At Bouchercon I gave away 50 books in 24 minutes at the bazaar, so it was a similar experience.

Unknown said...

oh you guys have me all excited now about LCC & Bouchercon SF & that whack police academy in North Caroline in the fall.

and the writing that makes the cons worth attending. More and more of that, and BMWI helped a lot (despite everyone's attempts to get me just one more Bushmills).

Wow, I've got con fever, the good kind!

Kelli Stanley said...

Amen, sisters! :)

There's nothing like being surrounded by the most wonderful, supportive, creative, generous, brilliant and fascinating people in the world, and for me, that describes the crime fiction community--writers, bloggers (like our beloved Jen and Kaye), journalists (like Jon and Ruth Jordan, two of the bestest people in the DC or Marvel or known universes), editors, agents ... the list goes on.

And of course, certain conferences get our Rebecca off the lanai and on to the mainland ... and that's all the reason anybody should need to go. :)



Tom Bailey said...

JK Rawlings would attract me but other than the people into this type of thing are the big draw for me. The ways that people think that go to these events are very interesting for me because it is so different from who I am.

I love your analysis of it too.

Best regards,
Tom Bailey

Sophie Littlefield said...

Oh, I just want to point out that neither gal in either stall was, you know, HardBoiledMysti.

(she made me say that. Not that I'm lyin' or anything.)

And Jen, can't believe you told them about the lamp thing! What are you gonna do next, explain how a certain undergarment ended up hanging from the deer's antlers? Sheesh.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I'm glad you're thinking of going to more cons, Mysti, maybe I can catch up with you there. And thanks for the great Christmas present!!! Much geeking out was done.

Kelli: You are such a charmer. But you're right, it IS very hard to get me off my lanai and to a conference. I just have so much to do here, not even counting the time I need to spend writing in my mushroom cave.

Tom: Thanks for commenting! Cons are fascinating places. It's tough for introverts (like me) to summon up the energy to actually interact with all those...people. Without breaks. Piles of them. But Kelli (extrovert extraordinaire) has been very helpful at shepherding me through.

Sophie: A-ha! Mysti was not in the other stall. That's just what I thought. Uh-huh. Undergarments on antlers? I was so not involved in that...

Kelli Stanley said...

Becky, babe, you so do not need shepherding--you are truly "pee in the pants" funny and captivating yourself. An occasional prodding to enter crowded rooms is all that is necessary. :)

Now, what's all this about undergarments and antlers and money in lamps? Were there Chippendale dancers involved?? :)



Jen Forbus said...

Chippendale dancers? Uhmmmm, does Brett count? Oh wait!! Maybe the bartender....

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Seems like all the fun is happening in another room while I am geeking it out with the historians.

Brett in a Chippendale outfit? Undergarments on antlers? Genies and lamps?

Shane Gericke said...

Ever-charming? Me? Becca, you are marvelous.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

And you, dear Shane, are charming.

You can also talk for a suspiciously long time about women's undergarments...