Friday, June 22, 2012

The charming world of mystery cons

by Meredith Cole

Unlike Chris, I have been to quite a few mystery conventions. And, like Chris and Hilary, I find them tons of fun. But I'm also not one of those introverted writers who freezes up in front of a crowd. Unchained from my computer, I enjoy chatting, hanging out and meeting new people.

If you want a great experience at a convention, try to go out of your comfort zone and try to meet new people. And, this may be obvious to you, but don't lunge at everyone with your bookmarks (it comes across as a bit, um, aggressive), or complain incessantly about your panel placement/horrible publisher/book deal. Instead, ask people about themselves. Before you know it, you'll have ten new friends/contacts/drinking buddies.

I don't get to go every year, but I went to Baltimore and San Francisco and had a blast at both. Baltimore was one of my first cons, and it was huge and a bit overwhelming. San Francisco was my second Bouchercon, and it was full of familiar faces and I got to hang with fellow Criminal minds in San Francisco and find out how fun they are.

If you love mysteries, you'll also see some of your favorite writers.

Here I am with Sara Paretsky. It's a terrible picture, but I have to keep it because I'm such a fan girl!

Here's a tip: Go to local Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America meetings, if you're lucky enough to have them in your vicinity, before tackling a big con. That way you're sure to see some familiar faces and not feel so overwhelmed.

Malice Domestic:
If cozies and/or traditional mysteries are your thing, then you can't miss Malice Domestic. Held every year in DC, it's super convenient for me. And Malice is where I won my award (the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best Traditional Mystery Competition) and got nominated for an Agatha.

Like Bouchercon, you never know who you'll meet in the lobby or see in the halls. At the last Malice,  I met the delightful Becke Davis from B&N's mystery book club.

Virginia Festival of the Book, Crime Wave:
Talk about super convenient--this festival is literally a 15 minute walk from my house. More intimate, it's only about 20 or so invited mystery authors. You're sure to have some time with the honored guests, and get to meet many of your amazing fellow writers. About 250 writers come to the whole festival, and attendance (by readers) is over 20,000 every year.

If you're a writer (of any genre) and would like to go to the festival, just fill out a simple form online at, and then send your books in.

Now--I'm going to add lots of photos like Hilary and Chris for your viewing enjoyment...

So--what are your favorite festivals and conventions?

Best First Novel Agatha panel at Malice Domestic

Southern Festival of the Book with JT Ellison and Laura Benedict
Another favorite author: Laura Lippman--at Bouchercon


Reece said...

Excellent advice about getting your feet wet with MWA or Sisters in Crime before diving into Bouchercon. If I hadn't attended a couple of local MWA meetings, I would have hardly known anyone at my first B'con (Indianapolis).

Meredith Cole said...

Big conferences can definitely feel overwhelming without a few familiar faces, Reece! I'm glad folks in your chapter made it to B'con.

Becke Davis said...

Meredith - I LOVED getting to meet you at Malice! I had so much fun at that conference - it helped that I accompanied my friend Duffy Brown (the first book in her new cozy series comes out this fall).

Duffy and I also went to Magna Cum Murder together. I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't come down with a flu bug the day we arrived. :-(

I braved Bouchercon in 2009, and it was VERY intimidating. It helped that the authors I met were absolutely lovely - Carolyn Hart, Nancy Pickard, Hallie Ephron, Katherine Hall Page and so many more. It was great to meet up with online friends like Ken Isaacson. I had already met a few people - Hank Phillippi Ryan, Rosemary Harris, Kate Carlisle - but I felt lost until W.G. Gager and I connected.

The high point was probably when I shared an elevator with Lee Child. I was a total fan-girl - stuttering, clammy hands and all.

Last year I made it to one day of Left Coast Crime - I hope to go to that one again, only for the whole conference next time. Ran into lots of friends there!

Malice was definitely one of the least stressful conferences I've been to. And one of the highlights was finally meeting YOU!

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks Becke! I'm so glad we finally we're in the same place at the same time. It's so much fun to see all the people you've grown to like online finally in person!

I've never gone to Magna Cum Murder or Left Coast Crime. Someday!!!