Friday, April 11, 2014

The Best of Times – The Worst of Times – The Same Time

What is your best experience at a mystery convention? Your worst?

By Paul D. Marks

Coming on as the cleanup hitter on Fridays has its challenges in that sometimes people who come before and answer the questions earlier in the week beat you to the punch.  As happened this week with the title of my blog and Clare's, which I'd already written before seeing hers.  All I can say is great minds think alike...

Hope this isn't too egotistical, but since you asked:

It was the best of times...

Well, I have to say my best experience at a mystery convention was at Bouchercon last September (2013) in Albany, New York. Every year the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Awards banquet is held in the same location as Bouchercon. And since I was nominated for a Shamus, my wife, Amy, and I decided to go to the convention.

Now Albany is about the last place I ever thought I would want to go. But being troopers, we made reservations for the convention, hotel and plane and were soon on our way.

Albany stoop
Albany architecture
We were in Albany about 2-3 days before the Shamus banquet, and besides attending Bouchercon and being on a panel (which was fun), meeting new people and hooking up with old friends, we took some time to explore Albany. And even before I knew if I'd won or lost the award, I told Amy how much I liked Albany. It was a typical, quaint-ish New England town, despite the fact that it's the state capital of New York.

We had dinner at Jack’s Oyster House, where the likes of both presidents Roosevelt ate, along with Hillary Clinton, JFK, jr. many governors of NY and gangster Legs Diamond, though not all at the same time, of course. Also William Kennedy, the renowned novelist from Albany.

And, Albany is always the place the folks on Law & Order dread going when they have to appear before the state supreme court.

Paul D. Marks , New York State Capitol, Albany
New York State Capital

The people of Albany were friendly and since the convention was in September the weather was very pleasant. Not sure I'd want to be there during the humidity of summer or the snows of hardcore winter.

The fact that I did win the award was the icing on the cake and made me like Albany even more. So it was the best of times.

It was the worst of times....

My worst convention experience: The Shamus Banquet in Albany, NY.

Why? In the weeks leading up to the trip, on the plane, in the hotel, in the couple days before the banquet, I was as cool as cool can be. Not nervous, not uptight. Didn't know if I'd win or lose the award. But either way, I was fine.

So we go to the Shamus banquet on Friday night, and we're sitting at our table, talking with Alison Gaylin, another nominee (and winner) in a different category, her husband and the other people at the table. And everything is ducky. I'm still cool as the proverbial cucumber.

The awards begin. My category comes name is announced. I get up from our table, in the back of the room, and walk to the front and up onto the stage. By the time it comes for me to give my little acceptance speech I'm a wreck – in just that short walk, the nerves finally kicked in. I had a little speech all worked out, even written, and I blew everything, mumbling and stumbling over my words.

Felt like a fool. I'm pretty good at speaking, don't get nervous, have things to say, but this was so out of the ordinary, I just wiped out.

Afterwards I was talking to Hank Phillippi Ryan, though I'm not sure she would remember. I said I felt like a fool and she said the best thing anyone could say: "All they'll remember is that you won."

Sounds good to me. The worst of times...but still the best.

Paul D Marks w/ Shamus Award
With my Shamus Award ( and the old White Heat cover)



Meredith Cole said...

Congrats (again) on your Shamus win! Hank is right--no one will remember anything but that you won...

Robin Spano said...

Hey congratulations! I was at that Shamus banquet, too. I would say the worst of times was the food at that party! But it was more than made up for by the excellent company and warm atmosphere. Are you the guy who beat Jeffrey Deaver?

Catriona McPherson said...

Oh, Paul! Check out yesterday's comments for loads of great stuff about how charming and preferable it is to be a rambling moron on the podium.

And Albany was indeed very pretty (except for that Soviet-style convention centre.)

Susan C Shea said...

You won, and that's so cool. Tops the lists of best cons for you until the next time you win! I used to work in a university town near Albany (Troy) and I love the area for the architecture, literary history, and location in the heart of beautiful country. And, Jack's Oyster House is a fine old-style establishment. Ate there with Deb Crombie, the Charles Todds and others during BCon.

Art Taylor said...

Congratulations again on winning the Shamus. :-)

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you for your comments, everyone.

Hopefully that's true, Meredith :)

Robin, That was my first Shamus banquet, so it was all a trip for me. I was in a different category than Deaver.

Susan, like I said, I really liked that area. And since we flew into Connecticut and drove to Albany from there we got to see more of New England towns and the like. If it wasn't for the weather, it would be a great place to live. Are you still there?

Thanks, Art, it was fun.

And Catriona, sounds like we read from the same script...or not. :) Next time (if there is one) I'll ask for a teleprompter.