Friday, April 24, 2015

The Egg and I

What are your favorite writing conferences/conventions to attend?

by Paul D. Marks

Once upon a time, I went to some seminars or conferences in the LA area, mostly on screenwriting, and once to the ABA when it was here. But I wasn’t going to fiction or, more specifically, mystery conventions or conferences. Didn’t really start going to those until a couple of years ago. But I really enjoy them and didn’t realize what I was missing. But lately, I’ve been to a couple Bouchercons and Left Coast Crime, and I like them both.

And I did go to the first California Crime Writers Conference/Convention (though the name might have been different then) put on at that time by Sisters in Crime, as I was on the board at the time. That convention continues to this day and is coming up in June. I think there’s still a few openings left. Come on down. I’ll be on the Thrills and Chills (Crafting the Thriller and Suspense Novel) panel Saturday, June 6th at 10:30am. And if I (who sleeps during the day and is up all night) can get to it, so can you ;) – See end of this post for more details.

Bouchercon is, of course, the big kid on the block. And I’ve really enjoyed the B’cons that I’ve attended which, admittedly, is only two. The one in Albany in 2013 and the one in Long Beach in 2014.

The Albany convention was my first Bouchercon and my wife and I flew out there a few days early. We flew into Connecticut since there were no direct flights to Albany and drove through four states to get there. The weather was nice and it was fun driving through all those states, even though some were short jaunts. There is a whole different vibe to New England than to CA, especially southern CA, but that’s probably for another blog altogether.

The Egg CollageWe got to our hotel and had no idea what to do. Normally the convention is at a hotel and there’s a block of rooms reserved in that hotel for attendees. But that year the convention was at The Egg in Albany, a convention center not tied to any hotel. So, there were three hotels connected to that Bouchercon, but no real central hotel or watering hole. If one had to pick it would have been the Hilton, but we were too late to book a room there.

So getting to Albany a day or two early, we did some exploring of the city. And I really liked it a lot. I didn’t think I would, so I was pleasantly surprised. It’s very different than NYC. More of a “quaint,” at least in some ways, New England town, even though it’s the state capitol. And we enjoyed trying different restaurants, especially 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.

The convention came and I did my noir panel with Eric Beetner (M), Scott Adlerberg, John Billheimer, David Rich and Wallace Stroby. And that was enjoyable. I was honored to be chosen for a panel at my first Bouchercon. And it’s also great to meet other writers. I got copies of at least one of each of their books and read them on the plane to Albany and in the hotel once we got there. Aside from the panel I was on, we went to the various other panels and events. We didn’t know a lot of people when we got there, but we did know a few and we met some new friends that I’m still in touch with today.

We had an extra day at the end of the trip too, and did a little more exploring.

The only negative on the trip were the cramped plane seats. But other than that everything was great.
The next convention we went to was Left Coast Crime in Monterey, CA. For that, we drove up to Monterey. On the way up there, we took the “fast” route, going up the 5 Freeway. I took my very first selfie on the drive up there. It remains to be seen if I’ll post it here when the time comes. I don’t think I will...
That was my first Left Coast Crime and it, too, was a hell of a good experience. The convention was great. My panel was a lot of fun. Did a panel called Tough on Crime, with Robert Downs (M), Philip Donlay, Doc Macomber and David Putnam.  The hotel was nice and a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf. And though we’d both been to Monterey several times, as we love it there, we got to do some exploring, try some interesting restaurants and had a great time.

And now, being convention veterans, we knew more how to go about it. We also knew more people there as a lot of LA people went. And we hung out in the bar and listened to people read from their books in a clandestine Noir at the Bar and had a great time. And how can you not have a great time in Monterey anyway?

Drove home the scenic route down Pacific Coast Highway, which is stunning beyond words. We nearly ran out of gas, running on fumes trying to get to the “next” gas station, but we figured if we ran out of gas at least the view of the ocean and rocks was gorgeous and it wouldn’t be pure hell hanging out there for a while. We stopped for lunch at Nepenthe in Big Sur. Good food and great views!

I’ve always wanted to live on the central or northern California coast and that trip only rekindled that desire.

Next convention was Bouchercon in Long Beach, which was a relatively short drive from home. Did a panel on Short But Mighty (short stories) with Travis Richardson (M), Craig Faustus Buck, Barb Goffman, Robert Lopresti, and our own Art Taylor. And it was nice to meet another Criminal Mind in the flesh.

Nice hotel. Didn’t do much exploring of Long Beach, which I would have enjoyed ‘cause it’s changed so much since I’d spent any time there years ago.Bouchercon 2014 Pike collage

The hotel and that whole area have been redeveloped. Back in the day it was the Pike and later Nu Pike, a seaside amusement area with midway and rides and lots of sailors. The perfect seedy seaside amusement zone. You can see it in several movies and TV shows, including the minor noir classic The Sniper, TV’s Emergency and many more. And it makes an appearance in my World War II homefront mystery, which hopefully will be out in the next year or so.

Then I was supposed to go to LCC in Portland recently, but had to cancel out due to personal reasons. I’m still bummed about that.

And I’m grateful to the folks at both Bouchercon and Left Coast for including me on panels. They’ve been a lot of fun and great learning experiences. It’s a great opportunity to visit a new city you’ve never been to or re-visit a city you already know well. And while the panels are great, it’s also great to get together in the bar afterward and schmooze and commiserate with like-minded authors. And that’s the best, or one of the best, parts of all these conventions, meeting your fellow authors, getting to know them, making new friends. And I did that at all of these conventions. And that alone is worth the trip.

I might have been a little reluctant to go to conventions in the past, skeptical that maybe I’d heard it all before. But I now realize the true value of these conferences is connecting with other writers. It’s not about selling tons of books, finding an agent or being “discovered,” but about connecting with other writers and fans of the mystery genre. And if you do find an agent or sell some books, so much the better. And I’ve found the panels to be both fun and informative, whether as a participant or audience member. And besides, where else can you discuss different methods of poisoning someone without being arrested?

You can bet I’ll be going to many more conventions in the future.

***CCWC snip - better
Speaking of conferences: Hope to you see at the California Crime Writers Conference
( ). June 6th and 7th. I’ll be on the Thrills and Chills (Crafting the Thriller and Suspense Novel) panel, Saturday at 10:30am, along with Laurie Stevens (M), Doug Lyle, Diana Gould and Craig Buck.

And please join me on Facebook: and check out my soon-to-be-updated website 
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Mar Preston said...

I'm looking forward to Sisters-in-Crime convention in LA in June as well. At the end of every conference I attend it becomes my favorite.

Paul D. Marks said...

I agree, Mar. It's the one you're at at the moment that's the best. Kind of like writing a book. The one you're working on always seems to be the favorite -- of the moment, anyway.

Susan C Shea said...

See you at CCWC!

Robin Spano said...

Sorry I missed you in Albany! Look forward to a hotel bar somewhere, sometime.

Paul D. Marks said...

I'll see you there, Susan.

And Robin, it would have been great to meet up in Albany, but hopefully sometime in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Think it's great that you visited all these conferences, Paul. Liked the pictured thoughts behind your adventures about meeting writers and enthusiasts at the conference and after hours. Haven't been to writing conventions but enjoyed an author's lecture. Met a Barnes & Noble store manager and interviewed him another day by appointment for a magazine story. Thanks so much for sharing. Charlotte M. Liebel

GBPool said...

I had the pleasure of setting up panels for the California Crime Writers Conference a few times and really enjoyed doing background checks, as it were, on these folks. And as the conferences went on, I saw how much people enjoyed them. Old and new writers can certainly benefit from a few good conferences. There's a lot to learn.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Charlotte. You might enjoy a conference or convention at some point. Though I have to admit it’s a little hard the first time. You’re sort of a fish out of water. That’s how we felt in Albany. Though we did know some people and met others. I think part of that was because, as I said, there was no centralized place. The convention wasn’t in a hotel and the hotels were scattered. That made it harder. And we didn’t really get the hang of it till the next one.

Thank you, Gayle. And I agree, there’s definitely a lot to learn and comradeship to be had.