Thursday, June 15, 2017

Practical business decisions R us.

Q: There’s only so much time, and there’s only so much money, while the opportunities are plentiful. How do you decide which writing conferences and conventions to attend? (ie, what are your criteria?)

By Catriona

Well, I don't go to conferences, so that's a time-saving and money-saving start right there. Except it's not true. I sometimes go to conferences - events where writers take classes to become better writers - if someone has asked me to teach a session and for some reason I've failed to say no. 

But, every single time, I feel panicked and fraudulent, sure I'll never be able to think up 40 or even 90 minutes worth of stuff to spout that everyone in the class hasn't heard before, put better, by someone who knows what she or he is talking about. 

(Just as I can't come on here every other Thursday and write "What Cathy Ace said" though, I can't stand up in front of a class and say "read Stephen King's On Writing".)

This isn't false modesty. I know I can write. I just don't know much about how to describe how to write. I've got three fiction workshop sessions up my sleeve now - on character, on dialogue and on synopses - and two science-writing classes as well. But each of them came from me saying yes (being married to the person asking, in the case of the science ones), panicking, racking my brain and deciding to offer myself up warts and all as a shining example / dire warning and let the chips fall where they might.

The relief when people don't walk out in droves is always tremendous. 

In short, I'm not much of a conference-goer. 

In teaching mode
Conventions and festivals are another matter.

So, how to decide about Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, Thrillerfest, Left Coast Crime, KiIler Nashville, New England Crimebake, Crimefest, Sleuthfest, Harrogate, and Bloody Scotland???

If I was solely based in America, I'd go to the Big One, plus the one that fits my sub-genre best, plus the nearest regional one.

So that's Bouchercon - it's our community's AGM; missing it feels unthinkable.
First Bcon, San Francisco 2010, with Clare O'Donohue and Ellen Crosby

And  . . . Thrillerfest or Malice. How can I not know which one?  Well, Thrillerfest isn't just for thriller-writers. And Malice definitely isn't just for cozy writers. Both are much wider in scope than they get credit for and they overlap in the middle of the genre, coming from opposite ends. I got in the habit of going to Malice because I started out over here with a historical traditional series. If I had started with the standalones, I'd maybe be in the habit of going to Thrillerfest, but Malice is in my blood now. It's the mothership, the tribal homeland.  And I make no apology for being so unbusiness-like, so sentimental. Writing is lonely, and publishing can be cruel. Community matters.

Criminal Minds at Malice 2016
And . . . because I'm on the left coast, Left Coast Crime. I went to LCC when it was in Colorado and when it was in Hawaii. so it's not exactly convenient every year, but it's a lot closer than Malice and   . . . community matters. Left Coast Crime is a hugfest. With occasional ukuleles.

Marla Cooper at Left Coast Crime in Hawaii
That takes care of the US. I'm also back in the old country every summer to launch books, see my agent and UK editors and do research. Bloody Scotland is a tantalisingly long stretch after Harrogate so I can't go to both every year. (It's Bloody Scotland this year.) And Crimefest is at completely the wrong time for me, in terms of writing commitments and book launches. (But I've just looked at the Crimefest website for 2018 and now I'm pining.)
Interviewing MC Beaton at Bloody Scotland 2015
So what's the answer? What are the criteria? Time seems to weigh more than money for me. The rhythm of my year is basically: write for two months, Left Coast, write for two months, Malice, write for two months, summer [Edinburgh, London, research, mum, dad, sisters, new babies, old friends], Bloody Scotland, write a wee bit, Bouchercon, write like mad till Christmas, collapse.

And the other criteria are: family, tribe, mothership, hugs, laughter, love. You're a long time dead.


Unknown said...

Well, it's been great guidance this week on a topic that was a bit hazy for me. I now have a starting point for my plans, AND a yen to go. :)

Meg said...

Kind of nice to choose Malice for 2018... when you're Toastmaster. ;-) Can't wait to see ya at Bouchercon in Toronto!

Catriona McPherson said...

Good point, Meg!

Finta said...

My favorite CDs for car listening are your interview of Ann Cleeves and your key note speech at LCC in Phoenix. You, my dear, can always do stand up when you run out of friends and acquaintances to contemplate murdering.

Love, Ann in Rochester who makes both good coffee and good tea and will feed you anytime

catriona said...

Ha! Ann - yes, panelling, interviewing, riffing, general yakking . . . all fine. Teaching - saying stuff that needs to be useful because busy people have paid to hear it? That's a different story.

Dru said...

As a reader it is hard to choose as well. Malice was my first convention so that is a must for me every year. I'm now comfortable with Bouchercon and I simply adore attending LCC. This year I'm going to New England Crime Bake for the first time. I've been to Thrillerfest but I look at that one for mostly writers. I want to try Killer Nashville next. BEA sounds like fun, but I think that's more of a trade convention. And I want to go to one of the international conferences too.


catriona said...

International, Dru? If you come to Bloody Scotland, my dad will turn cartwheels!

Clea Simon said...

I'd add another factor - which friends will I get to see at which con? (For me, music also plays a role - Malice runs right up against the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest, where I also see a lot of old chums. SIGH)

Kathy Reel said...

Bouchercon is my go-to con, but I've wanted to go to Malice for years now. Maybe next year, since you are the toast master, because I can listen to our lovely Scottish voice and float in joy. Bloody Scotland is one that I think would be fantastic, too, and Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is one I've pined after for quite a while.

Cathy Ace said...

Looking forward to seeing you in Toronto - we can run past each other at a fast clip shouting greetings, pausing for a hug...who knows, maybe even bump into each other in the bar!!!

Mia P. Manansala said...

This is a great topic since I want to go to ALL the conventions and conferences, but am limited by 1) money and 2) location. Time not as much, since I work a part-time job. But part-time job does not offer paid time off, so again, money is my #1 concern.

BoucherCon was my first mystery convention last year, and I enjoyed it so much, I'm already registered for this year. It was a little overwhelming, but I've always wanted to go to New Orleans, so it seemed like the perfect excuse.

Went to my first Malice this year, and I already know it's going to become a yearly tradition. Such a warm, welcoming group of people.

More on the conference side of things, I'll be attending the Writers Police Academy for the first time in August. The programming looks amazing, with lots of hands-on opportunities I wouldn't get otherwise.

I'd love to attend one in California sometime since I've never been there.