Wednesday, May 2, 2018

To confer or not confer, that is the Cathy Ace

At Bouchercon 2017 as many of we Criminal Minds as could gather at once: L to R - Catriona McPherson, Alan Orloff, Terry Shames, Susan Shea, me, Rachel Greenaway, Robin Harlick, Jim Ziskin

This week we get to write about whatever we want. I'm fresh off the plane from Malice Domestic 2018, and I’ve got conferences on the brain…

With a group of fellow members of Crime Writers of Canada and fans/readers at Left Coast Crime 2017, in Honolulu

It’s conference (and awards) season in the crime writing world. Maybe you’ve noticed? Let’s be honest, it’s hard to miss. And you know what, that’s a good thing. If we – within our small, albeit imperfect community – cannot celebrate our own endeavors, connections and achievements, what’s it all about?

With (L to R) Eleanor Cawood Jones (short story author), Dru Ann Love (of Dru's Musings who won the Raven from the MWA in 2017), KSue Anderson (reader) LCC Honolulu

My first book was published in March 2012, and I attended my first convention (Bouchercon in Albany) in September 2013, by which time my second book was also on the shelves. I’d spoken to folks before booking about whether they thought I should go…it was quite an investment…and got a variety of responses. My then-publisher said it was up to me; no one else at the publishing house had ever been to a crime writing convention, so they couldn’t offer an opinion; one fellow author thought it wasn’t a good idea because most things happened in the bar; another said it was a boring and expensive way to spend a weekend. I gave it some thought and decided I would give it a go, and I am so glad I did. 

With the late, great Sue Grafton, Bouchercon Albany 2013

You see, conferences can be life-changing as well as career-changing. If you go, if you keep going, and if you’re prepared to throw yourself into the community and the experience, that is. So I did. 

With Louise Penny at Left Coast Crime in Portland, 2016

Since 2013 I have attended every conference I have been able to (which isn’t all of them by any means, because there are quite a few). I’ve attended Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime and CrimeFest (UK) regularly, and they have changed my life, and my career. 

Interviewing Poirot Award winning author Martin Edwards, tea being served by Verena May Rose at Malice Domestic 2017
I have made friends with authors who, like me, usually labor alone in a room with a computer and a looming deadline or two. I have learned that, even when I feel I am, I’m not alone…not truly…because I am just one of a huge number of likeminded storytellers who want nothing more than to tap a tattoo that tantalizes and entertains. On my keyboard. 

With Felix Francis at CrimeFest 2017

Like them. I am one of them. We are us. I am no longer a lonely I. That helps, especially when it’s two in the morning and I’m trying to catch up, Billy Joel-like, and running on ice. Thank you to them, and conferences, for that.

With Ann Cleeves who created Vera Stanhope, and Brenda Blethyn who brings her to life on the screen, my tablemates at Malice Domestic 2018
I’ve also met readers. People who have actually read my books. And I find it hard to explain how thrilling that is. I know that – conceptually – I hope everyone will read my books and like them, but when you meet someone face to face who really does that, it’s like cocaine for the soul, and I find myself energized, promising them and myself I will write more, write better, and keep telling tales about the characters they - like me – have come to know and love. Thank you to them, and conferences, for that.

With Vicki Delany at Malice Domestic 2018 pitching our books to 160 eager readers, eight at a time!

I’ve met bloggers, reviewers, agents, publishers, publicists, broadcasters and film-makers, all of whom have helped me understand this business of which I have become a part, and some of whom have become my partners in that business world, helping me reach more people, create new characters and tell new stories. And some have become friends. Thank you to them, and conferences, for that.

Malice Domestic 2018, with (R to L) Kristopher Zsgorski (of BOLO Books, who won the Raven from MWA in 2018), Lori Rader-Day (author), Micheal Mueller (Kristopher's husband, and super person)

And let’s not forget the fact that conferences have allowed me to go to places I’d never have seen, meet authors whose works I’ve enjoyed as a reader whom I’d never have met, thank actors who’ve brought characters I’ve loved on the page to life on the screen, and have granted me the chance to gain a new perspective on tapping away in my room on my computer, alone.

With Hugh Fraser, who played Captain Hastings, at CrimeFest UK 2016

It’s wonderful to attend them – and I admit it’s blissful to get back to the peace of my writing room afterwards!  

With Yrsa Sigurðardóttir,Iceland's Queen of Noir, (who is a hoot) at Bouchercon New Orleans 2017

So, if you’ve never been to one before, consider it seriously. Yes, the costs add up, but (if you’re a writer) it’s an investment in all I’ve explained, if you’re a reader it’s a great way to connect with hundreds of authors, all at once. And to realise we’re human beings who love to chat. 

Leading the Crime Writers of Canada's sortie at LCC in Phoenix in 2017

If you fancy coming to Vancouver, in March 2019, I’ll be Toastmaster at Left Coast Crime, where the International Guest of Honor is CJ Box, and the Canadian Guest of Honor is Maureen Jennings. 

With Maureen Jennings at Bloody Words in Toronto in 2014
I’ll be honest, when I attended my first Left Coast Crime at Monterey in March 2014 I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be the honored Toastmaster of it in 2019. What a five years it’s been! And maybe – just maybe – this is just the beginning! Lee Child, Nevada Barr, Harlen Coben and Laurie R King have been previous Toastmasters at LCC, and I hear they’re all doing rather well at this writing thing.

Coffee with Lee Child at Bouchercon New Orleans 2017

Maybe a bit of that will rub off on me, but – you know what – even if it doesn’t, it won’t matter, because I have already gained so much from attending conferences, as I think these photos show. 

With LCC 2019 Vancouver organisers Linda McNab (left) and Colleen Glynn, at LCC in Reno 2018

 To find out more about Left Coast Crime Vancouver, click here:
To find out more about Cathy and her work click here:



Kristopher said...

I just love this photo of us all, Cathy. And yes, this post pretty much says it all. Conferences are GOOD for careers, but they are GREAT for connections.

Susan C Shea said...

That is some photo album, Cathy! Makes me feel like a shy violet in comparison. Bur seriously, you have hit one the value to attending conventions, as expensive as it is. The camaraderie is validating, energizing, and soothing for those days alone staring at a computer screen wondering when - or even if - the words will come.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Kristopher...yes, it's a super photo :-) And the connections - yes. I am so pleased to have had the chance to get to know so many wonderful people

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Susan - true :-)