Writing is a solitary activity. Conferences offer us a chance to break away from our isolation to mingle with our peers and fans. Many writing groups and loops exist in cyberspace. We often have not connected faces to the people we chat with regularly online. At Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina, I met readers, writers, editors, reviewers, and friends. Some were happenstance hallway encounters, while other conversations took place during the many organized events.
In today's blog, I list my six favorite Meetings, and I talk about my Moment as a panel moderator.
1) Sisters in Crime - I am a member of SinC. The professional writing group holds a breakfast at conferences like Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and Malice Domestic. The business meeting is a good excuse to meet in person the far flung members of this national group. I sat next to Verna Suit, who writes crossword puzzles for Mystery Scene Magazine.
2) Hallway - Even though I knew many Colorado authors were attending Bouchercon, we do not travel together like a herd of elk. I was delighted when I ran into R. T. Lawton and his wife Kiti in the Marriott Hotel between workshops. R. T. has published nearly 100 short stories, a third of them in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.
3) Short Mystery Fiction Society - The short story is catching on. Again. Once a popular art form with many outlets, the mystery short story had fallen on hard times as magazines folded and reader interest faded. That has changed. One proof of the revival of the never-really-gone short story was attendance at the SMFS lunch at Bouchercon. I met with Judy Penz Sheluk and several other SMFS members. We walked to the Plaza Café, a small Indian deli. As I got in line, I met author Pamela De Voe. We would be on a panel the next day. Forty plus people attended the lunch, where Art Taylor had us introduce ourselves (including a few non-SMFS deli customers who played along). When I told Terrie Farley Moran I was a fan, she happily autographed her newest story in Ellery Queen Magazine.
4) Death By Chocolate - Author and friend Liesa Malik joined me for the Southeastern chapter of Mystery Writers of America sponsored Death by Chocolate reception. While waiting in the hallway for the doors to open, I glimpsed a familiar name on a badge - James M. Jackson. The author and blogger, and his wife Jan, chatted with me and Liesa at length as the crowd grew restless. James does fun author interviews on his blog, My Two Cents Worth - Before Inflation. Once the doors opened and the ravening chocolate hounds burst in upon the chocolate feast, I met other folks. Bibi Sandstrom, librarian and reader, wore T-shirts with funny grammar-themed messages. Liesa and I met Bouchercon first-timer and aspiring author Lindsay Carlson. Lindsay won a book in the MWA drawing.
5) Fan-girl - I played room monitor for the Choose Your Voice panel. My friend and author Patricia Coleman discussed with other panelists how authors decide whether to write in first, second, or third person. After the panel, I noticed Chris Roerden, author of writing craft book Don't Murder Your Mystery, in the audience. I had the chance to tell her how helpful her book was for improving my mystery writing skills.
6) Starbucks - What's a writing conference without a trip to a coffee shop? I met with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine editor Linda Landrigan in the Marriott Starbucks. Linda has published four of my mystery short stories in AHMM. I had met Linda in person at two other conferences, but this was my first chance for a one-on-one chat. By the way, my story Industrial Gray is in the current issue (December - with the boat dock on the cover) available in many bookstores now.
Moment: Authors aspire to be on panels, or to present workshops, at conferences. This gives them a chance to reach new readers, and justifies the expense of the conference. (Yes, all but the mega-star featured authors pay their own way.) My moment at Bouchercon 2015 was serving as the moderator for a panel on Taking the Reader on a Journey. Panelists Pamela De Voe, Janet Hubbard , Dennis Tafoya, G. M. Malliet, and Kathy Lynn Emerson (Kaitlyn Dunnett) told how they created unique worlds for their readers, from ancient China to vineyards in modern France, from gritty South Philadelphia to England in both modern and historical times. I recommend you put each of these folks on your To Be Read list!
I enjoyed my Bouchercon 2015 adventure. Now I'm going to hide in my writer's cave and get some work done!
Bouchercon 2015 was in full swing by the time I arrived Thursday afternoon. Friends found me outside the Shish Kebob, where I devoured a falafel after a long day of travel. I was too late to make it to any of the Thursday panels.
I did attend the Bouchercon Opening Ceremonies at 5:30. I was anxious to see the presentation of the Derringer Awards. Members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society had voted for the best short stories of the previous year. Art Taylor presented the Derringer (photo below), an impressive medal with the Society's logo. You can learn who the winners were on the SMFS website:
After the ceremonies, which included the presentation of the Macavity Awards and announcement of the Anthony Award finalists, publisher HarperCollins hosted an author event involving FREE BOOKS. I managed to not get trampled. Next up was a BBQ, but I was too tired to stand in line, even for free food.
Instead, author Patricia Coleman and I opted for dinner in the Sheraton Hotel's open air restaurant. While dining, my carpool buddies from Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America texted me. I texted back with the photo below.
I would like to say we partied late, but the time change from Colorado to North Carolina was debilitating. Besides, my writing pals and I had mapped out a very full day for Friday.
Indeed, Friday morning at 7:30 (which is 5:30 Colorado time) Patricia and I headed to the Sisters In Crime breakfast. Conference Tip: we did not sit together. This allowed us to meet new people. The Seal of Office was handed from outgoing President Catriona McPherson to incoming President Leslie Budewitz (photo below).
During my three days in Raleigh, I attended as many Bouchercon sessions as I could (photos below). Here are just five of my favorite quotes:
1) Chris Grall - Firearms: Mistakes in Fiction and Television
"I'm often asked, 'What's your favorite pistol?' The one in my hand when I need it."
2) James O. Born - Real Police: Tactics and Guns
"If your hero has two jams in one book, he has a really shitty gun."
3) Jay Stringer - Research: Alcohol, Drugs, Weapons, & the Psychology of the insane
"You can find facts on the internet, but you can't really find the truth... The lie is where the story is."
4) Anne Hillerman - Forensics & Technology & the Changing Face of Criminal Investigation
"People read books because they like the characters. People are rooting for your heroes and want them to succeed."
5) Chris Knopf - The "Literary" vs. "Pulp" Traditions of Crime Fiction
"If your technique shows, you're not writing a good book."
I'll continue my Bouchercon adventure next week.
I just returned from Raleigh, North Carolina, location of Bouchercon 2015. I will be blogging in detail about panels I attended and adventures I had over the next few weeks. For now, here are some Bouchercon highlights.
Top five favorites from the Raleigh Bouchercon:
1) Southern hospitality. From the airport shuttle driver to the museum docent to the hotel staff, the people of Raleigh are remarkably friendly and outgoing.
2) Weather. We received a little rain, but overall it was very pleasant early fall weather. Not too hot, not too cold. This was important as the conference took place in two adjacent hotels, requiring walking outdoors.
3) Short Mystery Fiction Society lunch. This informal gathering at the Plaza Café provided an opportunity to meet in person members of SMFS. And author Terrie Farley Moran autographed for me a copy of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine containing her recently published short story.
4) Readers. I met dozens of mystery readers. Some fans astounded me with their voracious appetites for fiction. Bouchercon fans plan vacations around the world's largest mystery conference, taking in local sights as well as attending the conference. My favorite reader and fan was of course Chip Cowell, who purchased my novel Stone Cold Case, and requested my autograph.
5) Grits. I nearly made it out of town without sampling grits. I'm no stranger to grits, having spent my formative years in Oklahoma. I keep them stocked in my pantry. My last lunch at Bouchercon, shared with authors Patricia Coleman and Liesa Malik, we all chose wonderful cheesey grits as a side dish in the Marriott Hotel restaurant.
Stay tuned for more to come!
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