Bouchercon starts in just a couple of weeks. And though I've made it to 3 of the last 4 events, I'm very sad not to be going to this year's conference in San Francisco. But I still want YOU to go, if you have the chance. A very nice man with very little hair asked me last year to guest blog about the best reasons to go to Bouchercon. Here is an updated revision of that post.
My first Bouchercon was in Madison, Wisconsin. It just happened to be the old stomping grounds of a colleague (Dan Wagner, who calls himself The Hungry Detective) who also just happened to be a big mystery reader. It was exciting and overwhelming, but by the end, I knew I wanted more. I got more when I went to Indianapolis last year. Armed with foreknowledge of what to expect, I got much more out of it, and I am unfortunately not returning this year. Here's to hoping for St. Louis in 2011!
So what keeps bringing me back? There are 10 things. At least. Here are my Top 10:
10) The Gift Bag – The first thing that happens to you when you check in is this: someone hands you a big bag of free books. Now, free is not one of those four-letter words your mother taught you to avoid. This is FREE! And they're not slouches, either. Here are some of the authors I've gotten free at Bouchercon: Laura Lippman, John Harvey, Lawrence Block, Sean Chercover, Theresa Schwegel. If nothing else, this is a great opener for an author you haven't met yet.
9) Authors Sign Books – This is not as important to me. I'd rather have a handshake, a conversation, even a picture, any day, but it does provide an opportunity for anyone to interact with a favorite author and have a keepsake of the experience.
8) Explore the Area – You may not have time, but if you can, you should explore the area you've been brought to. There are usually numerous interesting things to do and see wherever you go. For instance, in Indianapolis last year I explored the historic Lockerbie Square neighborhood. And if you were to go to San Francisco this year, you might go on a cable car tour, or cruise around the bay, or take a wine tour, not to mention the Dashiell Hammett walking tour, and probably several other things I'm forgetting. And I wouldn't know what great Mexican food was if I hadn't visited Madison, Wisconsin. Honest.
7) The Anthony Awards – These awards are voted on at the conference. You are eligible to nominate and vote based on being registered at the conference. The winners will likely be at the conference. It's synergy.
6) Meet the Fans – You have a chance to meet other people who are interested in the same books, the same authors, that you are. They are probably even more knowledgeable than you are, and you can finally have an enlightening conversation, in person, about your interests.
5) The Panels – Mystery novels get talked about from every angle in these 45- to 50-minute sessions. Some are not so good. Some are out-of-this-world fantastic. A particular one that comes to mind is Laura Lippman, Thomas H. Cook and Reed Farrell Coleman talking about setting as a character. Just magic.
4) The Interviews – In Baltimore there were two fantastic interviews, Michael Koryta interviewing Laura Lippman, and Charles Ardai interviewing Lawrence Block. There were two more excellent interviews in Indy as interviewed Michael Connelly and Terence Faherty (a personal favorite) interviewed SJ Rozan. The interviewing authors are extremely well-versed and thoughtful in their interviews, and there's nothing quite like two intelligent people talking. I'm very sorry to be missing Jacqueline Winspear's interview of Eddie Muller and Robert Crais's interview of Lee Child. VERY bummed.
3) Meet the Authors – I have a little secret. I have a list of 10 people I HAVE to talk to at each Bouchercon. Some know me, some are acquainted with me, and some have no idea I'm coming. But this is why they're at this conference: to meet the readers, connect with them. It is an opportunity that you should be taking advantage of.
2) The Parties/the Bar – This is where the concept of authors and readers really comes together. Yes, there are formalized panels and interviews and events during the day, but at night-time you might find yourself sitting in on a conversation with Bill Cameron, Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne, or talking to Thomas H. Cook or Trey Barker or Craig Johnson (or Sean Doolittle or Marcus Sakey, Sean Chercover, Megan Abbott), or just watching people come in and out the door. Without the artifice, everyone is just someone, and you can communicate on a different level.
1) Learn About New Authors You May Never Have Heard of – This is by far the most significant benefit I've gotten from these conferences. There are so many authors that I read on a regular basis now that I didn't before I went to a conference: Megan Abbott, Trey Barker, Lorraine Bartlett, Lawrence Block, Sean Chercover, Marcus Sakey. Do yourself a favor and check out one or more of these authors. I've done the footwork for you. Or treat yourself and attend a mystery convention. You'll be glad you did.