Conventions, conferences, writing groups, classes, workshops, and meetings with writers and others in the publishing world all afford opportunities for writers to hone their craft, get fresh ideas, and learn from others what has or has not worked for them in the world of publishing.
I have appreciated being part of the writing world in different ways, but had not attended a convention until two years ago when I went to Bouchercon in Cleveland. I loved the experience and was able go again this year: to Long Beach CA. It was my first time in CA, and an added bonus was I also spent two days with a childhood friend and her husband.
The main Bouchercon convention site was at the Hyatt Regency, but a number of the panels and events were at the nearby Convention Center. There was so much planned for the four days, they even had a panel to help guide attendees, “Bouchercon 101, Panel introducing Bouchercon first-timers to the ins and outs of the convention, including how Bouchercon works; what the many session, event, and networking opportunities are; and how to make the most of your experience.”
When you arrive at the convention, the first order of business is to register, then head to the book bag table for your supplies. Each bag contained a thick program guide, a pocket-size guide, and eight or so books from a variety of authors. I volunteered to help hand out bags, but they needed help stuffing the program guides in them instead. In two hours, our team stuffed hundreds. It was a good workout. What I learned was I could have brought my book bag with me and traded some of the books in my bag for others I was more interested in.
Each day, there was a hospitality area in the hotel rotunda where beverages and light snacks were served. It was a nice gathering place to meet others. There was a dealer book room “offering all the new and used books, recordings, and ephemera mystery fans could want.” Attendees were offered a Surveillance Training Workshop, followed by the opportunity to hit the streets out and practice the techniques they learned. There were a few tables where you could pick up free books, bookmarks, and other information about authors, editors, publishers, etc.
Thursday morning, after my bag-stuffing shift, I caught an hour of Author Speed Dating, where I sat at a table and a new round of authors sat down every few minutes and pitched their books.
A wide variety of panel discussions—150 of them—ran daily and included a moderator and four or five panelists. The problem was choosing which one to go to when up to eight ran concurrently, and most of them were appealing. They ranged anywhere from using humor in your writing, to how much violence you include in a book, to making sure the details are correct, to fighting for justice when the stakes are high. I often sat in on half of one panel and half of another.
In addition, they had Author Focus panels where people had the opportunity to spend twenty minutes with authors in a smaller setting. I was selected to be on one. The two main problems with the focus panels was that there were many other panels running at the same time and most people didn’t know what they were all about. Very few people attended them. I was lucky that three come to mine, including award-winning David Housewright.
The Opening Ceremonies were held Thursday evening. Honored guests were introduced, including Al Abramson, Fan Guest of Honor; J.A. Jance, American Guest of Honor; Simon Wood, Toastmaster Guest of Honor; Edward Marston, International Guest of Honor; Eoin Colfer, Guest of Honor; and Jeffery Deaver, Lifetime Achievement Guest of Honor. And William Kent Krueger was presented both the Barry and Macavity Awards for Ordinary Grace.
Friday morning there was a New Authors Breakfast, and each one had a minute to pitch his or her book. Friday evening featured The Shamus Awards Banquet where Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone received the Hammer Award. Later there was a Dessert Reception and Live Charity Auction that I didn’t attend.
Saturday afternoon featured an Anthology Book Launch and Signing from the Bouchercon 2014 anthology. That is something to check into for future conventions, if you’re interested. The highlight Saturday night was the Anthony Awards Presentation where William Kent Krueger took the Best Novel award for Ordinary Grace.
An estimated 600 authors and around 3,000 people attended. I met librarians and other readers who go to learn about authors and books. There were many volunteer opportunities. There are side trips. At $175, the convention itself was reasonable. Depending on where you live, travel can be costly. The hotel was the most expensive thing for me. I was not able to get into the convention hotel for either convention, and that would be motivation to register early in the future. For more details about Bouchercon 2014, check out their website. Bouchercon 2015 will be in Raleigh NC October 8-11. Some people prefer smaller conventions and conferences, so I’d like to check them out. Conventions are valuable for connecting and learning, and I’d encourage you go if you can.
Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series