Monday, January 28, 2013

Have Book, Will Travel

By Deborah Sharp

What to pack, what to pack?

I know that shouldn't be the biggest thing on my mind as I head off to an out-of-state mystery conference. Makes me sound so shallow. But hey, if the shoe fits  . . . or even if it doesn't, which is really the issue here. Since I live in southern Florida, where it's warm, and I work at home, usually in bare feet or socks, footwear is always a challenge. I'm not one of those women who loves shoes. I hate them, and they hate me.

As I write this, I'm preparing to attend Murder on the Menu, in Wetumpka, Ala. Through the magic of pre-scheduled posting, by the time you read it, the event will be over. Hopefully, I will have solved the mystery of what to take by then. You can check back with me to see how my feet and I fared.  

For now, though, I know whatever shoes I decide upon have to ward off the cold, not pinch my feet, look okay with black slacks, and not take up too much space in my suitcase. I ask less from my husband than I ask from these all-around, miracle shoes. On the other hand, it is easier -- or at least more legal -- to pack an extra pair or two of shoes to meet my different needs than it is to marry an additional guy or two to do the same.

Packing got me thinking. Not about bigamy, but about traveling to various conferences. Before I became an author, I could count on one hand the number of events I ever attended as a conferee. As a reporter, I covered a lot of different conferences, popping in and out to write a quick story about a speaker or particular topic. But I rarely got the full conference experience: hotel, luncheons and dinners, sitting in (or on) a panel to learn (or teach) something about writing mysteries. I can't say whether book writers and readers gather more often for conferences than other groups do. I do know they gather A LOT.

Like everything in life, conferences have their pros and cons. My favorite things include: 
* Camaraderie with other authors, a plus since writing is so solitary.
* Face-to-face meetings with readers.
* Learning things that kick-start (or re-energize) the writing process.
* Getting out of my pajamas.

The cons?
* Getting out of my pajamas.
* The exhaustion and hassles of travel.
* Expense.
* Eating too much.

I still remember my binge on decadently rich cheese straws and other Southern delicacies at my last Murder on the Menu, in 2009. There's a reason conference organizers put the word Menu in that title.

How about you? Do you go to conferences? What do you love about them? What don't you like? What are some of your favorite conferences, and why?


Beth Groundwater said...

Maybe we should have a "Pajamas at the Bar" night for a mystery con, Deb, or a pajama breakfast. Could be fun! ;-)

I love the one-on-one or small group impromptu discussions I have at conferences, but the large crowds turn me off. I think my favorite are Malice Domestic and Left Coast Crime. Bouchercon is just too big and intimidating.

Jeff Baker said...

81Went to my first Bouchercon this past October. Half the fun was meeting some people I've chatted with online! The city was a plus; we loved Cleveland!

Deborah Sharp said...

Jeff, yep, Cleveland Rocks! Glad you enjoyed Bouchercon. Like Beth, I find it a bit too big, but still lots of fun.
Beth: I'd LOVE to wear my PJs. I'll do it if you do!

Lois Winston said...

I just returned from a weekend at the Space Coast Writers Guild conference in Cocoa Beach. Aside from it being a lovely, intimate conference, it was 11 degrees when I headed to the airport early Friday morning and in the 70's when I arrived in Florida. Then there was the chocolate cake at Saturday's lunch--heavenly! Worth every single calorie...

Kathleen Ernst said...

Hope your travels are smooth, Deborah!