Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bouchercon for Dummies (Fourth Bouchercon's the Charm!)

By Lisa Alber

This year, Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention for crime writers of all genres, aspiring writers, readers and fans, and anyone involved with writing, editing, reviewing, and publishing, was held in New Orleans, and thanks to New Orleans, it turned out to be the biggest Bouchercon yet with over 1900 people.

That's a lot of overstimulation right there. And for first timers, I'm sure it was daunting. In fact, it could be daunting for anyone, anytime. You might have read Eileen Rendahl's post last week about being a first timer (so fun to meet her! and she certainly didn't seem like a first timer). I've been to four now, and each time I get better at it and it gets more fun.

Bouchercon 2010, San Francisco: No publishing deal on the horizon. I knew no one and felt hesitant, for the most part, being the huge introvert that I am. Still, I figured out fast that the place to be was the bar (which surprised me, but now it seems natural), but never great at small talk, I'm sure I was a little awkward. I did manage to introduce myself to many women of Sisters in Crime, and to a few others that I "knew" from online. I felt like the classic outsider--and a bit insecure because of it.

And, I attended the panels all day, every day. The conference was fun in a voyeuristic way. And I did make some new friends.

Bouchercon 2013, Albany, NY: OK, I was good. I was rooming with a buddy, and said buddy already knew everyone because she's an extrovert and she participates--you know, the extracurricular type--in Mystery Writers of America and other organizations and events. Plus, by then, I had a book deal! Woohoo! I had a bonafide bookmark and business cards with the cover for KILMOON. I felt more comfortable mixing and mingling because I actually had something to say for myself.

I went to fewer panels because I'd meet up with people and get to chatting (I knew a few more people by then). I also figured out quickly that no one actually talks about their books unless they're specifically asked or participating on a panel/other promotional event.

Bouchercon 2014, Long Beach: My book was out! I was a debut author! And I'd been to a few more conferences, and knew more people. I participated on a panel, the debut author breakfast, and something else I can't remember. I was a nervous wreck most of the time, because I'm not comfortable with public speaking (phobic, just about, up until getting a book published anyhow).

I went to even fewer panels this time because I was "on" and meeting people and getting met and holed up in my room practicing my book blurb like the nervous Nelly I was. I stayed up too late, drank a little too much--probably nerves. But I survived, had fun, and in the end I had to wonder, Could it be that the mystery community was becoming my tribe?

Bouchercon 2016, New Orleans: I don't know if I can call myself an "old-hand" yet, but I was certainly comfortable and knew that every time I walked through the bar/lobby, I'd see someone I knew. The joke was that if you wanted to get anywhere, you had to duck your head to not see and hopefully not be seen.

I think I went to one panel. Most of all, I realized that I knew how to do Bouchercon. Paced myself when it came to staying up late and drinking (difficult in New Orleans!), took time outs to rest in my room or wander the French Quarter on my own, ceased worrying about whether I was missing something. I barely thought about the release of my second novel, WHISPERS IN THE MIST in August, to be honest. In fact, I forgot my bookmarks and business cards at home!

By this year's Bouchercon, I'd figured out that the point was communing and having fun, not stressing about whether my book was selling in the book room. It was like going to world's best reunion. Now I can honestly say: This is my tribe.

New Orleans was on my bucket list--what a great a city! Have you ever been to New Orleans? What did you like about it? What cities are on your bucket list?

Lisa Alber is the author of the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, has been called "utterly poetic" and "a stirring debut." Her second in the County Clare mysteries, WHISPERS IN THE MIST came out in August from Midnight Ink Books. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. Facebook | Twitter

1 comment:

Kay Kendall said...

Lisa! What a great post. I think I will borrow your storyline for my next blog post if I may. I'll never forget meeting you in Albany at my second Bouchercon. Mystery writers are indeed a great tribe.