What time is it, mystery writers and readers? That’s right, it’s Conference Time! Kick off the 2016 season with the Chicks as we share a few of our own experiences–and even a few tips!
I could so easily become a conference junkie. I’ve been to Left Coast Crime twice, and it’s like summer camp for mystery writers. If you’ve been more than once, it’s a chance to reconnect with all your friends you’ve met in years past, and if you’ve never been, it’s your chance to find a community of people who won’t be alarmed if you start discussing the best way to poison someone. It’s also a great way to turn your online friends into real-life friends. My fellow Chick Lisa and I were virtual buddies and email penpals until we got to meet in person at Left Coast Crime in Portland last year, and hanging out in person cemented our friendship for good. This year, I have to skip LCC because of scheduling conflicts, but I’m all in for Hawaii 2017. And in April, I will attend my first Malice Domestic and finally get to meet some of my awesome writer friends in person. I’m still deciding on Bouchercon—I worry it’s so huge I’ll just get swallowed up by it—but at this rate, I might just have to start planning my vacation schedule based on where the next convention is!
When I was a kids’ book/young adult editor, I had the awesome opportunity to attend a LOT of writers conferences. I was paid to attend (if I was speaking, on a panel, or doing critiques, etc.) or else my publisher sent me. I got picked up at the airport by friendly faces and there was a welcome basket of fruit and chocolates in my hotel room. Lovely people escorted me to my panels and meals (and yes, even to the ladies room). Oh, and I never had to worry about finding a seat at dinner. Ah, popularity!
Then I became a writer. Even though I greatly enjoyed those previous conferences, I’m loving the ones I’ve been to so far as my new self: New England CrimeBake (never miss it!), Left Coast Crime, and most recently, Bouchercon. This year I’ll attend my first Malice and Thrillerfest as well. Five quick tips for all conference attendees-editor or author: 1. Tuck mini-snacks for the day in your conference bag (choose stuff with protein so you don’t crash—trail mix and cheese/peanut butter crackers work great), 2. Drink plenty of water, 3. Take frequent breaks to recharge in your room if you need to, 4. Hit the bar, even if you don’t order anything, and 5. Yes, you will need that light sweater to combat the bonechilling hotel a/c. See y’all soon—please say hi!
In 2013, I’d never heard of a mystery conference or convention. By the time 2016 ends, I will have been to ten of them. Malice Domestic was my first convention, and I LOVED it. Since then, I’ve been to another Malice, a Left Coast Crime, two Bouchercons, and a California Crimewriters Conference. I have yet another Left Coast, Malice and B’con coming up. That first Malice convention, though, I knew no one. I wandered around like a lost soul and did that thing where you hold your cell phone to your ear and pretend you’re on a call so you don’t look like a complete loser. But now I know so many people that I fear I won’t get to hang out with them all. Because conferences offer a wonderful chance to catch up with people you know the rest of the year as e-pen pals. Sure the panels are fantastic, and nothing beats connecting with readers once you’re published. But at the end of the day, you’ll find me, and a good portion of everyone else, bellying up to the hotel bar and just gabbing. If you’re going to any of these conferences, don’t do like I did at that first Malice and hide behind your cell phone. Seek me — or anyone — out and introduce yourself. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the circuit, it’s that mystery writers are the most inclusive people around. So welcome to the community! And feel free to buy the first round.
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