ALBANY, NY--For a midlist author (I flatter myself), going to Bouchercon is an exercise in hubris. Among a population of authors that includes everyone from Sue Grafton to, you know, me, among hundreds of authors--and that's no exaggeration--the idea that you are going to be noticed and recognized is such an expression of chutzpah that even admitting it to others feels somehow insane.
So this past weekend, with the entire mystery community (or anyone who could afford the hotels and transportation) descending upon this state capital, the act of going to Bouchercon had some goals other than simply grabbing the spotlight and somehow elevating oneself to the New York Times Bestseller List through the sheer power of will.
After all, anyone who has ever eaten with me knows willpower is not my strength.
What are the other priorities? Realistic ones: Seeing some delightful friends, "networking," seeing other, cooler authors and trying not to envy them, perhaps picking up some interesting information at the panels, and at the least, buying a couple of books and getting a laugh or two.
Some of those goals, certainly, were met at Bouchercon 2013. In a building that, although shaped precisely like a football, is called "The Egg"--by the people who designed it!--I saw a great number of author, reader and industry pals. I'd list them here (Chris Grabenstein, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Alafair Burke, Oline Cogdill, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Cheryl Solimini, Reed Farrell Coleman, Con Lehane, Dru Ann Love, Ken Isaacson, Jenny Milchman, Neil Plakcy, Roberta Rogow, Nikki Bonanni, Jack Bludis, Donna Andrews, Toni LP Kelner, Janet Reid, I'm leaving some out), but I just don't have the space.
Also got to participate in a fun panel myself. It had to do with how far one can go in a cozy and still write a cozy. I only objected when asked if I was in fact a cozy. I believe myself to be more a dumpy.
Saw a number of the giants pass by, talked to one or two. Watched as Sue Grafton very graciously signed book after book with a smile, talked to each reader, posed for pictures with some, absolutely emitted class. To the right you'll see a segment of her signing line. Try to think what it is like to keep up your energy for that period of time as people, breathless in your presence, set up a level of reverence and an expectation that you are unbelievably amazing, and try to live up to that.
My own signing line, seen to the left here, was considerably easier to navigate. It was certainly what I could realistically expect, so I was not the least disappointed. I am not Sue Grafton, and that's good for both of us. I do not wish to trade places with her, and can only assume she would feel precisely the same way.
I am not, I promise you, complaining about anything that happened at Bouchercon this past weekend. It was a fine time spent with terrific people and we talked about publishing, about story, about mysteries, about other people (none of this was malicious), about what comes next (spoiler alert--nobody knows!) and about where the bar might be, which in Albany was sort of a question.
The panels, or at least the ones I saw, were enjoyable, although the "name it after a Billy Joel song" gimmick was pretty much forgotten by every panel. The Jungle Red Writers panel, always a highlight, was raucous and informative at the same time, which was lovely. The panel on pushing the envelope--the word "transgressive" was bandied around quite a bit--was a nice moment, particularly when it was suggested that most transgressive form in crime fiction was the cozy. Loved that.
The bbq truck for lunch on Saturday was adorable, if you didn't mind the 30-minute rate in gale-force winds.
You might have noticed by now that there is no point to this other than, "Bouchercon was a great deal of fun." That's because anyone who goes to an event that size is exhausted within the first 12 hours. So putting together a coherent thought--especially when you're trying to keep up your writing schedule the whole time--becomes something of a challenge.
I will not be at Bouchercon in 2014 because the travel budget will not allow. But the next time it's back in driving range, I'll be giving it a major amount of thought. Because who knows? By then, I might be a high-midlist author.