Today I’m heading to Bouchercon, the big annual mystery conference, which will be held in San Francisco this year. I had to skip the event last year, due to overwhelming deadlines, so I’m particularly looking forward to seeing all my mystery writer buddies I haven’t seen since Baltimore 2008.
I’ve never been to San Francisco. Usually there’s so much going on at conferences, I tend to stick close the hotel. But this time, I’ve already made plans to get out and see some of the city. I’m meeting up with Sophie (can’t wait!) I’m taking a cable car tour on Thursday morning, and a twilight cruise of the bay Friday night.
One thing I’m not planning to attend? Panels. I know that probably sounds horrible, after all, I hope a lot of people attend the panel I’m part of on Friday afternoon at 4:30 “Putting Your Protagonist in Jeopardy” with Karen Olson, Dianne Emley, James Thane, James Rollins, and our moderator, Randal Brandt. I try and support my friends by attending their panels, as well as the interviews, but this year because my deadlines have been overwhelming, and I’ve been to a bajillion conferences, I’m using my free time differently.
It’s hard to believe my first Bouchercon was ten years ago in Denver. I went by myself and spent a lot of time hiding in my room, because believe it or not…I can be very shy. Elmore Leonard waited in line with me for the elevator, smiled and said “hi” and I about had a heart attack. Ditto for when Sara Paretsky was next to me in line for coffee. The whole time I’m thinking “Sara Paretsky. Sara FREAKING Paretsky is putting cream in her coffee RIGHT NEXT TO ME!” Naturally, being the little country mouse I am, I smiled and couldn’t seem to make my mouth work, which maybe wasn’t all bad as I might’ve gone all gushing, embarrassing fan girl on her.
During that time…I didn’t have my first book written. Wasn’t exactly sure what direction that mysterious “book” would take. I just knew many of my favorite authors would be at the conference and I wanted to see them. Glean information from them. Listen to them and maybe learn a little more about this process of writing books for a living.
The most memorable panel? One Charlaine Harris was on. I’d been a huge fan of her Lily Bard series, and wanted to hear about how hard her work had been to classify — cozy, but not cozy — because I half-figured my book would be along those same lines. So when she said her agent had just sold a “humorous, southern, mystery series with vampires” and laughed about how on earth the booksellers were going to categorize that one…well, it’s fun to recall that panel now, with the explosion of the Sookie Stackhouse series and the True Blood TV series, I can safely say it’s been beyond categorization, and with good reason. One of the consistently best series out here.
So, tell me about the very best panel you’ve ever attended at any conference, writers, readers, business — and if your criteria for attending panels has changed over the years.
All commenters will be eligible for a gift card to your favorite online bookstore!
I’ll check in today as travel allows…but frankly, I’ll probably be in the hotel bar 🙂