So it's over. The biggest (maybe) mystery fan/author/bookseller event in the word has packed its trunks and moved on. Next stop, next year: Cleveland.
This was my first Bouchercon since 1995, when I was twelve years old, and I hadn't really considered attending another one until I got nominated (well, QUEEN got nominated) for the Macavity. When that happened, I realized it was my duty to show up and give all assembled a lesson in losing gracefully, a skill I've honed quite a bit this year.
So I went, and it was nothing like what I expected. It was sprawling, disorganized, tightly organized, generous-spirited, non-elitist, jammed with attractions -- a twelve-ring circus in a three-ring tent. I had an absolutely splendid time. (Thanks, by the way, to the programmers, who brought a certain kind of order out of chaos, while still providing opportunities for chaos to seep through. Chaos is half the fun.)
The most coveted T-shirt at Bouchercon
As with all valuable life experiences, there were lessons everywhere. Here are some lessons I learned from Bouchercon 2011.
1. Mystery fans are the nicest people on earth. They'll wait patiently, even a little nervously, to come up and say the one thing we all want most to hear -- "I love your books" -- as though they're somehow imposing on us. To one and all, I say, unless I am face-down on the floor, bleeding profusely from a stab wound, impose on me. If am am face-down, etc., call an ambulance and then impose on me.
2. Mystery writers are almost as nice as mystery fans. Beginning with my colleagues on this blog, only one of whom (Cara) I'd ever met before, virtually every writer I met was a peach. To extend the fruit metaphor, there wasn't a lemon in the carload. Not the world's most alcohol-abstinent group, but they have the additional distinction of being good drunks.
3. Shut up and listen. I'm not much at ease meeting new people. I tend to jabber to fill silences, and I'm ashamed to say that mostly I jabber about myself. (One of the nice things about writing is that my characters already know all about me.) At Bouchercon, all I had to do was say, "Hi," and most of the time, the conversation immediately attained lift-off. I talked for hours and hours with Bruce DeSilva, Chris Knopf, Jeff and Leighton and Yrsa and Stan and Michael (Cara somewhat less, just because we were never seated near each other), Stuart Neville, Martin Limon, Lisa Brackmann, and a cast of thousands. I must have talked some, because I'd lost my voice by the end of Day Two, but what I remember is listening to people who were a lot more interesting than I was.
4. Don't sit next to Bruce DeSilva when both you and he are nominated for an award. He will win and you will not. And then he'll tell you that winning doesn't really matter. Next time this happens, immediately after he wins, I'll tell him that winning doesn't matter. Or would that be churlish? Anyway, I take it back. Seize any opportunity to sit next to Bruce. He's a wonderful guy and a formidable writer.
5. The basic panel format could use a shaking up. I don't know how, but there must be a more vital and less repetitive way to let people interact and have their say. In fact, I think "interact" is the key --as it is now, we interact with the moderator and, perhaps, with questions from the audience, with almost no opportunity to attack (or even praise) one another. The key to a good panel is a good moderator, but even so I feel as though there are missed opportunities that are inherent in the format.
6. Go to Bouchercon. Seriously, you'll have a great time. And tell each of us you like our books, so we can have a great time, too.
Tim -- Sunday