The timing of this milestone is fitting. It's a new spring. The snow is vanishing, new flowers are poking up, the air is full of birdsong, and my thoughts are already turning to new projects. What to do next? The world feels full of promise and possibilities. Even the next writing project is still only a promise, barely conceived and awaiting its year's gestation.
It's fifteen years since my first novel was published, and I want to do a little reminiscing about the journeys I have taken with my books along the way. Contrary to popular belief, we authors generally pay for our own tours and travels. We may get some financial support from our publishers or from small grants, but the author is almost always out of pocket in the end. From the purely financial point of view, tours are a terrible idea.
But money isn't the only currency. There is the networking and bridge-building, the forging of friendships with new readers, book sellers, librarians, and other fellow book lovers. And there is the pure fun of taking trips, seeing new parts of the world, meeting new people, and having unique adventures. Much of that is, in a word, priceless.
I have been to Bouchercon Mystery Conferences in Austen, Madison, Toronto, and Indianapolis. Besides making unexpected friendships in bars, my favourite moment was Tony Bidulka treating me and Robin Harlick to a champagne limousine ride and special dinner in celebration of his Saskatchewan Book Award. Tony always has the best memorable moments!
There was the 2007 Southern Ontario tour I took with Robin Harlick and Rick Blechta, where we covered so many bookstores over four weekends that I ended up at the wrong Chapters at the wrong time in London. Miraculously we were all still friends at the end of it! There was the terrific conference in Calgary, When Words Collide, at which I was the mystery guest of honour in 2013 (this one was paid!), and where I made friends with the dynamic group of western writers. Three highlights of that week stand out - the inspiring speeches by the other guests of honour on opening night, which made me realize regardless of the genre, we are all writers and storytellers; the scotch-tasting party that introduced me to Abelour; and the trip to Drumheller to see the badlands and the dinosaurs.
Also among my most memorable trips (to date, hopefully more to come!) was the sixteen-day tour I took with Vicki Delany to the Northwest Territories and Yukon in 2013. I met so many interesting people and had so many fine adventures that I am hard-pressed to highlight only a couple. Perhaps the "erotica open mike" evening at the NorthWords Literary Festival in Yellowknife, where many of the authors, including Vicki and I, tried our hand at racy writing. Writing hot scenes is easy; reading them with a straight face is not. A second highlight was getting a flat tire in the middle of nowhere at 11:30 at night. A third highlight was arriving to do a library reading in a small village between Whitehorse and Dawson City and discovering our audience was a group of First Nations school children. I learned far more from the discussion we had than they did, I think!
This coming summer, I am going far afield again, as an invited author at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, on the beautiful BC coast. I have never been to Sechelt, and I am looking forward to the adventures and the people I will meet. This event is paid, but even if it weren't, there are experiences that go beyond money. I feel so privileged that my writing gives me the chance to enjoy them.