Sunday, October 11, 2009

Guest Blogger Jared Case: Top 10 Reasons to attend Bouchercon

Today's guest blogger is writer, film restoration expert and mystery fanatic, Jared Case. Next week Jared's off to Bouchercon and I've asked him to give his Top 10 Reasons you should attend - Charles

A few years ago, I took a class on Mystery Writing at Writers & Books, a local Rochester organization that acts as a literary sluice, channeling reading and writing programs through the city. My instructor was a tall, good-looking [sic], follically-defiant man who has been supportive of my writing ever since. That man's name was Charles Benoit. His mission: to provide us with the cartographic skills necessary to build our own narrative maps. But that's not all. He also opened the door to the grand community awaiting us with open arms. He told us about Bouchercon.

My first Bouchercon was in Madison, Wisconsin. It just happened to be the old stomping grounds of a colleague (Dan Wagner, who calls himself The Hungry Detective) who also just happened to be a big mystery reader. It was exciting and overwhelming, but by the end, I knew I wanted more. I got more when I went to Baltimore last year. Armed with foreknowledge of what to expect, I got much more out of it, and I am fortunate to be returning this year. I hope to be just as productive this year as I was last.

So what keeps bringing me back? There are 10 things. At least. Here are my Top 10:

10) The Gift Bag/The Author Bazaar – The first thing that happens to you when you check in is this: someone hands you a big bag of free books. Now, free is not one of those four-letter words your mother taught you to avoid. This is FREE! And they're not slouches, either. Here are some of the authors I've gotten free at Bouchercon: Laura Lippman, John Harvey, Lawrence Block, Sean Chercove, Theresa Schwegel. And new to this Bouchercon is a concept called The Author Bazaar. Sunday morning several authors are going to gather in a large room and give away books. Just give them away, with the belief that if you can put books in people's hands, they are more likely to read them and more likely to pick up the next one. Each attendee is limited to 5 books based on their registration, but you can buy 5 more books for just $5. (US).

9) Authors Sign Books – This is not as important to me. I'd rather have a handshake, a conversation, even a picture, any day, but it does provide an opportunity for anyone to interact with a favorite author and have a keepsake of the experience.

8) Explore the Area – You may not have time, but if you can, you should explore the area you've been brought to. There are usually numerous interesting things to do and see wherever you go. For instance, if you were in Baltimore last year, you might have visited Poe's gravesite. And if you were to go to Indianapolis this year, you might visit a John Dillinger exhibit, the King Tut touring exhibition, or tour the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And I wouldn't know what great Mexican food was if I hadn't visited Madison. Honest.

7) The Anthony Awards – These awards are voted on at the conference. You are eligible to nominate and vote based on being registered at the conference. The winners will likely be at the conference. It's synergy.

6) Meet the Fans – You have a chance to meet other people who are interested in the same books, the same authors, that you are. They are probably even more knowledgeable than you are, and you can finally have an enlightening conversation, in person, about your interests.

5) The Panels – Mystery novels get talked about from every angle in these 45- to 50-minute sessions. Some are not so good. Some are out-of-this-world fantastic. A particular one that comes to mind is Laura Lippman, Thomas H. Cook and Reed Farrell Coleman talking about setting as a character. Just magic.

4) The Interviews – Also last year were two fantastic interviews, Michael Koryta interviewing Laura Lippman, and Charles Ardai interviewing Lawrence Block. I hope to expect much of the same when Koryta interviews Michael Connelly, and Terence Faherty interviews SJ Rozan.

3) Meet the Authors – I have a little secret. I have a list of 10 people I HAVE to talk to in Indianapolis. Some know me, some are acquainted with me, and some have no idea I'm coming. But this is why they're at this conference: to meet the readers, connect with them. It is an opportunity that you should be taking advantage of.

2) The Parties/the Bar – This is where the concept of authors and readers really comes together. Yes, there are formalized panels and interviews and events during the day, but at night-time you might find yourself sitting in on a conversation with Bill Cameron, Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne, or talking to Thomas H. Cook, or just watching people come in and out the door. Without the artifice, everyone is just someone, and you can communicate on a different level.

1) Learn About New Authors You May Never Have Heard of – This is by far the most significant benefit I've gotten from these conferences. There are so many authors that I read on a regular basis now that I didn't before I went to a conference: Megan Abbott, Trey Barker, Lorraine Bartlett, Lawrence Block, Sean Chercover, Marcus Sakey. Do yourself a favor and check out one or more of these authors. I've done the footwork for you. Or treat yourself and attend a mystery convention. You'll be glad you did.

1A) Although Charles, Donis, John and Rick aren't coming (we always have the same conversation about Tom Cheek, but it's a wonderful conversation), I will get to meet Debby and Vicki (again), so maybe I have 12 people I have to talk to.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I like to go because it reminds me that a lot of people value books. It's nice to find so many all in one place.

Vicki Delany said...

Reason 11: The O Canada panel Thursday at 4:30. More than a panel - a party!

Rick Blechta said...

Okay, Jared, let's turn the page: what do you think of Tom's replacement, Alan Ashby? There's some good chemistry going on with Jerry, and he knows a lot about the game. I'm happy.

Okay, so that was really off-topic, but tough...

So now I didn't have to go to Indianapolis and I got to talk to you. Have a great time and thanks very much for being our guest!