Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bouchercon reflections

Bouchercon, the world's largest mystery conference, held its latest annual crimefest this past week from Wednesday to Sunday. The 2017 version took place in a spectacular, sprawling hotel in downtown Toronto that had two towers, multiple levels of meeting rooms, open foyers, and ballrooms all connected by escalators running up and down through the open centre. Almost two thousand people attended the conferences, all united by their love of crime. There were hundreds of authors and aspiring authors, readers, librarians, booksellers, editors and agents, all trying to navigate the huge selection of panels, readings, signings, interviews, parties, and other crime related activities. I didn't count the number of panels, each of which featured a topic and an array of authors chosen to talk about it for an hour, but I estimate there might have been close to a hundred. Even running from one to the next all day long, an attendee could only get to a fraction of them.

When I was a relative rookie, I tried to do just that. There were so many topics that fascinated me, about setting and character and style, and so many authors I wanted to hear, that I ran myself ragged. It's exhilarating but exhausting to be in the midst of all this excitement and information, and by the end, I always dragged myself back home wanting nothing more than a month of solitude. Most writers are introverts and need alone time to recharge. Socializing, meeting new people, being "out there" to promote a new book and make new connections, is draining for us.

This year I made a conscious decision that I would not try to do too much. I've been to dozens of conferences over the years and have met a lot of people I was eager to see again. That, and having fun, were my primary objectives. In the latter, I mostly succeeded, but I only actually saw a fraction of the old friends I wanted to see. Two thousand people, all spread out in different events, makes this very difficult. Sometimes we seemed to be like ships passing in the night, spotting each other on adjacent escalators travelling in opposite directions. To all those I missed, there was a hug ready for you and I am so sorry for the lost opportunity.

As for the more formal aspects of the conference, I attended the events I was supposed to, most importantly my own panel about social issues (and crimes against humanity, which we panelists quickly agreed was a misnomer). It was very interesting and ended far too soon. I also attended the International Authors reception hosted by Crime Writers of Canada, where as a past president I got to stick a welcome ribbon on authors from far away as they were introduced. That was fun! I shook hands with authors from all over including Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the UK, Ireland, and Scotland, Africa, South America, and Europe. Later that evening, I participated as a table leader in the CWC pub quiz, where I learned I know precious little about crime fiction despite being immersed in it for twenty years. Once our table realized we were going to bomb, we sat back and enjoyed inventing outrageous answers.

Dundurn authors after the publisher's reception
Beyond that I attended only two panels and seemed to spend my whole time eating. I had a planning breakfast with my fellow panelists, lunch with my fellow Type M-ers, coffee at my publisher's, and numerous delicious dinners with my friends. And in-between, drinks. My greatest take-away from Bouchercon 2017 was probably five pounds and a vow never to drink again.

Until the next conference. At the moment I don't even want to think about that. I have a novel to finish and several promotional events coming up with THE TRICKSTER'S LULLABY. Eventually the batteries will recharge, but in the meantime, a huge thank you to the organizers of Bouchercon 2017 and to the many volunteers who made it a success. All of us who love crime fiction thank you.


Sybil Johnson said...

I'm sorry I missed it. After going to a number of conventions, I've started doing what you're doing, i.e. not spreading myself too thin and reconnecting with friends. I also make sure I take brief breaks now and then. I feel a lot less stressed.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Boucheron sounds totally overwhelming and not necessarily in a good way. I can't decide if I would hate it or love it. I may have to go one day and find out ;)