By Liesa Malik
Bouchercon, the world's largest fan-based crime, mystery, and thriller convention was held in Long Beach, CA this past weekend. Colorado's literary community was well represented, and several RMFW members attended, including writer-of-the-year, Shannon Baker, Programs chair, Mark Stevens, and authors like Mike Befeler, Christine Goff, and Susan Spann. As one fan said, "What a party it was!"
What is Bouchercon?
Bouchercon (or B-con) is best understood by looking as much at what the convention is not, as what it is. B-con is not a writer's only event. There are no technical sessions on POV, or filling in the middle of your story. Nor are the casual discussions centered around whether or not Indy-publishing is going to take over the writing world, how to find an agent, or how you'll get going on that next manuscript.
But the convention is still packed with information important to anyone who writes or aspires to write a great story. And the big reason for this is found in the attendee list.
Who goes to Bouchercon?
The guest list for this event is huge. Approximately 2000 authors, editors, agents and fans come together to talk, sell, and acknowledge great writing. It is not unusual to have a conversation with such greats as Jeffrey Deaver, Sue Grafton, or Deni Deitz. Just as important, are the conversations you have with librarians and heavy duty readers, many of whom read as much as a book a day.
"This convention doesn't have just over-the-top fans," said Mark Stevens. "They aren't hunting down the famous writers, but are thoughtful readers. "
"It is a very humbling experience," said Rocky Mountain Mystery Writer of America author, Catherine Dilts. "I've had a few readers tell me that this is their big vacation of the year. That thought reminds me to keep trying my best to write a good story. I'm in the entertainment business and my books are for these readers."
The Anthony Awards
Catherine is right, both figuratively and literally. Each year at Bouchercon, attendees vote for their favorite works of crime fiction. These votes result in the Anthony Awards, named after Anthony Boucher, a science fiction writer who was very influential with his many years of writing mystery reviews for the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times. This year's winners included William Kent Krueger, best novel, for Ordinary Grace; Matt Coyle, best first novel Yesterday's Echo, Catriona McPherson, As She Left It, and John Connolly, best short story, "The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository." More Anthony awards can be found at Crimespree Magazine's website.
If You Go
Bouchercon is an annual event, and well worth the effort to attend. Many conference attendees reserve their places for "next year" while still at the current convention. If you decide to go, here are some tips from one newbie to another:
- Wear comfy shoes and clothes. Even if the event is in one or two buildings, there is a lot of walking.
- Bring SWAG. There are many opportunities to hand out your information.
- Go to the panels. These showcases of authors' works add an extra dimension to your own efforts, and the moderators ask insightful questions that you can mull over when you get back to your writing desk.
- Network. If you're looking for readers, you'll find them. If you want to work on building your author presence in our community, again, there is a lot of bang for your buck here.
- Bring a little cash. Rumor has it there is a poker game going on here and there and someone willing to lighten your load.
- Have fun. The biggest names in the industry seem to focus on this, and it seems a good lead to follow.
And as was echoing throughout on Sunday, "Had a great time! See you in Raleigh!"