I’ve been having a hard time deciding what I wanted to say about Bouchercon. It was my first event of this type, so naturally I had to start with the big one. I came flying into Madison as a noob, and I flew out feeling like a noob, but with a year’s weight in memory stuffed into 4-page scrapbook.
Today my daughter asked me, “Was it as good as you expected it to be?” As good? Expected? I don’t know. What I can say is it was better than I could have imagined.
Sunday morning, after three days of B’Con, I popped onto the elevator to head down for medicinal coffee. A woman already there greeted me.
“Hi, how are you, Bill? I’m going up to my room to get something, but then I’m heading down to the Concourse. I’ll see you there!”
“Great,” I said. “See you there!”
I had no idea who she was.
That stuck me as a defining Bouchercon moment. I’d met dozens and dozens of people and delighted in every single one of them. Too many to remember.
The good news is that her identity came to me suddenly a little while later as the coffee began to take effect. She was Ellen Crosby, and I’d met her on the first day. She appeared with me on the “How Real Does It Need To Be?” panel, along with Jodi Compton and Julia Spencer-Fleming and moderated by Marshall Cook. Almost the last thing I did at Bouchercon.
And omigawd, I sat on a panel with these writers! Wonderful writers! And me!
But, hell, people asked me questions and laughed at my quips same as the others with me. And the eight-year-old in me thought, “Golly.”
That was the essence of Bouchercon, at least for a noob like me. I walked in there feeling like a schlub fanboy and found myself again and again embraced as one of the folks. I met a million people, managed to remember about a quarter of them, then met them again and it was like seeing an old friend.
On more than one occasion I asked, or was asked, “What’s been the highlight of your weekend?”
How do you even answer that question? If I were to tattoo the highlights on my body there wouldn’t remain an inch of clear skin. I’ll try, but I assure you this won’t be comprehensive by any stretch.
I admit to really enjoying kissing Joe Konrath. Well, no, not so much the kiss as the look on his face. Hey, he’s the one who said in front of a room full of people I’d won a big, sloppy kiss.
I also deeply enjoyed sitting with my editor Barbara Moore and three other Midnight Ink authors at lunch on Friday, Jess Lourey, Nina Wright, and Chuck Zito, and learning that I was the sick and twisted one. How good is that?
And there was the bold decision by Rob, Sandra and I to grab breakfast from Teddy Wedgers. Bold, but alas, a miscalculation. If the half-eaten breakfast pies sounded like rocks as they landed in the trash can, it was with good reason.
I can’t even begin to name it all.
In a larger sense, the thing I take away from Bouchercon is a growing sense of place. Brett Battles made a comment that encapsulates the event well. “I feel like I’m with my tribe.”
And what is the tribe? A bunch of writers? The writers are an important part of it, certainly. But it’s bigger than that. Every time I turned around I met someone new with whom I could sit and talk about this thing we love so much. Readers, like me.
Writers or not, we were all readers. A tribe. A family.
If there is a Pollyanna sound to this, well, I embrace that. For the moment, I’m just a kid in the midst of all this, absorbing this brand-new experience in a daze of wonderment. Yeah, I know there are rumblings beneath the surface. All was not sweetness and light at Bouchercon. This person doesn’t like that person. X liked event Y better. I know. If I’d found my tribe, if I’d grown my family, I know that it won’t always feel so easy and warm and comfortable.
But for this one long weekend, it felt perfect.
My biggest regret, in the end, was given the power of the bond I felt I’d forged with the people I met at Bouchercon that the rest of the Killer Year couldn’t be there. Toni, JT, Patry, Derek, Gregg, Jason and Dave, I missed you. I hope we can all be together soon.
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