Once I volunteered to post something to the Killer Year blog this Monday (my first blog post ever), my mind immediately went blank and stayed that way for several days (this happens to me a lot). What on earth could I write about? Bouchercon 06, just ended, was the obvious topic. But what could I possibly say about the conference experience that hadn’t already been said better, a hundred times, in blogs and on websites across the internets?
Then it occurred to me that there can be real value in setting a terrible example. There are lessons that anyone can learn from my experiences as a hapless newb and raw first-time Bouchercon attendee. Somewhere there is someone with even less savvy and fewer social skills who might benefit from the following advice:
1. When you find yourself in the middle of hundreds of your fellow writers, many of whom you’ve been reading and enjoying for years, make sure you don’t talk to any of them.
2. If someone tries to talk to you, a good technique is to grimace, laugh, and walk away. They’re sure to understand that you are neither drunk nor insane, but merely overwhelmed by their presence. This will flatter them.
3. When you do talk to someone whose work you like, make sure you praise them effusively and excessively until they begin to suspect that you’re making fun of them. Then tell them you are only kidding and you haven’t read their books anyway. This will relieve them of the burden of gratitude.
4. Smoke a lot. Really a lot. This will not only help calm your nerves, but you will begin to smell like a walking campfire, reminding folks of summer camp, backpacking trips, recent arson experiences, and catastrophic fire damage. It also makes it easier to get a seat at panels, and seats for your coat and backpack as well.
5. Don’t go to your friends’ panels. It will only distract them. If by accident you should find yourself attending a panel by people you know, leave in the middle, being sure to make some noise and cause a disturbance, so they’ll know you’ve been there.
6. It’s really not a good idea to let someone know how much you liked their books; this will only embarass them. Instead tell them about all the things you didn’t like, all the things that could have been done better. Everyone enjoys a bracing critique. They are sure to think of you when writing their next novel, and may even base a character on you.
7. Don’t buy the next round. Alcohol is a curse; it only causes people to enjoy themselves. A much better plan is to buy a bottle of fortified wine and polish it off somewhere privately (a toilet stall in the men’s room is a good place), where you won’t disturb anyone.
8. Above all, even if you somehow manage to enjoy yourself, don’t show it. Instead mooch around with a depressed expression on your face, avoiding eye contact. People will notice, and feel better about themselves. They’ll think: “At least I’m having a better time than that suicidal little shit over there.”
9. When security finally shows up to escort you from the building, go quietly. You can always sneak in through the back door later. Security guards are often bored by their jobs and will enjoy the thrill of the chase.
10. Wait ’til next year.
Author of Vinnie’s Head
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