(MADISON, WISCONSIN)–I’m not in Madison, Wisconsin.
In my most recent book, AS DOG IS MY WITNESS, Aaron Tucker goes on at length about how it feels to be a non-Christian in America during the Christmas season. And he says (I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t know enough about myself to quote me) something on the order of, “it’s like the rest of the world is throwing the best party ever, and you’re not invited.”
That’s more or less the way it can feel for a mystery author who doesn’t attend Bouchercon.
For weeks before, listservs and blogs alike are abuzz with the anticipation of the event: “are you going to B’con?” “When are the Anthony awards given out?” “Where will we meet at B’con?” “Does anyone want to share a room at B’con?”
You get the idea.
For an author who has occasionally attended conferences (I have, in fact, been to four or five, including one Bouchercon), there are the emails from friends, fans (there are still a couple out there) and other attendees who assume you’ll be there. After all, the whole WORLD of mystery books will converge on (in this case) Madison, WI.
Just not me. Not this time, anyway. Circumstances–financial, practical and scheduling–make it impossible. And while it is something of a downer not to see one’s pals, not to be treated like an author for a few days (as opposed to the way one is normally treated at home, which is another blog all by itself), not to meet new people and discuss the craft, the business and the mental illness that is mystery publishing, it’s not really all that bad.
Going to a large convention of mystery readers, authors, agents, publicists, editors, publishers and reporters on the field is a remarkable adventure, which is evidenced by the fact that I’m remarking on it even now. For an author, it can be a heady experience. People want to talk to you about your books–imagine! Many of them have already read them, too. You get to see other authors, who also are having a few days off from the “day-job,” or acting as the chauffeur for the minors in the family.
It is an experience determined to remind you that there is something just a little bit different about this job. It’s not like a convention of computer programmers, ice cream retailers (although that one would be worth attending, don’t you think?) or attorneys, which my wife occasionally attends. In this case, people are there because they share an appreciation for the form and the work that goes into it. We get together at the panels (and if we’re lucky, participate in one or two), possibly at the banquet and without question at the bar later on. We talk about mystery books, who’s doing what, what the rumors might be, and we get the occasional pat on the back. In this business, that’s huge.
Not going is more like getting a letter from a distant relative about a family reunion. “Sorry you couldn’t make it,” it might go. “Aunt Frances asked for you, but we didn’t give you to her. Cousin Bob threw up on Uncle Harry, the twins were running around asking if anyone could tell them which was which–no one could–and Mom got irritated because I was wearing open-toed sandals. Nobody told me it was going to be black-tie.”
See what I mean? It’s still fun, but not the same as being there.
But it’s not like I’ve been sitting at the computer all weekend, waiting for dispatches from the front. I’m not pining away, wishing I could be elsewhere. Here is pretty good, especially since I had a birthday this week, so my family still occasionally remembers to treat me well. Remind me to tell you about the extraordinary gift they conspired to present to me this year. It’s really something.
So, don’t cry for me, Madison, Wisconsin. But keep in mind that I’ll have a brand-spanking-new book (and a new series) all set at just about this time next year. So I’ll have a much stronger motivation to see you in…