Faire Time

by Alexandra Sokoloff

Well, convention season has kicked into high gear.    If one were looking to avoid writing, just for example, one could jet off to – Romantic Times,  Book Expo America, Mayhem in the Midlands, American Library Association,  Thrillerfest,  RWA National…  to mingle, network, party with hundreds of favorite and soon-to be-favorite authors, librarians, booksellers, DLers, 4MAers, MWAers, ITWers, Sisters, and readers.

Authors are strongly advised to go to conventions and festivals to build their careers.  There is no question that the networking is gold.   And except for having to continuously “sparkle”, as Margaret Maron puts it,  it’s so easy to network at these things.  All you have to do is relax and walk around and just run into the people you need to run into. Really, it works. Reviewers, booksellers, your publicist, the author whose incredible book you were reading just the night before, extraordinary friends you haven’t seen in ten years – they’re all there in a very contained space and you will drift into them if you just go with the flow.

Some people call that work.   But what it really is, is magic.   What it is – is Faire Time.

I learned the concept of Faire Time, or Festival Time, over the years of my interestingly misspent youth, hanging out at the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire –a month-long semi-historical recreation of life in an Elizabethan village, except with sex and drugs and overpriced irresistible craftish – stuff.

(Wait, what am I saying?  Of course they had all of that going on in those real Elizabethan villages, too…)

I’ll be lazy.  Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about festivals:

Among many religions, a feast or festival is a set of celebrations in honour of God or gods.

Hmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?   A set of celebrations in honor of gods – and goddesses.   Take a look at the guest of honor lists for any of the above- mentioned conventions.   Gods and goddesses of the mystery/literary world?   You betcha.

What else?

Festivals, of many types, serve to meet specific social needs and duties, as well as to provide entertainment. These times of celebration offer a sense of belonging for religious, social, or geographical groups. Modern festivals that focus on cultural or ethnic topics seek to inform members of their traditions. In past times, festivals were times when the elderly shared stories and transferred certain knowledge to the next generation. Historic feasts often provided a means for unity among families and for people to find mates.

Now, does that sound like a convention or what?

Maybe it’s that first, religious purpose of festivals but I do notice this unifying principle of “Faire Time” or “Festival Time” in full force at conventions.  There is an element of the sacred about a festival – it is out of the ordinary, out of simple chronological time, out of chronos – into kairos (again, from Wikipedia): “a time in between”, a moment of undetermined period of time in which “something” special happens.

And here’s an interesting bit:

In rhetoric kairos is a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.

Synchronicity and opportunity happen with such regularity at these convention things that they’re really more the rule than the exception.

It is my absolute conviction that much more important career business gets done at conventions and festivals than anywhere else because it is being done in Faire Time – a suspended moment of opportunity. 

And that is not even mentioning the creative and personal inspiration of being in that state of suspended time with so many passionate worshippers of the book.   By the end of a convention I will always know the next right step to take, professionally and creatively, just as clearly as if it has been spoken to me.   All it takes it to ask the question.

And one of my favorite things about conventions these days is running into aspiring authors who I met and connected with at previous conventions – only to find that they’re now published or about to be.   It reaffirms my whole faith in the process.

As many of you have witnessed, I love the total debauchery of these gatherings, but I’m never unaware of something also sacred under all that revelry.

I’m sure that all of us have stories of improbable connections and synchronicities at festivals, and I’d love to hear them today.

– Alex

29 thoughts on “Faire Time

  1. tess gerritsen

    I’ve heard that in decades past, the debauchery at book fairs was much more entertaining. There were stories of boozy arguments and hair-pulling and tussles in elevators and the obvious things that happen when attractive authors meet attractive agents and editors. Alas, the book fairs I’ve attended have been all too sedate.

    The book biz ain’t what it used to be.

  2. Alafair Burke

    I still go into fan-girl mode at these things and revel at the talent of my favorite writers, whom I’m now lucky to call friends. As for improbable connections, the strangest sighting I ever had was at Thrillerfest, where I recognized a familiar face in my panel audience. It belonged to a man who gave me directions several years ago on the street in London. It was my first trip there. I was jogging/sightseeing and asked how to find Big Ben. The man asked if I was American, which led to talk of my UK book launch, etc. He subsequently read all my books and then showed up to Thrillerfest! We are still occasional pen pals and I look forward to reading his books some day.

    That said, I am cutting back on conferences this year to make more time for the actual writing of the books and to shelter myself a bit from what I have found to be too much (for me, at least) talk about the industry, business, money, etc. It puts me in a negative place.

  3. Lois

    My best synchronicity story is something that happened at Left Coast Crime in Seattle. The day before the convention started I was standing in the lobby talking to somebody about some news story that involved somebody getting caught, and I said "But he didn’t follow the 47 rules." Troy Cook happened to be walking by and heard my statement and stopped to talk. IIRC it was the first time he had ever heard anybody quoting him. Special for both of us.

  4. Rae

    Great post, Alex. As you can imagine, I’m thinking a lot about conventions these days, with Bouchercon looming closer. (To the rest of the world, it’s months away – to me, you’ll all be on my doorstep in 5 minutes and OMG OMG OMG 😉

    In my intermittent moments of calm around it all, I often laugh at myself, because until I arrived in Toronto for Bcon 2004, I would *not* have described myself as a convention-goer. I thought conventions were nothing but drunken, loutish Shriners wearing lampshades on their heads. Imagine my surprise when I got to Bouchercon and everyone was, well, normal. And nice. And welcoming to the newbie.

    And, going to your question, because of Bouchercon (and because of Lee Child’s Forum, but that’s another story for another time) I’ve made some dear friends. I met Our Cornelia in Chicago in 2005. We sat on some steps outside the bar everyone was carousing in, and traded stories, and came back to the Bay Area and started hanging out, and 5 years later I can’t imagine life without Miss C in it.

    I suspect that’s why people like Pari, and the Jordans, and me, sign up to run these things. We want to try to give others the same great experience we’ve had.

    And, Tess? I’ll try to cook up a nice, juicy scandal for you. I want your Bouchercon experience to be complete 😉

  5. PK the Bookeemonster

    I might actually be going to Bouchercon this year. I had confirmation this week that a mystery newsletter I’m about to start up will be one of the freebies in the gift bag. Woo hoo! I’ve only been to one previously (LCC Denver) because cost was always prohibitive, but now I have a "business" excuse.

  6. James Scott Bell

    Was glad to meet up with J.T. at my first Bouchercon. She gave me all the inside dope and made navigation so much easier. I’m looking forward to B’Con SF.

    This year was my first RT. Had a nice conversation with Alex, and was glad Rob and Brett were around. And I’m sure Rob appreciated having me there, too, to help carry Brett back to the room.

  7. Rebbie Macintyre

    A timely post for me, Alex, since I’ll be going to the Backspace conference in New York at the 5 days. Part of the fun of being a writer is the community of great people, imo. The seasoned veterans are more than happy to share their wealth of knowledge, (speaking of Lee Child, Rae, one of the most generous superstars out there) and the newbies are friendly and eager to learn. I not only get wonderful information and encouragement, but I always meet just some very nice people.

  8. judy wirzberger

    Ah, the luck of meeting marvelous writers. Met Cornelia and Louise at Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference and am headed there again this year. Have to pass by BCon in favor of getting a working knee. So I’ll miss your newsletter PK…..good luck with it. I sincerely Louise will poke her face in to hear Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Elizabeth George (talk about your BIG books).

    Loved the tone of the post and You may take me to the fair, if it is all lthe things you promised, ….. Julie is singing in my head. thanks, Alex

  9. KDJames / BCB

    I’m smiling, imagining the probable reaction if I were to tell my accountant to deduct expenses from my trip to The Faire.

    I’m not sure whether it was synchronicity, but several years ago I shared driving expenses to RWA in Atlanta with a multi-published member of my chapter — forged a friendship but also learned more in that car than in all the workshops I attended. Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right. Although, she did swear me to secrecy . . .

    I decided a few months ago not to go to any conferences this year. What with limited time off and a tight budget, a week at the beach, alone, writing, seemed far more productive. And it was. Amazingly productive. No regrets about that decision, but I’ll be feeling sort of wistful hearing about everyone’s conference experiences over the coming months. Ah well, maybe next year.

    Debauchery? Really? Or is that just the correct phonetic spelling of Boucheron?

  10. Alafair Burke

    A follow-up to Rae: Despite my comment about cutting back on conferences, I will be at Bouchercon, which I’ve always loved because, above all, it celebrates books!

  11. Rae

    So glad you’ll be coming to Bouchercon, Alafair!

    Judy, sorry we won’t see you, and PK, hope you do get to San Francisco – it’ll be a shame if your newsletter gets there and you don’t 😉

  12. Eika

    First, I graduate college; then, I pay off loans; then, I save up and go to a convention. Because it sounds better and more advantageous than moving out.

  13. toni mcgee causey

    Well, at the first Thrillerfest, I met Allison, who’s become a sister to me, and met all of the Killer Year gang and several influential people in ITW, like Gayle Lynds and Lee Child and MJ Rose, who later was instrumental in ITW adopting us ‘kids.’ Which then led to us doing an anthology, which was edited by Lee… and that’s just ITW. Same sort of random happiness at RWA and RT. Conferences are amazing fun and learning opportunities. Mostly, though, I just love it for the people… like sitting in the bar, meeting Stephen Blackmoore and Boyd Morrison and so many talented writers, it was like finally finding my tribe. I fit in, which was just such an anomaly, given that I typically work with contractors and construction crews and CPAs and… sigh. I love conferences. Even as an introvert, they are still amazing.

  14. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I’ve been teaching all day, just getting back – what a great discussion!!

    Tess, the stories I’ve heard about RTs past especially make me LONG for the old days. On the other hand, I’d probably have been arrested….

  15. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Rae, I haven’t said it because I haven’t wanted to offend anyone, but what the hell. I am sure that Bouchercon SF is going to be THE party of the decade. I am counting the weeks.

  16. pari noskin taichert

    I’ve met almost every mystery writer — beside my NM chums — at conventions. That’s also where I met marvelous poeple like B.G. Ritts, the Mystery Babes and more and more and more! I love conventions and that faire time. Some days it makes me sad that I’ll be going to so few in the coming years. But . . . at least some of all y’all can come to me in March 2011.

    Please come to Santa Fe so I can have my fix!

  17. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Lois, I love that story! That’s the kind of thing I mean. Synchronicity.

    Alafair, I know what you mean about cutting back. There’s just not enough writing time in the world. On the other hand, I always feel like I get shoved up to the next level when I commit to a conference.

    So wild about the British guy.

  18. Anonymous

    OK. That is just IT! Everyone and his fucking dog has met Lee Child and are all his BFFs. I am going to Bouchercon. I am going to meet this guy come hell or hard earthquake. HE BETTER BE AS NICE AS EVERYONE SAYS HE IS or every damn one of you Murderati bloggers will owe me a drink….. and believe me I will hunt you down! Here’s my plan: I will do just as Rob suggested in his Party All The Time post. I will go up to him and say "Lee! Lee! I love your books, will you be my BFF?" Rob said he was sure Lee will love me for it………. and Rob would know.

    Murderatis? Bring a lot of bar cash to Bouchercon. I’m goin’ in……….

    Rae. Do you need any help with your party of the year/decade/century? Before I retired I was COO of a rather prestigious worldwide debauchery agency with a list of impressive clients. I still do consulting every so often and would be more than willing to donate my time.

  19. Anonymous

    I liked this post Alex. Reminded me of what a Ren Faire slut I was from age 16 and still carrying……but I must make a distinction……….I was ALWAYS exclusively NORTHERN CAL MARIN faeryish. We were forever and anon so snobbish about OUR Faire…..so much more ‘authentic’ than that Southern Cal ‘commercial’ one (smiley face and a "Good morrow, Mistress"…..no offense)

    Our Ren Faire has dissolved up here. A shame, really. Good memories. Good tymes. Good mead. Lots of Faire-y tales.

    : – }

  20. Jake Nantz

    It all just sounds so awesome, and you bring it to life so well for those of us who can’t get to one, Alex. Hell everybody in the comments did. Can’t wait til I can afford it! I’ll be the goofy fanboy who’s WAY too old to be a fanboy running up and scaring the shit out of all of you when I introduce myself. Except Zoe. She knows far too much self-defense for me to run up and surprise her. Don’t wanna spend the rest of the con in the ER….


  21. Allison Brennan

    I go to two, maybe three, conferences a year. And that’s hard. I love them, I have fun, but ultimately, I’m there because I’m a writer and ahem, I need time to write.

    But I’ve made my closest friends at conferences, friends who I cherish. The first thrillerfest, like Toni said, was particularly incredible. I met Toni there (we’d talked online) and Rob and Brett and JT and more. And had a fan girl moment when I met Tess. Tfest in Arizona WAS magic.

    I may go to Bouchercon this year just because it’s in SF, but if I do it’ll be brief and probably one day or maybe two. I’m close enough that I could do a day-trip.

  22. JT Ellison

    Yep, first Thrillerfest will stand in infamy as the best conference ever- with my favorite ever con moment, walking up to Tess and introducing myself: "Tess, you’re my biggest fan!" I was sober, too, more’s the pity.

  23. Duncan Samuel

    Some people go to festivals to learn, since festivals are really educational. You can learn lots of things about that certain festival, the culture and the concept behind it. The best thing about these festivals and convention is meeting and being friends with people who share the same interest as yours.

    Duncan Samuel
    Web Appointment Scheduler


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