The year is finally starting to seem underway and the whole madness begins again. Conventions are kicking into gear – I cannot wait to get myself to Seattle for Left Coast Crime next week, where I will be reunited with almost all the ‘Rati and hundreds of other 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…)
Since I am practically dying of flu at the moment, 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. At Left Coast Crime this year, for example, toastmaster Gary Philips leads us in celebrating Gayle Lynds; the late and very lamented Dennis Lynds; Dorothy L founders Diane Kovacs and Kara Robinson. Gods and goddesses of the mystery world? You betcha.
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 mystery and the book.
As many of you have witnessed, I love the total debauchery of these gatherings, but no matter how many drinks I am plied with by various unnamed pliers, 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, to help get me through this lingering plague.
And I cannot wait to revel, debauch and worship with the rest of you at LCC– six days and counting!
What a wonderful post! I’m a big believer of kairos, which BTW is very beautifully discussed and described in Madeleine L’Engel’s spiritual writing memoir, CIRCLE OF QUIET. I’ve never applied kairos to mystery conventions, but you know what, you’re right, Alex. All those timeless moments when you meet that literary hero or heroine, talking (or partying) with fellow writers, finding those few fans along the way. I guess that’s why it’s hard to really quantify the benefits of conventions. If you look at it in a straight linear way on a spreadsheet, the cost of conventions may not make logical sense. That’s why I haven’t been doing much of these out-of-state confabs, but whenever I do, it’s totally worth it.
Madeleine L’Engle is all about kairos! I know she uses the concept in many of her books but you just nailed the one I was thinking of but couldn’t remember – thanks, Naomi!
Sounds like LCC will be the mardi gras of mystery conventions.
Maybe that should be the slogan from now on?
“Left Coast Crime – Mardi Gras for books”
Paul (and Alex), I think “Mardi Gras for books” has now become my personal description for any of these cons.
There are costumes and masks. There is forced revelry. There are new identities shown and others taken away.
And underneath it all there is celebration — of the craft, of the words, of the fact that we made it one more year.
Love Madeleine L’Engle and esp. Circle of Quiet!
The concept of kairos is a major component in all my novels thus far – love the way you have applied it to conventions, which I have not attended for several years now due to time constraints, mostly. I miss that energy.
I’ll do any kind of Mardi Gras any time.
I couldn’t agree more. Thrillerfest was my first festival and I still have that lingering glow about me. So well said, Alex.
I’m sorry I won’t see you guys at LCC, but New York in July will never be the same after our revelries!
And feel better, girl!
So very, very well said, Alex! And I love Guyot’s likening them to the Mardi Gras! The atmosphere at ‘faire’s is an energizing experience.
Louise’s definition is pretty damn interesting as well. Hmmm. Masks…
Oh, hell yes, Alex!
I love mystery conventions and have had some of the most wonderful, unanticipated experiences there. Lifelong friendships (with the likes of Elaine Flinn, Deborah Donnelly, Deni Dietz and many others) found their toe-holds there. B.G. Ritts and I met in a hallway at my first Bouchercon and through the years, she’s been a tremendous supporter (even volunteering to create, design and maintain a fan website for me at http://www.sashasolomon.com
For people like me who live in much smaller urban centers, conventions also provide concentrated access to people whom I might have NO OTHER opportunity to meet; Albuquerque isn’t on a lot of authors’ touring lists.
I wish I could afford the time/money to attend more of them.
Nice job Alex,
Like JT, Thriller Fest was my first con, and other than a few awkward moments due to my own lack of schmoozability (ah sure it’s a word), it was great. You’re totally right about the festival atmosphere. Another pleasant surprise was the attitude of all involved. Everyone seemed very supportive and for most part approachable. It felt like a true community working together—not competitors in crowded field.
I wish I could go again this year. Have fun.
Mike, how startling – I didn’t even know you were at ThrillerFest (of course I was in the pyramid room rehearsing for most of that convention…)
Sorry I bailed on my own discussion yesterday – just wretchedly ill. Much better today.
Yes! Thrillerfest was my first, and it was definitely a religious experience, for which I tank all of you who made it all happen! And that Louise–did she nail it or what? Shades of Eliot’s “Prufrock,” one of my favorites. But I’m at work and don’t have access to my library, but there’s a passage in there somewhere (I memorized the whole thing once upon a time, long, long ago, in a galaxy…) that goes something like “There will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet. There will be time to murder and create…,” or something close to that.
Get well soon.
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