Since no one else here has reported on Left Coast Crime, I guess I’ll step up and start in, in the hope that others will chime in and we’ll all get some kind of vicarious conference thrills and tips.
I’ll set the stage: Denver is a fairly good-sized city in a great bowl of plains, surrounded by a ring of very high snowy mountains. Gorgeous. The airport is quite a ways away from downtown, where the Adams Mark is – a 45-minute car ride through a lot of open plain.
Downtown is very funky – there’s a Gold Rush feel to it and an instant sense of eccentricity – in the layout of the streets (narrow and veering wildly all over the place, coming to strange triangles everywhere), in the buildings (many of which are built in strange triangles to fit the strange triangular intersections), and the overall dress is Wild West: lots of cowboy hats and boots and fur vests. The people – well, the people were a trip. As in San Francisco (another Gold Rush town – think about it), Denverites cultivate their eccentricities. One of the first things I saw when we got off the freeway downtown was a homeless guy perched on a bridge with a sign that read: SPACESHIP BROKE DOWN – NEED MONEY FOR PARTS. And from the look of him, he wasn’t kidding.
One thing I really liked about the people, though, is that they were extremely friendly. Well, let me be more specific. It’s definitely a cruising town. But not aggressively so – people are just REALLY friendly. I loved it. I have been locked like a troll in my study, trying to finish this book, and it was very nice to go out on the Denver streets and be looked over so appreciatively. I have a feeling Denver is a great place to be if you’re single. In fact, I’m making a note of it in case I’m ever single again.
The hotel was right in the middle of downtown, where they have a glassed-in pedestrian mall (which I never got to) and a trolley, which a bunch of us used to good advantage on Thursday night to get to a spectacularly good restaurant whose name escapes me, but was possibly the most Feng Shui-ed commercial space I have ever been in in my life (and remember, I’m from California). There was even a crystal hanging above every table. (It did not, however, prevent a heated political argument that in old days would no doubt have turned into a bar brawl.)
The hotel was potentially perfect for a book conference, as it had five bars, one of which was a huge expanse of low tables and comfortable green plush lounge chairs that should have been a perfect congregating center. But in fact it was difficult to find other LCCers in the hotel; there were two towers with two separate bar areas, which divided an already small conference, and there was another conference of high school volleyball players (female) who for some reason were all camped out in the lobby and lounge for an entire evening, which I think put a damper on more adult socializing. It was an interesting complication for a scene, though, and went into the file.
Now that I’ve been doing this conference thing for going on two years (yeah, I can hear the pros out there laughing) here are a few general and LCC- specific conference tips that I’ve picked up, and I hope others will jump in and add to the list.
First, ANY conference in the winter is going to be dicey. Apparently outside of California they have this thing called “weather” which plays all kinds of havoc with travel plans. Also it makes certain conference locations cold, even snowy. Though the weather in Denver was mild for the season (try telling that to the homeless, of whom there were many more than just the stranded alien downtown), I was as usual woefully underpacked for the freezing nights. I actually own no real sweaters of my own and will either have to shop or raid Michael’s closet next time I go to anything in the winter, which is thankfully almost over, which means of course I will totally forget about the potential usefulness of sweaters and, oh, scarves, until I am on the plane for my next winter conference.
The other thing about winter conferences is that you (well, I…) don’t play as hard because there are so many sick people around you that you tend to go to bed earlier and eat more leafy green vegetables, which is not a bad thing, actually.
Second, if you’re an author, ALWAYS hit the local bookstores. On Friday Pari and I rented a car and drove around to 8 Denver bookstores to meet managers and sign stock. It took about four and a half hours (Friday traffic and Denver is much more spread out than you would think). We got to visit both Denver Tattered Covers, which are absolute cathedrals of books, each in their own way, one in a great old downtown building and another in a grand old theater – and the completely charming Murder By the Book, in a house in a funky little walking area – as well as make the rounds of the B&Ns and Borders. You get much more of a sense of the town driving around (renting a Garmin GPS helps!) and you are establishing a relationship with another book market. Plus we had a flat-out great time together.
Third, specifically for LCC – I’ve been to two LCCs now and for some reason the hospitality suite is the place to be. It wasn’t as packed as it was last year in Seattle, but I still had some of my best con experiences just sitting around drinking coffee, stealing coconuts from the catering decorations, and getting to know a whole raft of new people. I really think you might have the most fun and useful conference experience just planting yourself in the hospitality suite and never leaving.
Fourth – always try to hit the forensics panels. You will always get your money’s worth in the forensics panels. Jan Burke did a stellar job assembling experts, and it’s always gold to hear her and Doug Lyle talk about their work – you can get a year’s worth of research in in an afternoon. And I love hearing forensics and law enforcement experts from the specific region – you get a much better sense of the whole region in general.
Oh, and fifth – never assume that your fellow authors share your political views merely because they’re authors, even if there is a crystal hanging above your copper – coated table. On the other hand, I now feel Cornelia Read is my soul sister for life.
There were so many other Rati at LCC – I expect at least SOME report on the con from everyone. We were there and it’s our job to report here for those who couldn’t make it, and I had to leave halfway through the banquet to catch a plane.
And for those who didn’t make it to Denver – any conference tips you’d like to share?