By Louise Ure
There are moments of epiphany in otherwise normal, expected days that can take your breath away. Moments when everything seems worth it. When you’re surprised by a sense of bliss like a ray of sunshine on a cloud-dark day.
I had several of those in Baltimore. Tiny things, some of them, that made five days at Bouchercon a time that I will remember forever.
This won’t sound like anybody else’s review of our annual convention for crime fiction aficionados, I’m guessing, although like every other blog poster, I have to commend the organizing committee – and especially Ruth Jordan and Judy Bobalik – for doing such an extraordinary job. They planned well, they handled concerns with ease and grace, and they made it all seem effortless.
But my special moments are different. Not the panels I attended. Not the panels I led. Not the parties. They’re more private than that, and perhaps less obvious.
Like meeting Kaye Barley for the first time. Should I have expected the open, honest gaze in her eyes? Yes, her eyes have the same generosity and candor as her posts. But it’s the caramel-covered Southern accent that stopped me dead in my tracks. When you read Kaye’s posts from now on, listen for the lilt, the measured sweetness that makes you feel like you’ve just been welcomed home.
Like seeing the instant and expert help offered to the writer’s husband who had fallen down the stairs between panel sessions. It was a short flight of stairs, no more than five or six, but when he tumbled he must have hit his head on the metal handrail on the way down. He lay unmoving, with blood gushing from a jagged cut on his chin. Not only did those around him move to help with the speed of trauma team but they did it with expertise. Readers and writers who, in normal life, are doctors and nurses were by his side in a matter of seconds. Isn’t it a joy that our crime fiction community includes these folks with such special skills?
There was also The Sad Moment of The Lost Children on Thursday night. I returned to my room on the fourth floor of the hotel after the awards presentations and drinks and loud, bubbly conversation in the lobby. There, sitting on the floor of the hallway and leaning up against door #408, were two little black girls, one about three years old and one about eight. They were breathtakingly beautiful, dressed all in white in almost African garb, with convoluted turban-like headdresses on. I asked if they were okay and the elder of the two said fine but they were locked out of their room. I asked where their parents were and she replied, “I don’t know.” I called hotel security and they arrived almost immediately, with crooning, comforting voices, a master passkey and two chocolate chip cookies.
On Saturday night, the whole Murderati crew met for drinks in the bar, and I finally got to meet B.G.Ritts and R.J. and Wilfred. How can I feel that I’ve known them forever? The entire evening felt like a celebration family dinner, diminished only by the absence of JT, Tess, Allison and Toni.
And speaking of missing Murderati folks, nothing could have been finer that seeing the light in Ken Bruen’s eyes as he introduced his fiancée, Lisa, out on the breezeway between the hotels. You know if this woman has captured his heart that she is indeed someone special.
And then there was Nancy. When she showed up in the signing room with a copy of The Fault Tree, she had this beaming expression on her face like a proud parent watching a child’s first school play. I knew the face, but from where? “When I met you in El Paso four years ago,” she said, “you said I was the first person to ever ask you for an autograph.” And so she was. She’d had a just-released ARC of Forcing Amaryllis and it was the first time that anyone had ever considered me an author or ever asked me to sign a book. I remember how I felt that day, like I had champagne running through my veins. She is, and always will be, my first fan.
Others will tell you how fine the panels were, how raucous the parties, how Baltimore showed its good and bad side block by block. I’ll remember Kaye, and Nancy, the soon-to-be Lisa Bruen, helpful nurses, and small trembling children in hotel hallways. You know what they all have in common? Someone caring for and about someone else. That’s not a bad epiphany at all.
Louise, it was equally as marvelous to meet the people who populate the left-margin pix. My early exit was necessitated by being the one asked to help the Anthony Awards chairman count the ballots — something I didn’t feel was appropriate to reveal at the time.
My favorite ‘moment’ was the contrast between meetings held at the hotel earlier in the week (I arrived Monday afternoon) and Bouchercon. They seemed so flat compared to the lively discussion along the Promenade at the end of each panel group.
Thanks to all the ‘Rati for the welcoming entrée to your world.
Jon Jordan summed it up best in his one sentence acceptance speech for the Special Services Anthony that he and Ruth won: “This is the type of moment that should be shared with family…and you’re all here.”
It was great to see you, Louise. And all the rest of you as well. Damn, I love Bouchercon.
Louise, what lovely moments – thanks for sharing them.
Wow Ms. Ure. That was absolutely uplifting. I could see those little girls being comforted and cared for as if I were in the hallway with you. And I feel like I can hear Kaye’s voice even though I’ve never met her. Thank you for sharing your moments. They, along with the memories others have given us, help make it okay for those of us who couldn’t be there.
And yeah, at this point I’m already planning to be there next year…and will try to convince my wife to come too. I think Indianapolis will be a fine place for my first major con. And I’m already excited!!!
That’s a stunning photo, LU, and completely perfect for this post. (Actually I’m sure this is a Kirlian photo of Kaye Barley – that’s how much light she has coming off her).
I didn’t put it in my own wrap-up, but one of my favorite moments was our relative hotness conversation at the ‘Rati gathering. We must find time to do that more often.
I’ve said this a few times to different people. Being a new author with a small press, I felt really out of sorts at times. At the bottom of the food chain. Asking myself if I really belonged there.
Then I started meeting authors, like Lee Child and Harlan Coben and Laura Lippman. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. They welcomed me into the community like I was an old friend. They took their time and chatted with me.
I started feeling better. Then I started seeing familiar faces. The groups at Murderati, The First Offenders, The Good Girls Kill For Money and my own group of bloggers, The Working Stiffs. I know I’m missing plenty and I apologize for that. I felt at home.
My, epiphany was the generousity of the Mystery community. I’m proud to be part of it.
I don’t think I can handle too much more. Truly. I have been on a high since the second I walked in the door of the Sheraton and it should be leveling off by now. But then I read this and here come those tears.
Louise. Thank you. Finally getting to spend some time with you in the real world felt every bit as lovely and perfectly comfortable as I knew it would. Just like catching up with an old and dear friend. Isn’t that amazing? But sad that the catching up moments can’t be more often and for longer spells.
Alex – Thank you, you lovely creature. I’m going to get myself to Raleigh if for no other reason than the fact that you have given this woman’s ego a permanent great ol’ big boost.
Thank you. These sorts of things usually only get said once you’ve died!
It is a huge honor – a HUGE honor – to see my name pop up in Murderati and it was huge to be included in the Murderati gathering. My regret was not being able to hang around for the entire evening to get to know you all better, so can we do it again in Indianapolis??
And who sums it up better than Dusty – “Damn, I love Bouchercon.” Honey – Me Too!!
I am so glad so many of you were able to connect. These conferences are like coming home, seeing the people we play with online, who we read and respect, who we emulate and adore. I was terribly sad to miss it, and am going to break my no conferences in 2009 vow to attend Indianapolis.
Louise, as usual, your poet’s soul gives us wings.
Louise, this a wonderful post. I think that those moments you mentioned are ones that seem so much closer to the heart.
It was a pleasure to finally meet you and the rest of the ‘Rati crew on Saturday. And thanks for giving me a mention in your post. That was very kind of you. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat a bit more.
I have to agree with Will. The generosity and friendliness of everyone was just amazing. The writing community doesn’t care that I’m still unpublished. Everyone made me feel like I belonged.
Dusty (who I saw floating around, but didn’t actually meet) said it all.
Louise,Thank you for this post (Alex and Will have great posts on their blogs as well — and Kaye has been writing up a storm ALL over the place 😉 )
I was only at BCon from late Friday afternoon until the middle of the Anthony luncheon, but every single minute was packed with such warmth and conviviality.
The moments you mentioned are the beautiful snapshots. I’ve got so many, I still haven’t even begun to debrief. From the second I crossed that little catwalk from my hotel to the conference one, I felt absolutely joyful, welcome and loved.
Now, how often does that happen in a group of more than 1400 people?
Oh my. Early morning posters who are still on Baltimore time.
BG: I never, ever thought of myself as “one of the left margin pix!” What a howl. And your ballot counting is forgiven; you tallied up some wonderful winners.
JD: Our conversation Saturday night should have been listed as a moment of epiphany, too. When someone gives you a whole new slant on a situation you thought you knew well … well, that’s simply eye-opening.
Billie, you were missed. I kept looking for “Billie” on name tags (although in truth I wouldn’t have recognized it without the small ‘b’).
Jake, save me a seat next to you at Indianapolis next year. And did you hear that San Francisco won the bid for 2010? Guess where I’ll be.
Alex: I have two more to add to the list. Jason Godwin and Martyn Waites. Nuff said.
Wilfred, I agree. The mystery community is the most warm and welcoming group of folks I’ve ever been associated with.
Kaye, you sweet thing. Let us resolve today to tell someone how wonderful they are, and not wait to say it only after they’re gone.
JT: Do you know how much we missed you? You complete our circle. I hope you’re feeling better.
RJ, just being able to put a face and voice to your posts makes me feel great.
And Joyce, we didn’t even cross paths! Let’s make up for that next year.
As usual, Louise, you capture small moments with such beautiful prose that warms my heart.
One of my best memories of Bcon was my dinner with you, Patty Smiley and Judy Greber. It was an oasis at the end of the weekend, a time to catch up and relax and enjoy each other outside the busy-ness of the convention.
I also loved meeting new people: Alex in her Obama T-shirts that I covet; Jason Goodwin; James Patrick Hunt; James Purcell and Sandy the nurse (I can’t remember her last name); Lauren Henderson; Vicki Hendricks; and especially Kieran Shea, who told me he only read male authors until seeing a blog post I wrote and now he is an avid fan of my books.
Pari, my only regret is that we didn’t get to spend more time together.
And that dinner, Karen? Just fabulous. Especially because we talked about life more than writing.
Someday, I will go to Bouchercon. I’ve wanted to for several years. This is a wonderful tribute to the conference. It’s usually the small, private moments that make a conference memorable for me, too.
Allison, for some reason I would have thought you were an old Bouchercon hand. San Francisco in 2010? How does that sound?
Oh, Louise, that is a stunning image at the top there, and I deeply wish I could have gone this year. It really does sound like a wonderful family gathering.
I had been warned about what to expect at my first Bouchercon, but nothing can truly prepare a newbie for the good spirits and genuine affection shown for everyone’s triumphs. I’m sorry to have missed Louise, JD, and the ‘Rati who were unable to attand; I did meet Zoe at a session, and she was as pleasant and engaging as you’d expect from reading Murderati.
It must be true that crime fiction writers are able to work out their agressions in their writing, because there is not a more pleasant group of people to be found. I’m already counting down the days to Indianapolis.
Toni, you were truly missed. I’m looking forward to the day that we can sit with several adult beverages, tell stories, and cackle together.
And Dana, I’m so glad you had a good time. We’ll plan our Murderati gatherings better next time. I’d love to meet you.
I loved B’con! But I totally missed seeing you all at the Sat. night get together. I was being the sounding board for a friend and didn’t feel it appropriate to leave. However I did see Alex on Cathy Pickens’ panel and on Sat evening in that way cool black t-shirt with the Obama 08 in sparklies (or was it silver studs?).
I was lucky enough to meet Zoe in her and Meg Chittenton’s self-defense session. Both Zoe and Meg were totally charming and extremely funny. Oh, and I learned a few protective moves too.
Louise, I agree about how nice the crime fiction community is. The hotel was full of mystery writers and fans, and everyone was so welcoming. Each person I spoke with, whether author or fan, was courteous and smiling, and I never felt out of place.
Hopefully I’ll get to meet other Murderati bloggers at next spring’s Malice or the next B’con. I think I’m addicted…now that I’ve experienced both, I have to have more!
Becky, it sounds like you really got around! That’s the way to do B’con. Hope to meet you next year.
What a wonderful,wonderful blogpost, Louise! The writer in you is witness to the wonder in the world – and you don’t mind sharing. 😀
I spent two hours yesterday writing and matching photos on my own blog, muse du jour, telling all about my first Bouchercon and first mystery con. Meeting you face to face made it even more special.
Indianapolis is tempting, but San Francisco is a big definite! 😀
Er, Patty Smiley introduced us on Saturday…
I remember our hallway run-in, Marianne. And it was so cool to remember all the blog comments of yours I’d seen this last year or so. (Your own blog summary is terrific. I checked it out this morning.)
Is it really in San Francisco in 2010???? Wow! I’m thrilled. THAT I can do 🙂 Yeah!
There’s the big rush at the beginning–oh, gosh. I don’t know a soul. A thousand strangers. I flicker a glance at nametags. And then–Wait. Even though I’m new, I do know them! And all at once, it’s a blur of hugs and handshakes and suddenly it’s a reunion, not a convention.Thanks, Louise, for a wonderful conversation–there’s so much about you I never would have known! The cabernet in Indianapolis is my treat. (Kaye, you light up my life.)with endless gratitudeHank
Thanks for stopping by my blog, Louise. 😀 Glad you liked it.
It was certainly a treat meeting you. Looking forward to doing so again. 😀
Allison, you’re on. It’ll be a party in San Francisco.
Hank, you jewel. You even found me …wiithout a namtag … In the restroom! You were surely one of the highlights of my weekend.
And Marianne, you write a terrific blog!
A bit late to the party, but…
What a lovely post, Louise, thanks. And many thanks for your support in the runup to the decision on where to hold Bcon 2010.
Someone described San Francisco as “49 square miles surrounded by reality”. I think the same description can be easily applied to Bcon – in the best possible way.