In Pari’s illustrated wake I am going to try to sum up my own conference experience, feeling some obligation to report to those who weren’t able to make it. It was a highly productive conference for me even though I had the odd feeling of never quite being – well, plugged in is what I’m thinking – to it.
At first I thought it was because I was very low energy, having just crawled out of my once-a-year drop-dead January flu. And it’s not like I didn’t have a great time (anyone who can’t have a good time partying with mystery authors and readers in a city as gorgeous as Seattle should seriously be checking themselves for a pulse.)
And what is “plugged in”, anyway? Do I really have to run around rehearsing a show ten hours a day (ThrillerFest, Writers for New Orleans) or staying up till four in the morning, changing clothes every two hours to keep people entertained, and inciting men to jump naked into a sub-zero lake (Bouchercon) to feel “plugged in”?
I had the usual magical conference synchronicities – starting with my first rule of conference synchronicity: the first person I will run into at a con is Donna Andrews,this time at my gate at Dulles; and ending with being swept up on Sunday night and taken to a spectacular dinner by a fabulous force of 4 MAers, including adorable Lefty winner Donna Moore.
I had my cherished early morning workout time, in a 28th floor glassed-in gym with a stupefying view of the Sound, the Cascades and the spooky, spooky fog.
I did a standing-room-only panel, first in the program, with a great lineup of sister paranormal crossovers: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Jana Oliver, Linda Joy Singleton and Kat Richardson, that kick-started my conference and kept people coming up to me to chat all weekend long.
THE HARROWING sold out at all the dealer booths and I had to sell them more from my private stash to keep them supplied (new conference rule to remember: You can NEVER bring enough extra books…)
I got to hang with all the ‘Rati except JT (will have to make a trip to Nashville to compensate) and the increasingly mysterious Mike McLean (who I am beginning to suspect is an alter ego of G’s).
I was thrilled to meet and spend some quality time with Diane and Michael Kovacs and Kara Robinson, the visionary founders of Dorothy L. I was just entranced by their history and stories, and by them as people.
I found the Seattle Mystery Bookshop not only has a fabulous staff, but a resident ghost.
I even saw enough of Seattle (especially the dramatic weather variations) to get my location fix. I will definitely be using this city in a couple of upcoming projects.
And that’s just the merest taste of all the wonderful things that happened. So why did I not feel completely at the center of things?
Well, here’s a stunning thought: I wasn’t the center of things. LCC is a READER conference. Sure, there were plenty of us author types hanging around, but really this conference, more than any other I’ve been to, is by and for readers. It’s their show. And once I realized that, I stopped feeling like I was doing something wrong and just went with that flow. After all, I’ve read some books in my time. But holy bookbags, Batman – these people are pros. They know first lines. They know minor characters and subplots. They can name an author from a single sentence read aloud. They can identify the type of mystery plot at the heart of each Harry Potter book. They have their own personal stories that make my sometimes out-of-control life look sheltered.
Seriously, if I had had any idea of the caliber of this reading audience when I set out to write a book, I would have been far too intimidated to start. I am not worthy. But so, I just shut up, and listened – and that’s when I really started to feel part of things.
And that is the true gem I took away from this conference. I need to approach writing with the same reverence that readers approach reading. A book, and these incredible readers, deserve no less.