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.
“…and the increasingly mysterious Mike McLean (who I am beginning to suspect is an alter ego of G’s).”
I really tried to have a snappy comeback to this—something about ripping off the façade of a mild-mannered teacher by day to become an outrageous screenwriter by night, costumed in a shroud of loud Hawaiian fabric. But I’m too damn tired.
“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.”
You mean readers aren’t idiots like me? Crap. My career is doomed.
Sorry, Mike, but you know you’re going to be teased unmercifully until you show up at one of these things so we can tease you in person.
No joke about the readers, though. We all better be writing to our maximum potential, always.
I really enjoyed this conference. For me, LCC has always been the kinder, gentler Bcon. Plus, they aren’t stealing money.
LCC in Pasadena, Monterey, and El Paso (from what I heard) were all outstanding, a perfect balance of writer-to-writer and writer-to-reader episodes.
And Seattle was terrific. There were some panels that left something to be desired, but that always happens. What I really dug about this LCC was the vibe. There was a great, low-key, let’s just hang out tip going on.
No egos (compared to other cons), no crazy fans (except Hawley’s), and no agendas.
And Seattle itself is a very cool town.
Alex, you looked pretty damned plugged in to me.
But you’re oh so right about the caliber of mystery readers. Either those who attend cons like LCC or those who haunt the aisles of independent bookstores. These guys are scary smart. Spooky well-read. And really fun to hang around with.
I’ve met Mike. He’s tall, dark and handsome, wickedly funny, and a sweetheart to boot. Hmmm… does sound a bit like G.
Alex, I feel that way at these conferences, that sometimes the readers know more about what I’m doing than I do. I learn from the readers, which is why I sit back on the threads and lurk. Listening at a conference is the smartest move any writer can make.
Hmm… is it too late to change my career path? I want to be a reader.
(Actually I’m having a good writing day but still looking longingly at my new TBR pile from Seattle…)
It was great to see you at LCC – and yeah, it was a great conference. Worlds of fun, and Seattle is one of my very favorite towns, right up there with Paris.
And now we get to look forward to New York in July….
Hey, Rae! I was so happy to see you there – but it was all way too short. New York for sure – I can’t wait!!!
Alex,You’re right about the readers at LCC; they’re astounding. When they start talking books, I shut up.
As to the vibe — I felt sort of flat all weekend, but that was probably a function of being food poisoned (no, it wasn’t a virus . . . I wouldn’t have been able to function after the night from hell).
Alex, the point you bring up about NOT being the center of attention is a good one. I think too many authors go to cons expecting to be regaled — when the real fun is in the synchonistic experiences and conversations that happen in the bar, hospitality room or restaurant.
Alex, honey – you’d be ‘plugged in’ no matter where you go – but you’re right – readers are the ‘stars’ of any convention – and meeting them and hearing what they have to say is important. Thanks to a screwed up flight schedule – I only managed one and one-third days at LCC – but even in that short time I managed to connect with many friends and enough readers to make it worth the trip.
Alex, this is such a great post! You’ve truly nailed what was so wonderful about this gathering of people.
I really really enjoyed talking with you in Seattle. Am STILL not feeling quite clued in to life, but I think it’s more due to lack of sleep than anything else (plus a sick kid who is sleeping even less than I am).
Hope I get to see you in NYC, too….