One thing I particularly love about this new author’s life (there isn’t really much that I don’t love, except the stress…) is the traveling. That’s something I never expected. I’ve always traveled a lot for research (have to, since I can’t seem to set anything anywhere that I actually LIVE). But the business traveling you end up doing as an author is a whole other dimension.
I don’t know how the convention system evolved… that would be interesting to research for another post, actually… but I have to say it’s pure genius on someone’s part. Every quarter, or two months, or if you’re really insane, and some of us are – every month) – you go to some interesting city in some different state to meet up with other authors and readers and publishing people and crime experts, for education, promotion, business, networking and partying.
There are so many great and life-saving things about this system I don’t even know how to start. For one thing, It’s a perfect balance to the rest of the author’s life, which consists pretty much exclusively of sitting in a chair and moving your fingers and stretching once in a while and letting strange things happen in your head. After two or three straight months of that, you need the sensory, visual, emotional, social stimulation of a con. I mean, think of what we would be like if we DIDN’T have that kind of balance? Oversized fungi, that’s what I think.
The promise of conventions is the carrot that keeps me in that chair, writing. But a con is not just a physical and social blowout (although it certainly is that!). It’s also pure business, in the most pleasurable way it can be done. We meet hundreds of people who are there for the precise purpose of meeting new authors and finding new books to read – in the genre that we write in. We go to different regions of the country (and different countries), so we’re expanding our readership and recognition in different areas. Our editors and agents and other members of our publishing teams; and bookstore owners and reviewers are all there, too –everyone we need to check in with on a regular basis is right there – in the seat next to you, in the elevator, across the table, in the bar.
It’s of course a mega-relief to be around other authors, who think nothing of your strange behavior because they’ve got all the same quirks of their own, and who can solve your story and business problems almost by osmosis – just about anyone you meet at one of these things has been through the precise struggle you may be going through at the time and is happy to share wisdom. They’re equally willing to stay out with you all night and perform criminal acts of Karaoke, if that’s your particular pleasure.
And more and more I’m starting to appreciate the educational aspect of these cons. This first year I was so busy meeting people that I rarely made it to any workshops and panels. But in Anchorage, this Bouchercon, there was such a great lineup of forensics experts in the “CSI Alaska” track (and I’m writing a police procedural, now) that I just had to take advantage. And yes, true to convention magic, I got every single bit of the information I needed for my next chapters just by randomly going to these workshops…
But the other side of conventions that is truly genius is that we end up going to so many different places, all over the country. I was going to write about Alaska, today, but I’ve got such a bad head cold I was resisting it. Then when I sat down to write I realized the problem wasn’t my fever, but that I’m not ready to write about Alaska yet. It made such a huge impression on me I’m still processing, and will be for months. It is so different from anywhere I’ve ever been before – a bizarre and astoundingly beautiful mix of Gold Rush, frontier anarchy and shamanic spirituality and criminals and seekers – in this breathtaking world of ice and Alp-like peaks and endless expanses of water and very, very large creatures. There’s no place like it anywhere, and what an amazing setting for a book.
We only get a taste of these places at conventions, but I think we get enough of a taste for an idea to take root, and possibly grow into a future story.
So all hail to whoever dreamed up this convention circuit, and to everyone who’s built it into the support system and inspirational/educational experience that it is. If it did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.
Now, I’ve covered a lot of ground this year, and have the Frequent Flyer miles to prove it, but I’m still so new to this that I thought I’d ask everyone – what have been some of your favorite cons and workshops, for the overall experience or for the setting or the quirkiness or for whatever?
That’ll give me something fun to read while I’m languishing in bed, today, thanks!