What I did over Labor Day Weekend

BoucherCon is always a somewhat otherworldly experience, with a couple thousand mystery fans tripping over each other for four days and continually coming around the corner and seeing a familiar face, a thing that happens about once every ten years in the rural area where I live. This year’e2’80’99s conference was odder than usual, because the other conference going on at the Chicago Sheraton was the St Vincent de Paul society, often in the next room. The name badges were oddly similar, from a distance, so you found yourself studying a group of five or ten smiling individuals coming at you and wondering which they were. The men were easier to guess, because there aren’e2’80’99t a whole lot of mystery fans who dress in polyester slacks and striped polo shirts, but the women were less of a sure thing. The only people I would have bet on were the monk (theirs) and the guy in the kilt (ours).

I always begin the conference with the best of intentions, marking up my printout of the panels so I know what I’e2’80’99d like to go hear’e2’80’94based mostly on participants, rarely on the subject. A lot of writers don’e2’80’99t even try to make panels, but I like to hear friends speak, or sometimes to hear people I don’e2’80’99t know but whose work I enjoy.

Or that’e2’80’99s the original idea, anyway, except that things tend to go south fast, and on my way to a panel I’e2’80’99ll see a friend and go to coffee instead. (I drink a lot of coffee at BoucherCon.) Or I’e2’80’99ll realize I haven’e2’80’99t had lunch and it’e2’80’99s three in the afternoon so I buy a sandwich and take it outside, only to get waylaid by a couple of booksellers and dragged into the bookroom for an hour or two of gossip.

The few panels I did get to were well run, by which I mean, the moderator actually moderated instead of dominating the entire hour, and seemed to have a) read the people on the panel and b) thought about the questions s/he was posing. I heard about a couple of nightmare panels, the sort of experience that seems to drag on for painful hours, but saw none.

My own panel was great. Dana Stabenow moderated, on the topic of how to keep a series fresh, with Charlene Harris, Gillian Roberts, and Barbara Seranella (who looked physically frail after her liver transplant earlier this summer, but unflagging in spirit’e2’80’94she handed out onions with the label, Thanks, but I’e2’80’99ll keep the liver. Black humor, BoucherCon style.)

I saw my editor a couple of times, for a talk about THE ART OF DETECTION and later a dinner with publishers, publicists, and other writers. The next night a bunch of us had a gorgeous meal at an open-air Greek restaurant followed by a walk through town, ending up at Millennium Park, packed with kids playing in the high-tech fountain. I had breakfast every morning with Dana, a good friend who lives too far away, a hugely restorative hour on the hotel’e2’80’99s riverside terrace with Margaret Maron and her husband, two of the world’e2’80’99s Good People, and a snatched half hour with SJ Rozan as we were both getting ready to leave. I managed brief chats with a dozen others, briefer hugs and greetings with a couple dozen more. And in all this, I even managed to raise a chunk of cash for the conference’e2’80’99s chosen charity, by having a character name auctioned off. I don’e2’80’99t know that I would have paid what the two ladies did for their friend’e2’80’99s birthday present, but I was relieved when the name turned out to be easy to incorporate.

So, I am back home, the cats are beginning to leave off with the cold shoulder, and I can begin to think about England in two weeks. If you’e2’80’99d like to check out the action at BoucherCon, go to Sarah Weinman’e2’80’99s blog and go through her references. And next year, you might like to join in.

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  1. Mary on September 6, 2005 at 7:31 pm

    There are also pictures up at Flickr http://www.flickr.com/groups/bouchercon/ . Anyone with a Flickr account can add to them, just join the group. And sometime this week I’ll be addding pictures (including a very nice one of Laurie) to my website. Just haven’t had the time to go through and edit everything.

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