Madison in the rear window
The Sunday of BoucherCon is a tail-end kind of a time, with panels going on but a distinctly autumnal feeling in the air. I rudely invited myself into a car headed for the airport in Chicago at a more useful time than the one I had originally intended to share with Les Klinger, and heartlessly abandoned Les to a solitary drive instead of spending six hours on my own in Oâ€™Hare.
Instead, we drove up to a vacation spot called the Wisconsin Dells that one of our party remembered as an idyllic scenic spot, which over the past four decades has been transformed into a ticky-tacky wonderland of pirate theme parks, dinosaur theme parks, water slides, and the very worst American culture has to offer. There was no way to the river that wasnâ€™t in private hands, no hiking trail or picnic spot other than one scruffy patch of hillside in the town of Wisconsin Dells that was surrounded by a rusty barbed wire fence.
Not only can one not go home again, really, one shouldnâ€™t try.
I reached home three hours late, following delays at Chicago that forced a stop in Denver for refueling (modern life is certainly complicated) followed by the nonappearance of the car Iâ€™d booked, delayed by having to wait for the AAA to give it a jump. Fortunately, once started it continued to run. Even more fortunately, when I got home I found the place still standing and everyone where they should be.
So, was BoucherCon a success, from the LRK point of view? Absolutely. People whoâ€™d never heard of me had me sign books for them, a thing that always astonishes meâ€”not that there are people who donâ€™t read my stuff, since really, who can please everyone, but that despite 14 years, 17 books, and an aggressive commercial publisher, there can be mystery readers who apparently havenâ€™t heard of Laurie King. Faithful readers had a chance to tell me how great I was, so I had the opportunity to practice my graciousness skills. I saw friends, met new people, had the opportunity for an extended conversation with six of those faithful readers. I sat in the sun with my British publisher and ate a plate of the best French toast Iâ€™ve ever had, and sat in an Italian restaurant and drank beer with two of the best friends Iâ€™ve ever made. I learned things about publishing, came away with other ways of looking at my job, and was reminded of the tight community weâ€™ve somehow constructed around a loosely-knit center.
BoucherCon can be lonely for first-timers, especially if they havenâ€™t learned the art of walking up to strangers with outstretched hand. But it gets better and better with experience, and even for newcomers, thereâ€™s a ton to learn and to do.
So look at this, and weâ€™ll see you there.