Writing Wednesday — conferences and conventions

Brass desk lamp with green shade, desk, binder open to a printed manuscript
Leslie’s desk

Later this week, many readers, authors, and others in the mystery community will be gathering in Tucson for Left Coast Crime, the fan convention held in late winter or spring every year, somewhere in the western part of the US or Canada. (Next year, Seattle!)

LCC was the first “con” I ever attended, eons ago. The fan conventions like LCC, Bouchercon, and Malice Domestic are opportunities for readers to meet authors, as well as for authors and aspiring writers to connect with each other and with booksellers, librarians, reviewers, and others in the community. They are distinct from writers’ conferences, which focus on the craft and business of writing. (Some fan conventions do offer a one-day writing workshop the day before the con begins.)

It’s that reader focus that I love. Programming varies, but the schedule is always full of panel discussions on a range of topics and interviews with the guests of honor. Some include “speed dating” (at Malice, it’s called the Malice Go-Round), where teams of authors go from table to table filled with readers, introducing ourselves and our books and sharing bookmarks and other goodies, in less than two minutes!

Some of the best moments have been chance conversations in the book dealers’ room, the bar, or the coffee shop line. I’ve begun long friendships in the airport shuttle, asked a woman I didn’t know to snug up the back zipper of my dress in the elevator and ended up chatting for an hour, heard about books that were new to me, met fans I didn’t know I had, and so much more.

Writers not yet published may wonder if the fan cons are useful. They are. You may not meet editors or agents — they attend, but are meeting with their own clients, not holding scheduled pitch sessions, although you may strike up a lovely conversation that leads to a connection later. You’ll learn a tremendous amount in the panels about writing and publishing. You’ll begin creating a network, getting to know the community. You’ll come home with ideas for your WIP and six more and a stack of books as tall as you are. All good, right?

Each con has its own flavor. LCC is casual. Malice focuses on the traditional mystery (including the cozy, but not limited to it). Bouchercon is the “world mystery convention” and it’s huge. All are volunteer organizations. Malice stays put in Bethesda, MD; LCC and Bouchercon, usually held in September or October, move around. I love helping stuff book bags if I arrive a day early or volunteering some other way — it’s a great way to meet people and keep the wheels moving.

Whether you’re a reader, writer, or both, consider it. And I promise, you don’t have to be an extravert to have a good time!

Going to Left Coast Crime in Tucson next week? Let’s talk! I’ll be participating in Author Speed Dating Thursday morning, on the food and drink panel Friday at 4:00 (wrapping up just in time for happy hour!), and moderating a discussion of political and social issues in crime fiction at 10:15 Saturday morning. Cozy author Emmeline Duncan and I are co-hosting a banquet table that evening, and we’d love to have you join us!

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