Bouchercon Toronto Recap

With Dru Ann Love (Dru’s Book Musings) and Kristopher Zgorski (BOLO Books)

I’ve been a member of the Bouchercon 2017 volunteer committee since 2015, meeting quarterly at first, and then escalating to monthly. While my contributions were far less than co-chairs Helen Nelson and Janet Costello, this past 2 1/2 years has opened my eyes to the sheer volume of work that goes on behind the scenes to put on a four-day 100% volunteer run conference like Bouchercon. It was an invaluable experience and one that I will treasure always.

My books in the book room!

But what about the conference itself? What can I say? At last count, there were more than 1,700 attendees, of which approximately 33% were authors, including NYT bestsellers like Louise Penny, Maureen Jennings and Megan Abbott, as well as folks like me (not yet on the NYT list…but hope springs eternal).

CWC had a significant presence at Bouchercon. (L to R) Member Jim Napier, RCMP Officer Julie Meeks, CWC Past President Rick Blechta, CWC Chair Cathy Ace.

For my part, I was able to take my turn manning the Sisters in Crime – Toronto table, the Crime Writers of Canada table, and the Crime Writers of Canada hospitality suite. These are great opportunities to meet and greet other authors, and introduce readers to  SinC, CWC, and of course, my books.

I also had the opportunity to moderate (my first time as a moderator) a panel of reviewers: Margaret Cannon (Globe & Mail), Steve Steinbock (Ellery Queen; AudioFile Magazine), Marsali Taylor (Mystery People; Mystery Readers), Erica Ruth Neubauer (Publishers Weekly, Crimespree, Mystery Scene), and Andrew Gulli (The Strand Magazine). We had a tough time slot: 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Sunday—trust me when I tell you that an early morning panel on the last day of a four-day conference is not ideal. Fortunately, the strength of the panel drew people in, and we pretty much had a full house. I wasn’t perfect, and I might do some things differently if I ever have another opportunity, but overall, it went really well. The thing I’m most proud of? Two years ago, I was terrified to speak in public, and there I was, moderating a panel of esteemed reviewers in front of a packed room!

Inside MacKenzie house on the Ghost Walk tour

One of my favorite moments was leading the Ghost Walk tour on Wednesday night. It was damn cold, and a wee bit drizzly, but I learned about Toronto’s “ghost subway stations,” AND I actually saw where Samuel Lount was hanged for treason! Readers of THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE will understand why that was such a thrill for me.

View from my hotel room

The hardest thing (besides the sheer sense of exhaustion as the days and hours start to blend together) for a solitary loner type like me is the crowds, but thankfully I’m well familiar with Toronto, having been born and raised there, so I was able to escape during lunch times and walk around downtown. Sure, there are crowds there, too, but in typical big city fashion, it’s pretty easy to blend in and become anonymous. For the moment, at least, you don’t have to be “on.”

Gibbs sleeping at my feet.

My next conference is Left Coast Crime in Reno, March 2018. For now, I am just happy to be back home, and I think Gibbs is happy to have me here.




11 responses to “Bouchercon Toronto Recap

  1. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Carol. It was very rewarding.

  2. Bravo for being part of making this happen and sharing it here! 🙂

  3. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Great comment, thanks. I’ll correct the post. Good to know a reader’s perspective as well.

  4. Quick comment — in the end about 1/3 of the attendees were authors — as the panels were published the numbers of readers grew, while authors stayed about the same, even shrunk a bit.

    And huge though Bouchercon is, we readers love it because while we get to see our best selling faves, it is also a chance to meet so many new to us authors — more than any other con!

  5. Kristina Stanley

    That’s a possibility!

  6. Judy Penz Sheluk

    I am definitely planning on going to LCC Vancouver. Have never been to B.C. and will add a bit of time to be a tourist.

  7. Hi Judy, kudos to you for volunteering. It is a lot of work, and yes, Bouchercon’s always been a bit too large for my tastes, but I hope to see you at LCC here in Vancouver in 2019!!

  8. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Hi Jennifer, yes Bouchercons are massive. Other conferences, like Malice and Left Coast Crime, are much smaller. It is easy, as a midlist/low-list author, to get swallowed up by the big names at Bouchercon, and it at 4 days long, it’s quite exhausting. I actually prefer a smaller conference, but since Toronto is my home patch, and I’m on the Board for Crime Writers of Canada, I really had to be there.

  9. Sounds like you had a great time. I wish I could have been there, but WOW what a turnout! I had no idea it was so large.

  10. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Hopefully I’ll see you at Left Coast Crime Vancouver 2019.

  11. Kristina Stanley

    Now you’re making me wish I went to the conference.

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