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.
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).
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!
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.
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.”
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.