The title is misleading. I'm not only a Bouchercon virgin, I'm a mystery conference virgin in general.
But all that will change in one week.
Next week I'm on my very first panel at Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee. It should be a piece of cake since it is a one day event. However, a little over a week later I'm off to the four-day extravaganza we call Bouchercon. This year it is in Long Beach, the place of so many memories for me. (See here.)
Here are the problems* I'm anticipating and I welcome any advice on them:
INTROVERTS NEED NOT APPLY. I've been worrying a little bit about how a fairly introverted writer like myself can possibly be social and witty and charming for four days straight. (I can't.) I will need to go lock myself in a small room by myself periodically to recharge. And that's okay. I'm assuming it's okay to go AWOL during the conference.
BARTENDER I'LL HAVE ANOTHER. Since I first heard about Bouchercon, I've been told that most of the socializing goes on in the bar. Now, I love my booze. But I also have a teeny tiny problem that sometimes crops up when I drink - migraines. Sometimes I can drink four vodkas and wake up as cheery as WHO ON WHO. Other times, I have one drink and it triggers a puking-all-day-long, hiding-from-the-light-like-a-vampire, skull crushing migraine that lasts 12 hours. In this area, I guess all I can do is hope for the best.
LA BELLA FIGURA. I've been fretting for months about my wardrobe. I had a veteran, very distinguished and accomplished mystery writer take me under his wing and warn me to not dress in jeans at BCon. He suggested I dress as professionally as possible. I have a cute collection of dresses to wear based on his advice, but now I also don't want to look OVERDRESSED. Quelle horreur! In addition, I've been invited to a HarperCollins cocktail party (Swoon!) and now have to bring a LBD. I love dressing nice, but I also want to fit in.
BOOKS. At first I was worried about how I was going to get all the books home I would buy at BCon. (No worries, they ship.) But now I'm worried about how my bank account is going to recover from this book orgy.
FOOT IN MOUTH. Some people ask if I'm like my character, Gabriella. In some ways, yes. In some ways, no. One way I'm a little like her but much, much worse, is having the knack of making a fool of myself. I'm petrified I'm going to say something totally asinine to somebody like Stephen King or something.
Anyway, that's just a smidgen of the things I'm worried about and welcome advice on from any veteran BCon attendees.
* The word “Problems” is utterly misleading. I am not a diva. This entire post is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek!
I think it's awesome that you get to go to a smaller conference before BCon. I was able to do that as well and it made a HUGE difference. I think most of the advice people give about attending these things is crap, but the worst is that bit about business casual.
Dress comfortable and dress fun. This isn't the annual meeting of the National Accountants Association. These are people who kill folks for fun and play in their imaginations all day. I wear jeans and superhero t-shirts all the time and keep getting invited back and most others are like me. Have a look around at the BCon pics online and you'll get a better idea of what people really wear.
Also, yes, the bar is big, but so is the hotel lobby and hallway. And just because you're in the bar doesn't mean you have to drink. A lot of people don't. I rarely do any more because I'm old and it makes me tired.
This piece from Sarah Weinman is brilliant about how to survive BCon.
I've attended three B'cons ('08, '11, and '13). It does pay to pace yourself, so feel free to duck into your room if needed. I've found that people's energy keeps me going, but I also like sleep.
I'm not much of a drinker. It's fine to sit at a bar or restaurant and chat while others drink what they will.
I recommend you dress comfortably and keep some snacks and water handy as you may be on your feet a lot and forget the last time you ate or drank.
Most of all, enjoy. :)
I look forward to reading your report. California! T'would be difficult to stay indoors. Beachfront con anyone?
Thanks for weighing in, guys! I'm obsessively plotting which panels to go to and counting the days!
Going to these things is like being a new parent -- drink and nap whenever you can.
Comfortable shoes, baby, comfortable shoes. Pace yourself. And the advice about not worrying so much about the dress code is good. Dress distinctively well but comfortable. You'll see successful authors in jeans and untucked t-shirts. It's the millionaire ones that show up in open collared shirts and sport jackets but they don't stick around for a lot of the convention.
The real key is to meet people and have someone say, "A bunch of us are going to find dinner. Want to come?" Make that happen the first night and you're golden.
Kristi, you are going to be fine. ;)
Don't stress over the dress. People are more casual than you have been lead to believe. Certainly for the cocktail party and maybe for the opening ceremonies (and the awards one day when you are nominated), but beyond that, looking nice is all that is needed.
Don't try to do everything. You will want to, but you must remember to take some downtime as well.
The bar serves other things besides alcohol. And yes, lots of networking happens there, but it's not the only way to meet people. Check out the lobby and the hospitality suite. Get to panels early and say hi to some of the folks in the room.
Most of all, just have fun. See you there!
It'll be my first time to. I'm pretending not to be excited, but failing.
I'll be wearing jeans the whole time. Probably comfortable canvas shoes, too. My plan is to stay within ten feet of the bar for four days and to say hello to a lot of people.
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