Thursday, May 22, 2014

5 Tips for Getting the Most out of Bouchercon

by Gigi Pandian

Named for mystery author and editor Anthony Boucher, Bouchercon is the big convention for fans of mystery fiction. It takes place each autumn, and the location bounces around the world. Mystery readers and writers gather to talk mystery, meet their favorite authors, discover new books, and generally have a good time.

Juilet Blackwell, Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield
at Bouchercon 2009 in Indianapolis.
I attended my first Bouchercon five years ago, in 2009. I was taking my writing more seriously, but I wasn't yet published. Two author pals suggested I attend Bouchercon with them. I admit it sounded a bit daunting, because I knew only a handful people in the mystery community, and there were going to be over 1,000 people attending. But I figured as a huge fan of mysteries, I owed it to myself to check it out. It turned out I had such a great time that I've been back multiple times, and can't wait for this year's convention! Murder at the Beach takes place in Long Beach, CA, from November 13-16, 2014.

For those of you thinking about registering but who haven't yet done so because of reservations such as the ones I initially had, here's what I can tell you to put your mind at ease:

5 Tips for Getting the Most out of Bouchercon

1. Realize that many mystery writers and readers are introverts, so you're not alone! The vast majority of us are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones when we attend big conventions. But everyone I've met over the years has been friendly, so with only a small amount of effort, you'll find yourself with new friends in no time.

In the photo directly below, taken at Boucheron 2012 in Cleveland, I hadn't met half the lovely women in the photograph before that weekend, but by the time I flew home, I thought of them as friends.

Gigi Pandian, Juliet Blackwell, Victoria Laurie,
Chantelle Aimée Osman, Susan Boyer, Lesa Holstine
at Bouchercon in Cleveland..

2. Though the schedule is jam-packed with fabulous programming, you shouldn't feel you have to do everything. Take time for coffee breaks with new friends, as well as solitary breaks back in your hotel room to recharge. Truly. Give your brain at least a little bit of time each day to rest. You might even get out of the hotel and see some of the sights in the city you're visiting. (This year they've got some cool organized tours.)

Bouchercon is a lot bigger than mystery conventions like Malice Domestic (celebrating traditional mysteries) and Left Coast Crime (the West Coast's mystery con), meaning there's so much to see and do -- but also that it's even more important to take a break. 

Mysti Berry, Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield. 

Meeting online friends in person.

3. As soon as you arrive, look through the program book and circle the events you want to be sure to attend. That way you can be sure to get in the good stuff you want to see, such as a panel on a topic that interests you or an interview with one of your favorite authors. Trust me. If you don't write it down on paper or put it in your phone calendar, you'll miss things you meant to see. I've done this multiple times, so I need to follow my own advice!

4. Once you've figured out everything you absolutely must attend, be open to new experiences. One of the reasons I had such a good time at my first Bouchercon was because I had no expectations. I didn't have a book out to promote, so I was attending to see what the convention was all about. I loved picking up bookmarks from new authors, having hallway conversations with people as passionate about mysteries as I was, and meeting interesting people at the bar. None of  those things were formal parts of the program, yet they were core parts of the Bouchercon experience. 

Opening ceremonies of Bouchercon in Cleveland
at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

5. Don't forget to look over the attendee list. The long weekend will be over before you know it, and you want to be sure to connect with people you might not have another opportunity to see. Be it saying hello to a favorite author at their signing, or meeting up with a friend you know through an online mystery discussion group, making a checklist of names in advance is helpful. 

I hope to see you at this year's convention


Dana King said...

My situation was almost identical to yours, though a year sooner: my first was 2008 in Baltimore. Now I scope out that week as time off from work as early as they'll let me. All of your ideas are spot on.

Kristi said...

Now I'm even more excited to attend. There are so many wonderful people I want to meet in person, including Guppies I've known online for years, like you! So fun! Great article!

Dru said...

You have good tips, some of which I do. Thanks!

Gigi Pandian said...

Dana -- the one thing I wish I had more time for is going early. I won't be there until Thursday morning this year. Oh well! It'll still be fun :)

Gigi Pandian said...

Yay -- Hope to see you there, Kristi!

Gigi Pandian said...

Dru -- Now I just need to remember to follow my own advice once I'm at Bouchercon ;)

Grandma Cootie said...

This will be my first convention, so looking forward to it. Thanks for the tips!

Gigi Pandian said...

I don't know yet when I'll be signing or what panel I'll be on, but I hope you'll stop by to say hello!

Mysti Berry said...

Perfect! Can't wait to see you in Long Beach!!!!!

Susan O'Brien said...

Great tips, Gigi! I look forward to attending this convention when possible, and I hope to see you there! :)