Sunday, March 23, 2008

Conference Calls

This is the week of the 14th Annual Virginia Festival of the Book! Starting Wednesday, Charlottesville, Virginia comes alive with five days of mostly free literary events that are open to the public as the whole city honors book culture and promotes reading and literacy. The Festival includes a whole mystery-suspense track called Crime Wave, and I’m privileged to be part of it again this year. Saturday afternoon I’ll be on a panel called, "Life on the Streets with Cops and PIs" alongside some impressive names like my pals Libby Hellmann (past president of Sisters in Crime) and Shamus winner Andy Straka. You’d think I’d be totally focused on such a wonderful chance.

But this week I was meeting with Ruth Jordan of Crimespree fame to get involved with the final planning of a conference that will be an hour away from my house and won’t happen until October. Why?

Well, the VA Festival is a major deal in my state, but for mystery writers and fans, Bouchercon is the Superbowl of conferences. When you get asked to get involved with setting up or fielding volunteers, it means you’re truly part of the mystery community.

Also, Bouchercon is likely to draw 3,000 or so mystery fans to Baltimore this fall, fans who will need hotel rooms, goodie bags, schedules and directions. I don’t imagine the Democratic National Convention is any harder to put together. There’s a lot to be figured out and a lot to be done. A lot of the people doing it are pals of mine, and some live across country from here. How could I not offer to lend a hand?

And finally there are perks that only my fellow criminal minds could understand. The chance to meet and chat with my heroes and role models. Lunch or dinner with the best authors in my genre. Getting to exchange e-mail addresses with the people who may one day blurb my novel or mention me in passing to the right publisher.

These conferences take place all over the country - Love is Murder, Deadly Ink, Magna Cum Murder, Left Coast Crime.... I could go on for hours, but here’s the point. If you love mystery, if you love writing or if you just love the writers, get involved. When a conference calls, answer it! Those panels don’t happen by themselves, and the rewards for helping to pull something like that off simply can’t be measured.

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