Saturday, May 31, 2014

Looking Back -- and Looking Forward -- to Bouchercon

All destinations begin with a journey. My trip to Albany, New York, for Bouchercon 2013 was no exception, though in this case, that journey was also an adventure.

Last autumn, I took Amtrak from Savannah, Georgia to New York. It was my second Bouchercon (my first being the most excellent adventure in Cleveland), but this was my first time taking a train on an overnight journey.

I know now why so many mysteries are written on trains. There’s something about the lulling sway and the rhythmic thrum of the wheels that fertilizes the imagination. The world lopes by on the other side of the window, like a story unspooling itself. The setting is ever-changing –  whether through dim-dark sleeping towns or bright wilderness. And then there are your fellow passengers, travelers on their own journeys, mysterious and unknowable as constellations, and just as delightful to ponder.

When I got to Albany and stepped once again onto terra firma, I still felt the swaying of the train in every step. Perhaps that’s why Bouchercon 2013 plays in my memory like a Hitchcock movie. Not that there were any errant corpses or crimes to solve (alas). There were, however, many of my writerly heroines – Sue Grafton! Margaret Maron! – and they glowed like starlets to me, larger than life even when they were sitting next to me on the shuttle bus. Everyone I met seemed to be carrying a secret mystery – the restaurateur who was once an undercover cop, the barista at the coffee shop who also was a blackbelt in an exotically obscure martial art. And what better place than Bouchercon to get into a mysterious frame of mind.

I brought home many memories from that trip – meeting writers I admire, meeting readers, gathering with the best and the brightest talents in this genre to talk about why crime fiction matters. I got books signed, networked a little, fangirled a lot. But – as always – the real treasure I brought home was the reminder that the mystery community is composed of some of the friendliest, smartest, and most generous people in the literary world.

It’s the journey, they say, not the destination. Bouchercon, however, is both, rolled into one amazing experience. I’ll be taking a plane this time, touching down in Long Beach come November. But I know I’ll still be as dazzled, as delighted, as dizzy with excitement as I was last year.

And I hope to see you there.

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