by Shari Randall
Bouchercon, the world mystery conference, was held in Toronto last weekend. It brings together the many tribes of the mystery world: the cozies, the thrillers, the traditionalists, the classicists, the paranormals, the kids. Novelists, short story writers, collectors, vendors, publishing pros, readers, academics, and super fans from all over the world joined together to celebrate our genre. Women with tattoos and cardigans, guys in skinny jeans and bespoke suits, formal wear and t-shirts – everyone was welcome at the Sheraton Toronto Hotel for the party. Organizers Janet Costello and Helen Nelson and their team did a splendid job.
Oh, Canada! The inside of one hotel is very much like another, but occasionally a Canadianism would remind me that I wasn’t in the US any more. Canadians sensibly, I think, call rest rooms “washrooms.” The money took a bit of thought, but most American conference-goers appreciated the beautiful and high tech Canadian currency. Tim Horton’s, Canada’s answer to Dunkin Donuts, wasn’t bad. (What can I say – I’m from New England. We like our Dunkin.)
Like every mystery conference I’ve been to, Bouchercon was a case of too many panels and too little time. My own Bouchercon battle plan was over four pages of scribbled appointments, panels, parties, and interviews.
The only time I left the hotel was for the St. Martin’s party, in the bar of the beautiful Restaurante Lena, and for high tea at the Library Bar of the Fairmont Hotel. High tea is one of my favorite things to do – just look at me hoisting a cup of tea in my photo on the WWK landing page. The Library Bar’s clubby ambience, top notch food, and overstuffed seating puts it at the top of my all time favorite teas. Plus I got to see Art Taylor in a fascinator, and that doesn’t happen every day.
At every mystery conference I go to, I uncover more layers of mystery’s fandoms. This year I met some members of the Wolfe Pack, the devotees of the gourmet genius, Nero Wolfe, his sidekick Archie Goodwin, and his creator, Rex Stout. This always-sold-out event pays homage to the gourmet/gourmand detective with a lavish feast replete with wine, merriment, and song.
The Guppy Get Together! Dozens of Guppies gathered at the hotel bar Thursday night. What a pleasure to meet people I’ve only “met” on the list serv and get hugs from friends I only see on Facebook.
The packed Ellery Queen Panel, hosted by Art Taylor, was a highlight for many attendees. Fifteen authors paid homage to EQ and to longtime editor, Janet Hutchings, celebrating her 25th year with the magazine.
The Librarians Tea with librarians and authors at every table. Fellow blogger KM Rockwood joined me for what is usually a very relaxing and delicious break in the conference whirl. But emcee Hank Philippi Ryan ended up leading a panel discussion through a fire alarm (typically Canadian in its restraint – a gentle ting bell sound, flashing light, and a calm explanation of every stage of the fire department’s visit). Unnerved Americans remained seated as the Canadians in the group explained the different approach and Hank kept the discussion moving. Hank was an example of grace under pressure, for sure.
This year I’m stepping into the shoes of Sisters in Crime National’s Cari Dubiel as Library Liaison. At the Board meeting, I met the wonderful ladies who make SINC such a valuable organization for writers and readers. Serving on the board with fellow blogger Tina Whittle is icing on the cake.
One of the best things about Bouchercon is that it’s a place where nobody blinks twice if you discuss the merits of attending the psychopath panel or the California dreaming panel, or the forensics panel, or the mystery-solving pets panel.
But every conference is about the books. Several publishers had book giveaways. The Harper Collins giveaway lined the East Ballroom with many wonderful authors – Laura Lippman! Debra Crombie! Wendy Corsi Staub! Free books and a chance to meet favorite authors – it was heaven.
Here’s a picture of my haul.
What’s your favorite conference?