Reflections on Bouchercon '08

First, I must shout out to the world how genuinely NICE the people of Baltimore are. The city as a whole and the staff of the Radisson and Sheraton Hotels in particular were friendly and bend-over-backwards accommodating. With all the stress and terror in our world today, Baltimore and Bouchercon were an oasis of smiles and pleasant conversation. And laughs.

My heavens, I have not laughed so much or so hard in ages. While some panels were serious and informative, others were pure entertainment. The worst thing about the panels was that there were too many choices and I couldn’t attend them ALL.

Poor Alafair Burke (who, in spite of her claims to the contrary, really is quite funny), got stuck sitting next to the hysterical Chris Grabenstein in the Murder What Fun panel.

I’ve developed a bit of a crush on toastmaster, Mark Billingham, whose British wit stole the show during opening ceremonies. And his conversation with John Connolly was one of my highlights. I didn’t stay for the Anthony Awards brunch, but I suspect he kept the crowd in stitches there, too.

And Stuart MacBride had me laughing until I cried every time he opened his mouth.

But the real highlight for me was getting to meet so many of my online friends in person. I had dinner one night with Lee Lofland and his lovely wife, Bill Cameron, Kelli Stanley and her partner, and Shane Gericke. Meredith Anthony stopped by our table. She and Kelli shared with us a story CJ Lyons had told them. I won’t repeat it here, but suffice it to say I will never look at an avocado the same way again. By the way, if you happen to be a waiter, do NOT mess with Kelli. In fact, I suspect it’s not a good thing to mess with her under ANY circumstances. But she’s a terrific woman to have in your corner.

A group of us Guppies (Great UnPublished Sisters in Crime, for the uninitiated) met for lunch on Thursday. What a terrific, supportive group of writers. I’m still trying to figure out why I didn’t join them sooner.

There were several events that I regret missing (besides all the panels that ran simultaneously to OTHER panels I wanted to see). I didn’t get to the Poe House. The Guppies went after our lunch, but I had signed up to volunteer in the Hospitality Suite at that time.

This was unequivocally the BEST Hospitality Suite ever done at a conference. Large and comfy and loaded with free food and beverages. And during my stint as a volunteer, there was cake. LOTS of cake. I know because for a solid hour I cut cake. Word got out and the line grew longer and longer. Thank goodness for all the years I helped my mom cut pies and cakes for the church suppers. But it was fun. There’s no better way to make someone smile than to hand them a big slice of 10-layer cake with gobs of chocolate icing. I felt like Santa Claus.

The other event we missed was the Ghost Tour Joyce and I had signed up for. After battling waiters who were slow to bring our dinner check and then wandering the streets to find the entrance to the parking garage where the car was parked, we managed to find Fells Point in time. But once there, what we could NOT find was a parking space. We drove around and around and around. Not one single parking space presented itself. Once we’d determined that the tour was long gone without us, we gave up and headed back to the Radisson where we settled into the bar. The evening was rescued by the opportunity to visit with Felicia Donovan and Nancy Martin.

Missed opportunities aside, I had a wonderful time. I came home with two bags full of books (like I don’t already have enough), lots of new friends, and tons of inspiration to get back to work on my current project in the hopes that I might be among the ranks of the published novelists for my next Bouchercon.


CJ Lyons said…
Wow, sounds like a great time, Annette! Sorry I couldn't make it--but at least I made you guys laugh long distance!

See you at PennWriters if not sooner!
Annette said…
Hi, CJ! OMG, what a story that was. I thought I'd seen some weird things in my years as an EMT on the local ambulance, but the vines story trumps anything I've encountered.
Joyce said…
You girls DO realize that everyone reading this is going to be dying to hear this story, don't you? I'm just glad I didn't have anything in my mouth at the time.
CJ Lyons said…
Well, it's a story that isn't really fit for print--but anyone who sees me at a conference or workshop feel free to try to ply me with wine or scotch, lol!

Let's see, I'll teaching at the Lowcountry Master Class in a few weeks, then at Love is Murder, followed by a bunch of other appearances--including PennWriters--in the spring.

Just ask me about "da vines" or avocados and I'll know what you're talking about!
Annette said…
Okay, folks, there you have it. Track CJ down and ask her. I wouldn't dare attempt to tell the story. I couldn't do it justice.

And if the story wasn't funny enough, the look on Bill Cameron's face was priceless.
Felicia Donovan said…
Annette, it was lovely meeting you and I'm glad I was part of your rescued evening. As they say, "Nice swapping horse stories with you."

We had our own adventure trying to get back home. It comprised of a shady driver who tried to pull a fast one on us, a homeless woman who came along for the ride, and a misplaced car at the airport. LOL, we made it back safe and sound nonetheless.

I'm sure it's nothing compared to CJ's story. I will want to hear that someday.
Annette said…
Felicia, I hope to see your daughter in the Olympics one day.

Your trip home sounds infinitely more exciting than ours. Thank God. There's a short story in there somewhere.
Kathleen said…
Welcome home! The conference sounds wonderful! I wasn't even there and I'm more inspired to get to down to business and write.
Kelli Stanley said…
LOL ... thanks, Annette!! Having dinner with you guys was the best!! And it was great that Meredith came by so we could channel CJ long-distance. :)

The only bad thing about "the vines" story is that I went off guacamole for a month after CJ told it at Thrillerfest ... ;)

Hopefully the word is already out for next year at Indianapolis: separate checks. ;)

Take care, sweetie, and I hope we don't have to wait another year!
Annette said…
Hopefully not, Kelli. I'm ready to get us all back together right now!

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