Conferences a go-go, Part One
March and April were conference months for me, both as a first-time attendee to Left Coast Crime and Chanticleer, respectively. Each conference offered something different, be it theme, vibe, or networking, but let's back up and talk about the why. Why go? Let's find out, starting with the first one, Left Coast Crime. I'll cover the Chanticleer conference in Part Two of this post next month.
Left Coast Crime's 2019 Whale of a Crime Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia was held March 28-31 and was well-attended by about 500 writers and readers. From their website, Left Coast Crime (LCC) "... is an annual conference organized by mystery fiction fans for mystery fiction fans, first held in San Francisco in 1991. It is concerned with western North American region mysteries, but the conference itself travels worldwide, having been held in Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as different parts of the United States. The conference enables fans to mix with authors. A prominent author of western mystery fiction is invited to be guest speaker."
Well, I couldn't say it better than that.
A plus side to this conference was that Vancouver is my former hometown, where I lived for 28 years, so I could easily take the three=hour train up from Seattle. And, we sure lucked out with the weather. What luck, indeed, but back to the task at hand.
As a writer embracing not only historical fiction, but mystery, too, it made sense for me to see, up close, what my mystery author peers were up to at a conference dedicated to their genre. They did a lot of things right though I'm going to focus on three things that not only impressed me, but that I haven't seen at more general writing conferences.
First, they held a New Authors Breakfast. Attendees could sit and listen to new authors pitch their debut books in two minutes or less. Some authors were quite nervous whereas others had clearly practiced their delivery. Definitely a great way to learn about up-and-comers, and pick up some cool swag, too.
Second, each table at the Awards Dinner featured a well-known mystery writer, and you could choose which table to sit at when you arrived at the registration desk. I sat with Maureen Jennings, of Murdoch Mysteries fame, who was absolutely delightful. We even shared something in common: both of our new series are set in the 1930s — hers in Toronto and mine in Portland.
Third, the conference organizers really make it a point to honor a lot of people in the field. Since this was the first LCC outside of the U.S., they designated a Canadian Guest of Honor (Maureen Jennings) as well as an American one (C.J. Box). They also honored Sue Grafton, one of my all-time favorite series, who passed away in 2017 before she finished her "alphabet soup" series featuring Kinsey Millhone. And surprise, a Ghost of Honor, who was none other than Canada's queen of crime fiction, L.R. Wright.
All of this plus — some great sessions and meeting friends new and old, some lovely music in sacred space, and a walk in the labyrinth — made this conference time well spent.