I’ve just returned from my second Bouchercon. My first was in St. Louis in 2011, the year before my first (and so far, only) novel was published. For those not familiar with Bouchercon, it’s an annual world mystery convention for writers and readers. Bouchercon is named after avid mystery writer, reviewer, and editor, Anthony Boucher.
It seemed like a good time to return to Bouchercon as I found myself facing an existential crisis in my own writing career. By day, I work as an instructional designer, a mentally demanding job. Whatever brain power remains is devoted to writing. In recently years, I’ve spent a lot of time on children’s educational nonfiction books with the occasional travel article thrown in for variety. And sporadically marketing. I’m in a rut. I finished a YA magical realism/suspense novel earlier this year and have been shopping (so far without success) for an agent.
Add a broken arm to the equation. After days of rain, I was on my back patio trying to do some things with plants and a rapidly filling rain barrel. I slipped. As humans are wont to do, I instinctively put my arm out. Ouch.
I spent the next 24 hours trying to convince myself it was a sprained wrist. It was barely swollen, but I couldn’t do much with it. I finally found myself at a doc-in-the-box where I was x-rayed and given a diagnosis of a distal radius fracture. An orthopedist put in a brace just in time to make the drive to Bouchercon. Did I mention that this happened to my left hand and that I’m left handed? I began thinking the universe was telling me to give up on writing. I needed Bouchercon to help me figure it all out.
Fifty years. Amazing. This auspicious anniversary was held in Dallas. One of my first clues of the perfectness of the location was the hats. Eight years ago, I was struck by the hats donned by many convention attendees. Most paid homage to detectives and private eyes. I’m deeply envious of people who can wear hats and make them look smart. I look like someone trying to play dress up.
So, already we have mystery writers and readers in hats. And then there’s Dallas, a location where cowboy hats are considered appropriate for street wear, board rooms, and formal events. It was a match made in crime fiction hat-wearing heaven.
In a panel of Anthony Award nominees for best book, a member of the audience remarked upon the fact that we were just a couple of blocks from the most famous crime scene—that of President Kennedy’s assassination. You could feel the tension in the room rise faster than the thermometers outside. Woe to the travelers from the north and east who arrived sleeveless and in brief attire for some of that Texas heat, only to find that their arrival coincided with the first frost instead.
Anyway, back to the JFK assassination. Our panel seemed to represent the demographics of the crowd. Forty percent declaring Oswald most likely acted alone, while another 40 percent argued for definite conspiracy. The youngest member, representing 20 percent, had no opinion.
Yes, the scene for Bouchercon was perfect. It was as if the Anthony award winners had crafted it from their imaginations. Did I find what I was looking for? Well, I left with ideas popping in my brain. As for the broken arm, author Lee Goldberg told a story during one panel of the time he broke both arms and kept writing. Another message from the universe.