Return to In-Person Writing Events

BY SUSAN CALDER

Return to in-person writing events

The fall book promotion season is almost here. Will events be largely online, as they’ve been for the past two and half years of this pandemic? Or are people eager to return to in-person festivals and conventions? My guess is both.

This September I’ll plunge into the real-live world by attending the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Minneapolis. This was a late-stage plan. Even though I registered past the deadline to be on a panel, the organizers assigned me Rolling in the Deep: authors explain the layers within their mysteries that create depth. The topic intrigues me and it’s one I haven’t spoken about before. Bouchercon’s eagerness to fit me in makes me wonder if fewer people than they’d hoped have signed up for this large-scale indoor event.  

Prepare for the Writing Event

My first preparation for the panel has been to research my fellow participants to get a sense of who they are. All of them live in the United States. I’ll try to read at least some of their books. Maybe I’ll discover a new favourite author or make a lasting writing connection. Building networks is a prime purpose of conventions. The Bouchercon website lists everyone who has registered. I notice a few familiar Canadian names and will contact them to suggest we get together at the convention. I also won’t forget my business cards to hand out to people I meet.

A tip I heard about attending conventions is to write a note on the back of each card to later jog your memory about the person. Writes domestic thrillers. Loves skiing. A second tip is to wear a jacket or vest with pockets, and keep your own cards on one side and received cards on the other to avoid mixing them up and handing out somebody else’s card.

Networking at the Writing Event

In addition to three days of panels, Bouchercon offers networking events that include a New Authors’ Breakfast, a Writers of Colour Reception, and Speed Dating for Writers and Readers. I used to panic at the prospect of writers’ speed dating, where you get a couple of minutes to pitch your novel to a stranger. Now I think, I probably won’t meet that person again and who cares if I make a fool of myself? I won’t pick up new readers if I don’t try.

Other activities will be more relaxing for me. I’m not responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies or up for a prize at the Anthony Awards Gala. A perk of conventions is staying at classy hotels for a reasonable price and exploring the local area. On this short trip I won’t have time for Bouchercon’s organized tours of gangster sites in the Twin Cities, independent bookstores, and a collection of Sherlock Holmes’ memorabilia. But I will toss my hat in the air alongside the city’s downtown statue of actress Mary Tyler Moore. Her beloved 1970s TV show put Minneapolis on the map. 

Other Writing Event Protocols

In July, Bouchercon sent us registrants a notice about the convention’s Covid protocols. They require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test, recommend wearing a mask in indoor spaces, and will follow the local health guidelines in place at the time. Such is the new world of attending in-person events.

As convention and festival organizers navigate this tricky territory, they’ll gradually learn what works for their events and not. Online? In-person? With minimal or strong restrictions? A hybrid event? At this year’s Bouchercon in September, I’ll get a better sense of works for me. I hope to  return home Covid-free, with new personal connections and plans for future book promotion.     

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