By Stephen Buehler
Left Coast Crime, a conference for mystery writers and readers is being held Feburary 25-28 in Phoenix. Usually around 400 – 500 people attend and is primarily dedicated to people west of the Mississippi but anyone can attend. It’s a chance for writers to meet and hang out with other writers and to meet the wonderful readers who participate. It’s also a chance to maybe meet an editor or publisher or agent. So there’s business and pleasure to be had at the conference.
I try to treat it like a working vacation. I’ve never been to Phoenix so I’d like to get out and see some of the town, try a restaurant or two and maybe visit a magic store. Seymour, my dog will be staying with a friend and I know this might sound cruel but I’ll have four days where I don’t have to walk him 3-4 times a day. I’m sure I’ll miss him but it will feel good to be free of the responsibility for someone else for a couple of days. Plus I like to travel, see new cities and feel like I’m living the life of luxury with someone else to make up my bed. Okay, I still usually make up my hotel room bed but at least I can leave dirty towels on the floor. Okay, I feel too guilty doing that too so I hang them up but, at least I can wake up to a new view out the window – once I open the heavy drapes.When you attend the conference as a writer you hope you have something new to talk about, a new mystery novel, novella or even a short story. I have none of those. So I attend the conference with some trepidation with nothing to brag about. I am rewriting a PI novel, which a publisher interested in but if anything comes of that it will happen after the conference. I’m not embarrassed or sad I don’t have something new to talk about as I know it’s a matter of timing but I would feel more confident if I did.
So far they have not announced panels. I like to be on a panel and talk about writing. It’s a fun time and I feel I do a good job with my stand-up comedy and magic background. It’s a time where you can bond with your fellow panelists, writers that you probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. Plus it’s a platform that can introduce you to new readers and authors that might not have heard about you otherwise. I also like to moderate panels, which I’ve done several times. I do a lot of research and prepare questions that I think will make the panelists shine and be entertaining.Brian Thorton (M), Stephen Buehler, Barry Graham, Travis Richardson, Allison Brennan – LCC 2015 Portland, OR
If you ask almost any author attending, they’re favorite place they like to visit at a conference is the bar. Not that authors are necessarily big drinkers, okay some are, but it’s the place that authors and readers can sit down and really talk to each other. Writers exchange information about publishers, what they’re working on and war stories from the writing trenches. You can sit down with a stranger and say, “Are you a writer or a reader?” and from there you have a conversation going. At the bar it’s much easier to approach an author who you admire and tell them that. Who knows, a longer conversation might follow.
Even though it seems like a vacation I don’t feel right about sleeping in late. There’s too many breakfasts, writers to meet and panels to see. And I usually stay up late, you guessed it, schmoozing at the bar so I don’t get as much sleep. I hate to use an old saying, but, “After my vacation I need a vacation.”For me, the best part of the conference is after the conference. It’s a time I’m filled with a renewed drive to do more writing, keep in contact with my new friends and finally get some sleep.
How do you feel before a conference? Are you going to one this year?
Stephen Buehler’s short fiction has been published in numerous on-line publications including, Akashic Books. Not My Day appeared in the Last Exit to Murder anthology and A Job’s a Job in Believe Me or Not –An Unreliable Anthology. He is expanding his novella, The Mindreading Murders about a magician into a novel and shopping around his mystery/comedy P.I. novel, Detective Rules. On top of all that he is a script consultant and magician. www.stephenbuehler.com