Wednesday, October 04, 2006

When Bouchercon Starts in Your Driveway...

By Cornelia

So I wake up at three a.m. last Thursday morning, Bouchercon bound. The Bayporter van is due between four and four-fifteen. I am groggy. I am exhausted. I am hoping I have remembered to pack things like shoes and maybe a pen.

I take a quick shower, then throw on a pair of jeans and my lucky "Lefty's Tattoo and Piercing" t-shirt (from the Palm Springs Goodwill) and hope for the best. It's 3:59, time to drag my Intrepid Spouse's INCREDIBLY ugly black plastic suitcase down our steep weird driveway, so I can wait out on Euclid Avenue in the pitch dark.

Yea verily, I am off to Madison, Wisconsin, the Land o' the Cheesehead:

and the Home of the Bucky Badger:

City between two lakes, yea even more verily:

Now, you might think that Madison, Wisconsin,--and hence, Bouchercon 2006--is some three or four hours by plane from Berkeley, California.

In my case, however, Bouchercon started at the end of my driveway. I had no sooner climbed into the emerald green Bayporter Express mobile than I found myself seated next to my very first fellow Bcon attendee of the year, a really cool lady named Avis Worthington, who writes historicals.

I tell you, you could've slapped my haunches and called me Ballerina Munchkin Cow, right then and there:

Ballerina Munchkin Cow, by Mike Dowdell

Avis and I talked shop all the way to SFO and then split up to go find our seats on the plane.

So then we had a stopover in St. Louis or Minneapolis or something. I do not remember because I had three hours of sleep and had become extremely stupid. Like pretty much exactly as if I had been riding in a bumper cow for too long:

Bumper Cow, by Mark and Kim Rae Nugent

Or like, as James Taylor once so pithily described just such a mental fog, "my wiring was misfiring due to cigarettes and booze":

Cow Chip, by C. Murphy

--despite the fact that you can't smoke in airports and I was not actually drinking anything but guava juice that morning.

But ANYWAY, Avis and I managed to find Concourse F after much flailing and soul-searching in whatever city that was, so that we could get on our NEXT plane, and it was aboard Plane Numero Deux that I met my second fellow Bconner, the I-am-sure-soon-to-be-totally-famous "Medieval Noir" writer Jeri Westerson.

I had the window seat and she had the aisle, so we talked across this poor guy in the middle who had promised to drive his dad to a sixty-ninth high school reunion somewhere around Madison.

Jeri told me the line which won the ginormously buckled Heavyweight Champion Snack o’ Wit Title Belt of my entire Bcon experience this year:

Noir is the new black

Which is, hello, so funny I think she should trademark it or whatever and I want to buy the t-shirt.

So then we landed and the shuttle didn't come for like FOREVER, but when I actually finally got to the hotel, I literally didn't have both feet out of the revolving door before I met up with Bev Irwin and Liz Lytle.

We all first met at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference a couple of summers ago, and THEY ROCK, Bev and Liz.

And then I saw Andi Shechter, my Bcon roomie and secret twin--because how many people can you talk about figure skating AND mysteries AND country music AND Black Power Salute raised fists with, in the same conversation--so huge hugs all around and I knew this was going to be a most excellent time from the get-go.

This was Andi's and my favorite cow in Madison, by the way:

Miss Moolah, by Deborah Gerling

This one is pretty good too, though, only I didn't see it in person:

Moo Choo - All Aboard, by Brad Nellis, Distillery Design Studio

Well, okay, and this one cracks me up. Not that I saw actually ever saw it in person either:

Star Fleet Battle Cow, by Richard Springer

But enough about cows. I need to talk about Sandra Ruttan. Who is so NOT a cow.

She is in fact my International Thriller Writers "mentee," if such is a word.

(Sandra is the way more conscious-looking person on the right)

This was taken of the two of us around noon on Sunday when, a la Clockwork Orange, I was "feeling a bit shagged and fagged and fashed, it being a night of no small expenditure."

I'd had about four hours of sleep and had just done my first ever Bcon panel, "Ken Bruen and Four Kickass Writers," with Ken Bruen (duh), Alafair Burke, Laura Lippman, and Zoe Sharp--all of whom are funny and erudite and cool people.

And in general I got to meet so many cool great new persons, and catch up with so many other cool great persons whom I'd already met at previous Bcons and Left Coast Crimes and stuff, that my mind is still reeling.

Like for instance Denise Mina, who was at the Hachette cocktail party on Friday night and whom I would never have had the nerve to go up and talk to except that I was standing with Laura Lippman when we spotted her across the room and thank God Laura kind of squeaked and said, "Check it out, there's Denise Mina, and I think I have to walk over and go all fan-girl on her," so I tagged along and swooned and babbled on the poor woman, who was tremendously gracious about it.

Also I got to meet Tribe, who totally cracks me up IRL as much as online, it turns out:

That would be Tribe on the left, Sandra on the right

Plus which he has crazy family stories redlining right up there with mine on the WTF?-meter, which is always a nice thing to bond over, especially in a bar. And DOUBLE especially in a bar where the eminently amazing Jordans are hosting their Crimespree party, where I also got to hang out with Our Patty and Madeleine Butler and Bill Cameron and Karen Olson and Tim Maleeny and Sandra and Rae Helmsworth and Maggie Griffin and Lee Child and Brett Battles and Steven Sidor and a mind-bogglingly huge assortment of excellent people, not least the Jordans themselves, while quaffing Spotted Cow beer to one's heart's content.

And then on Saturday Sandra did this group interview deal with Denise Mina and Laura Lippman and Anne Frasier and Julia Buckley and Sandra Parshall in the hotel back bar, part of which was videotaped by the tremendously patient Bill Cameron, until the music got too loud and weird so we all (except for Laura and Denise, who had a bowling date) kind of bagged the official part and just rambled on for another hour or so like we were hanging out on the Group W bench, avoiding the draft with Arlo or what have you. And the totally weirdest thing about THAT was looking across the table and seeing Julia wearing a button with my book cover on it, right under her pin with HER book cover on it, which still just totally makes me feel faint and want to hug her all at the same time.

Okay, so I am totally babbling like I'm back trying to say something intelligent to Denise Mina, and it seems appropriate to try to wrap this up, so I would like to close with my best thing and the worst thing that happened during this year's Bcon.

Here is the best thing:

Louise Ure won the
Best First Novel Shamus
Forcing Amaryllis

Here is the worst thing:

The publisher's cocktail party
that was not accessible

Which still pisses me off hugely because they invited Andi to attend (I was merely her date for this one), and then when I tried to find someone official who could tell me how to help get "my friend who's using a scooter" up to the thing, the guest-list/gatekeeper woman was not only totally unapologetic about the utter lack of access, but also claimed that Andi (whom I hadn't named) had told her she wasn't coming, which I suppose was a dopy euphemism for "I'm a snippy bitch and it's not my problem."

In light of that, I would like to end this post on a serious note.

I've gone to offsite events with Andi at Bcons and LCCs over the last couple of years. We get the underground tour, more often than not--back entrances and basement hallways and service elevators behind the kitchen. It is a goddamn exhausting way to navigate life, even for a couple of days once or twice a year. I cannot imagine having to do it all the time, as so very many people must. It makes a huge difference when someone working at the restaurant or bar or event room takes the time to show you the way.

I saw a lot of people at Bcon who must rely on scooters and canes and wheelchairs in order to get around. I read in a blog post after coming home that at least one panel held in the building across the street from the main hotel was inaccessible to those people.

I am lucky enough that I don't often have to worry about how I'm going to get to a party or a panel or an airport on my own. It would be a fine thing if no one attending Bouchercon had to worry about it.

We can make that happen for each other. It takes a little extra effort, sometimes. But if you ever doubt that's worthwhile, just think about Zoe Sharp auctioning off breakfast followed by target practice at a shooting range during this year's Bcon.

The winning bid was placed by a woman who happens to be blind. Zoe was stoked about it.

I love that.


  1. Oh, I so love being the best thing at your Bouchercon! I think the best thing is that we were both there, secret handshakes and all. Shaz we missed you!

  2. Louise, it was fantastic to meet you!

    And Cornelia, you and Andi as well. I am so disappointed Andi couldn't be at that event. She is a passionate, feisty, intelligent person who has given so much to the crime fiction community.

    If it makes you feel any better at all, Andi, as a reviewer and Spinetingler editor I merited exactly 0 invitations to these things. And my own 'huh' moment was when I was standing with fellow Killer Year authors and someone who handles membership for one of the author groups came up and accosted my fellow authors and didn't even acknowledge my existence. An organization I WON'T be joining any time soon.

    I did okay not going all fan-girl over Denise, although I certainly treasured getting to chat with her in the bar. I blogged about the women of B'con today at Killer Year because you, Louise, Gayle, Denise, Laura etc etc etc were just simply incredible.


  3. Don't know if I'll see you and all the other fab (drool) authors in Anchorage, but I know I will see you in Baltimore in 2008 (don't tell me no)and I will be sure to talk to anyone local before then to make sure that accessibility is not an issue for any attendee. I wish I'd been able to see you in your sleep-deprived state yet again, but, alas, I was only there as a cardboard likeness of my Good Girl self. Maybe another con sometime soon...

  4. I am so calling you Ballerina Munchkin Cow from now on.

    Wait, that doesn't sound good...

  5. Ahem. I just wnat it pointed out that ANYONE who's seen the quesitonnaire for LEft Coast Crime 2007 will note that right there, with circles and arrows and a paragraph on each one....I mean RIGHT THERE on page ONE, page ONE mind you, of 11 or something, fifth panel topic down you will find "Noir - it's hte new black". Nyah nyah nyah NYAH nyah. I was there first, I was I was.

    Dear gods - I appear to have let my inner child run amuck!


    Must go find more cows. SJ and I really liked "Frank Loin Wright" whom we discovered heading back from dinner.

    Most of the things I was invited to were i believe only very recently "opened up" to us peons - er that is, non-writers. I know that's true of one and probably others as well. And if not, then it only took six years to get noticed by some of these folks. And I still get the cloak of invisibility thing, Sandra. Sometimes it's because I'm not an author, sometimes apparnetly by sitting in a scooter/wheelchair thing I acquire a huge power of invisibility which allows people (not just at conventions, everywhere) to step in front of me in line as if I simply was not there.
    All of you - you SO ROCK. Thank you bunches. What happened really really sucked and while I had a mostly excellent time with so many of my favorite people, it can't wipe away what happened. Which IS getting dealt with. It really seemed like over and over I kept having to bring the whole damn access thing up, leaving me to feel strangely as if I were the Only Disabled Person On hte Planet, or at least that anyone had ever met. I've blogged about it and will be writing more but from "shuttles available" (except none were lift-eqquipped) to everything from shopping to partying, it was A Big Deal, and I was locked out at times. I'm not used to that anymore and someone, SOMEWHERE has got to take notice. I'm pondering writing "an open letter" to the publishing community and sending it to the magazines and posting it on-line to point out why it matters.
    Thanks all SO much.

  6. Ah, you guys are awesome.

    Love and hugs,

    Ballerina Munchkin Cow

  7. "And I still get the cloak of invisibility thing, Sandra."

    Isn't that just nuts?

    Well, I registered for LCC, and I saw it on your form, just like you said. You're awesome Andi! XO

  8. I have the privilege of being Jeri Westerson's critique buddy, or one of them anyway, and you're right -- she'll soon take off! She's an absolutely terrific writer -- smooth, creative prose, excellent plotting, and characters you care about, and I can't wait to (re)read her first book when it comes out! I know she'll take the mystery world by storm. Thanks for mentioning my very favorite unpublished writer.
    Laura James

  9. Hmmm, I had no idea Professor Dumbledore was a cheesehead...

  10. I'd just like to go on the record to say that Sandra Ruttan is pretty incredible herself.

    I had a great time hanging with you, Sandra.

  11. cornelia, it was great meeting you! love your recap and all the great images!

  12. Cornelia, it was great hanging with you at the Crimespree party,and I'm sorry we didn't get another chance!

    BTW, Susan Richman took credit for ordering in the cows in my honor, since they're featured prominently in my SACRED COWS!

  13. Dear Cornelia,

    What a great post! I'm coming to it late because I basically just recovered from B-con due to my OLD WOMAN-ness. But I'm so glad you were there and I got to meet you. It was a real thrill. I will be sure to wear your button around Oak Park to make you even more famous.

    And I have nice photos of you, Andi, Sandra, et al on my blog, or let me know if you'd like them and I'll send them to you.