The last few weeks have been, for me, nearly complete blurs—between events at the Fall for the Book Festival a couple of weeks back and Bouchercon in Raleigh last week and then a return to campus at George Mason University this week for classes, student conferences, and a backlog of grading.
...all of which is to say that the deadline for my column here snuck up on me a little.
It maybe seems inevitable that I'd want to write about Bouchercon today, still in the afterglow of what was a magical weekend in a half-dozen ways—and I do, but maybe not for obvious reasons.
To say that Bouchercon can seem star-studded for us mystery fans may be an understatement (and all of us are fans, writers and readers both). I was amazed how often I passed one literary luminary or another in the elevator, in the hallway, even in the restroom—humbled by the chance to chat with so many of them—and it's a joy to have so many opportunities to reconnect with old friends or to make new ones among the writers and readers in attendance. I'll admit as well that it was nice to be in the spotlight a couple of times myself—presenting this year's Derringers, participating in a couple of panels, winning an Anthony, though nerves and other feelings complicated some of those occasions. But looking back over the weekend's events, there's one moment that strikes me as pure, unadulterated pleasure and pride, and it's that moment that I want to zero in on here.
|Kristin Kisska and me (standing on tiptoes)|
"Well, this is a special occasion for me," she said proudly (or something like it). "Today is my first day as a published author."
I could've hugged her. In fact, I think I may have. (Did I emphasize that word blurs enough above?) While I knew that the anthology marked a debut for a couple of authors, I'll admit that I hadn't thought about all that the occasion meant, hadn't thought to put it in those terms. Somehow, I'd simply skipped past the thrill of it all.
Kris was one of two authors in those same circumstances; Karen E. Salyer was the other—and interestingly, both of them were drawing on aspects of Virginia history for their stories. Kris's tale "The Sevens" looked back toward a significant moment at the University of Virginia and drew on her professed love of secret societies. And Karen's story, "Childhood's Hour," looked at the early life of Edgar Allan Poe, one of her own prevailing interests as well. Both tales struck me as stand-outs—and the fact that these were first-time publications added an extra layer of distinction. Having them in an anthology with bestselling authors, Edgar Award winners, a multiple lifetime achievement honoree, and more—needless to say, that's some distinguished company in which to be making a debut.
Talking about our own writing...no matter what, there's always a layer of awkwardness about it for authors. These days, marketing may be an unavoidable part of the business, but I anticipate that most of us remain squeamish about the process—vaguely uncomfortable at best.
Championing the work of others, however—that's nothing but pleasure.
Giving back to the community isn't just part of what we do as authors, what we should do; it's key to being a worthwhile member of that community in the first place. And feeling that I'd been some small part of the process that brought Karen and Kris into print, into the public eye—the process that brought all of the anthology's contributors a venue for their work and a fresh audience, whether for the first time or the hundredth—that's what will stick with me well beyond last week. It's truly the purest honor I could ask for.