16 October 2015

Bouchercon Honors

By Art Taylor

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)
On Saturday morning, my own schedule included two events: the new author breakfast, where folks with first books could share something of their work, and the panel and signing for Murder Under the Oaks, this year's Bouchercon anthology, which I was honored to guest edit and which features a couple of my fellow SleuthSayers contributors too: B.K. Stevens and Rob Lopresti. In between those morning's events, I ran into another of the anthology's contributors, Kristin Kisska, in the hallway. While I was just wearing jeans and a shirt, she was smartly dressed, and I made a joking remark about suddenly feeling woefully informal.

"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.


  1. Congratulations on the new anthology!

  2. Art, congratulations once again--on your MANY recent honors and accomplishments.

  3. Art did a fantastic job running the panel and the signing that went on for more than an hour afterwards. I assume he did an equally great job editing the book but, since all I know is that he accepted my story, a more objective judgment will have to wait until I read the book. In his piece above Art glides over winning an Anthony, but let's be clear; that is one major accomplishment. So congrats!

  4. Hi, everyone —
    Thanks for the comments—and sorry slow to respond. What a week trying to catch up on stuff at school!

    Thanks, Rob, for the kind words on the panel and signing, and congratulations again on your story. I'm hoping the rest of the collection proves as much a pleasure for you to read as it did for me to work on! (And thanks too for the mention of the Anthony--I am indeed thrilled, of course!)


  5. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Kristin Kisska at the Murder under the Oaks anthology panel--what a delightful, charming young author! I haven't read her story yet--like you, I'm behind on everything, though I have fewer excuses--but I'm looking forward to it. Her excitement about her first publication was invigorating.

    It was also invigorating to see you receive your well-deserved Anthony. Congratulations on that, and on the many more achievements sure to come.

  6. Sorry I'm late. Didn't know you had been talking about me again, Art ;) I'm camera-shy, relieved to see that's Kris in the pic not me. Thanks again for a truly memorable B'con. And huge congrats on your Anthony.

  7. Hi Art,
    Am late to the blog dance because I just saw your post. Thank you for your kind words. You facilitated a dream of mine, and this post captured that moment! Thank you for all your support (and yes, also for selecting my story from the blind submissions slush pile).
    Congratulations. Your Anthony Award was well deserved. Bouchercon 2015 was epic!

  8. Thanks, everyone! I've been slow to stay on track with comments, but appreciate all the kinds words in my direction--and even more especially those in Kris's and Karen's direction! And hi, Karen and Kris!


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