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October 11, 2012


Sue T.

Steve, I hear you -- the last B'con I attended was... um, 1998 (Philly). I do enjoy some of the smaller conventions, particularly Left Coast Crime, because several of my friends go and because there aren't thousands of people milling around, I can usually find them easily. It also helps to make some plans with people in advance ("Let's meet for a drink at the opening reception!"). Also, despite the fact that I am super introverted, I have found that I really like moderating panels. Perhaps because I'm an ex-journalist, I am good at asking questions. If I had to sit up there ANSWERING them, I'd break out into a cold sweat. A good moderator keeps the attention on her panelists and away from herself, and I excel at that.

By the way, you have a compatriot in Lev Raphael, who just posted this: http://getitwriteblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/why-i-stopped-going-to-bouchercon/
Read the comments... there are a LOT of folks who agree with you & Lev!

Leigh Lundin

I feel like someone's channeling me! I'm not painfully shy, I simply need alone time in the middle of a crowd. If I could express myself publicly, I wouldn't delve into writing.

At the one and only Bouchercon I attended, I witnessed a wildly popular women's author eviscerate a 'lesser' author in the lobby of the hotel. He was so badly shaken he (and I) never returned. In hindsight, if someone hasn't learned manners that late in life, not much can be done to teach them, but it illustrated that celebratory events could be fraught with risks.

I appreciate the article, Steve.

The Pencilneck

I fully agree; I was just at a conference in LA this week and it was like chewing tinfoil.

However, I have a couple of tips that may help the overwhelmed attendee stay centered.

1) When walking anywhere, clap your cell to your ear. you needn't be talking to anyone, but it prevents boorish types from pouncing on you. Be warned however: some boors don't get it and you may have to waggle them off with the pinky of your cell hand. Extreme, I know, but some people...

2) When you see someone you actually wouldn't mind chit-chatting with, be sure to talk about something other than what everybody else talks about. This past week I gaffed a best-selling author of ribald frat-humour*, and by actually and sincerely complimenting him on his writing instead of telling him blue stories of my youth, we hit it off and are talking about working on a project together.

3) (Bonus tip) Rope in a couple of co-conspirators and get 'off-campus' to eat, even if it's just to Carls Jr. When one looks like one has something better going on elsewhere, it gives one the appropriate air of autonomy, independence, and authority...which beats airs of insecurity, desperation, and isolation. Besides, you might get lucky and get someone else to scoop the check! (Well, maybe not at Boucheron)

*note how the U adds a nice international flair?


Need. To. READ this book! That's much like me. My friends pushed me into wild bar crap so many times I came to dread their phone calls. They couldn't/wouldn't take no for an answer. I thought something was wrong with me. *PHEW*

Don't get me wrong - on great occasion I'm OK with all that, but most of the time I just need my little corner of the world and all is good.

Bridget McKenna

I'm more or less an introvert of the type who enjoys long conversations with a handful of friends over crowds of people I don't know. Still, I went to conventions for many years, enjoyed appearing on panels and mixing it up with other writers in appropriate doses leavened with small-batch socializing in the bar.

I actually had almost identical experiences to yours with a Big Shot who had once been my closest friend. I think I'd thought it was just her. Apparently it happens more frequently than I'd supposed.

Just discovered your blog, and will be feeding it to my Google Reader. Thanks for a wonderful article.

Bill Crider

I'm sorry I cold-shouldered you, Steve. Please come back.

Well, actually I missed this year, too, but I've been going to as many as possible since 1980. I try to spend most of my time with small groups of friends who've also been going that long. I'm painfully introverted and hate large groups, though for some reason I do just fine on panels in front of large groups. Weird.


Thanks for the link to Lev's post, Sue! She came at it from a different angle, but one that's just as valid. I've wondered how cost-effective conventions are, as well. Do I think it hurt my writing career when I stopped going to them? Yes, actually. Slightly. Does that mean I'll start going to them again? We'll see.... And I'm with you and Bill: I do just fine when I'm up on stage, especially when I'm moderating or appearing solo. The difference there is that my role is well defined and to some degree (if things are going well) I'm in control. That's not the case when you're wandering around a crowded dealers' room for the sixth time trying to kill 20 minutes before a panel and you don't see anyone you know well enough to talk to comfortably....

Sorry to hear about the humiliating Bouchercon experience you witnessed, Leigh. That sounds awful. You can e-mail me the name of the witchy bestseller. I don't always enjoy Bouchercon, but strangely I *love* Bouchercon horror stories.

Thanks for the tips, T.P.! And congrats on the new project -- hope it works out for you. Sounds like you've got the con thing down cold!

Absolutely, Diva -- if you lean toward introversion (and it sounds like you do) you really need to read Quiet. And I've been there with the party-hearty friends. Sometimes people just can't seem to grasp why shouting at each other in a crowded bar doesn't sound like fun.

Sorry to hear about your experience, Bridget. The big shot I saw being an ass was just a business associate. It hurt when he eventually snubbed me, too, but not nearly as much as it would have if I'd thought of him as a friend.

And all is forgiven, Bill. I know you have to pick and choose who you mingle with given that you're followed everywhere you go by throngs of admirers. Next time just let me spend a little time as part of the entourage, O.K.?

J Steven York

Like I keep saying, you and I are freakishly alike in many ways. It took me a long time to figure out my introvert thing, but I've got a pretty good grasp on it these days.

One thing that people find hard to understand is that "shy" and "introverted" aren't the same thing. Some introverts can be quite outgoing in the right situation, though this tends to break down in prolonged social situations, especially if crowds are involved. Introverts lose energy in a social situation, and need to withdraw to recharge.

Another thing that introverts can be performers and good public speakers. Interactions when you're the center of attention feel completely different to an introvert than sitting in the audience in the same crowded room. A lot of well-known actors, performers and politicians are very private "off-camera" in part because they're introverts.

Introverts don't necessarily dislike people or social interactions, but they prefer one-on-one, or more intimate, and often quieter gatherings. That doesn't mean they don't like people or being with people, on in a lot of cases, parties. They get lonely and enjoy the company of friends like everyone else.

My strategy for dealing with my introversion at conventions and the likes is to approach it like I was a snorkeler. You can dive pretty deep (into social situations and crowds), but only for short times, and the deeper you dive, the more trouble you can get in.

Be aware of your need to surface (your anxiety and energy levels) and try to make sure you've got a clear escape route and safe "breathing area" in all situations. Just knowing they're there can make it less likely that you'll need them.

You KNOW you'll need down time, so build quite-breaks into your schedule, and stick to them. If possible, have your hotel room close to the convention events for quite retreats, or scout out alternate quite-time retreats nearby. Carry some earbuds and a music device to drown out public noise, if you have no better alternative. If you can't do it during the day, try to schedule a quite time in your room between daytime programming and evening events.

Oh, and one random strange tip to try. By accident (I left a single earbud in while talking to someone at a crowded gathering) I discovered that plugging one ear in a loud, crowded area really reduced my anxiety levels. For me, either ear works, and my theory is that when I have two good ears, my brain is constantly trying to triangulate multiple voices at once, which somehow leads to stress and anxiety. Plug one ear, and the brain just gives up and tries to sort voices using other cues.

It may or may not work for anyone else, but it's worth a try, and less expensive, dangerous, and addictive than anti-anxiety drugs. (And if anybody uses this as the basis of their PhD thesis, be sure to mention me in the footnotes.)

Leigh Lundin

Speaking of cleavage…

At my first (and thus far only) MWA gathering, I admired the wonderful feminine pulchritude. Next to her deep décolletage, one woman who wore a lapel pin that read JUDGE and I found myself thinking, Umm, 9.5.

Steve Gomez

You should avoid rubbing a clique of hipsters in ANY way! ;)

Sue T.

Oh, I want to add one more B'con anecdote, since you say you love B'con horror stories. A dear friend of mine -- a mystery author who happens to be a super-nice person, and is somebody I knew long before she became a semi-famous writer -- was rudely given the brush-off by a much more famous author. They both happened to be riding the elevator, so it wasn't like my friend had cornered this author in the ladies' room or something. Anyway, my friend mentioned this to another author, who informed her that the rude author's husband had just died a couple weeks before. Now, it strikes me as nuts that the rude author actually showed up at B'con, but people grieve in their own way, I guess, and perhaps the pressure of being "on" meant that by the time she was ready to go up to her room, she was spent. In any case, the story has really stuck with me, and if somebody behaves atrociously, I am a little more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. (You could also see the moral as, don't go to a mystery convention unless you're in the proper frame of mind!)


Just when I was looking forward to maybe running into you in Albany next year. Toronto was fun! (Even though you were a little under the weather.)


Thanks Steve, now I know why I didn't enjoy Bouchercon in S.F.
2 years ago... cool but overwhelming.


I like the snorkeling/scuba-diving metaphor, Steve. I definitely got the bends at more than one convention.

Wow -- sounds like I've been going to the wrong MWA meetings, Leigh!

So now we know what a herd of hipsters is called, Steve G.: a clique. Sadly, I hear they're over-breeding and need to be thinned out a little....

Thanks for the story, Sue. You're friend should try approaching the big-time author lady again sometime. If the woman's still rude, then she'll know it didn't have anything to do with the husband -- she's just a [CENSORED].

Albany's still a remote possibility, Karin. And I wonder if I was "under the weather" in Toronto because of the day I spent there drinking with an Irishman. Methinks the answer is yes.

Maybe you should give Steve York's Cons for Introverts tips a try at another Bouchercon, Brian. In the end, I'm glad I went to as many as I did, even if they did finally wear me out. I met a lot of cool folks and learned a lot about myself in the process.

John S

Great post, Steve. But I always thought the real reason you stopped going was because of groupies slipping you their hotel room keys.

Seriously, though ...

I hear you, and I would like to read that book, too. I saw it before, and thought I would like it, but never got it. So, thanks for the reminder.

For what it's worth, you never seemed socially awkward to me. You're very eloquent, and a damn nice guy. If I didn't know you, I would never have pegges you as an introvert.

Bouchercons are costly, though, and since I still haven't finished a book, I haven't gone, but Albany is a perhaps for me.

I have noticed during the last few that the high school atmosphere seems to be more prevalent. Too much focus on who's more popular. Of course, I'm one of the starry eyed fans who also went drinking with that Irish author.

Anyway, if we don't do another Bouchercon, let's try to meet for drinks again some time. We don't have to talk books.


On Cons and Conferences - Chuck Wendig has a post up about how to approach these things at Terribleminds.com. Really liked the advice.

On Introverts - For what it is worth, the Myers-Briggs personality training that is painfully integrated into corporate America was actually useful for me to explain why I was always so exhausted and cranky at all day meetings. As a result, I learned to schedule time to be alone and quiet as a way to get through the day without derailing my career.

On Writers being asshats - yeah, well, that will happen.


Thanks for the thumbs up for my Bouchercon manner, John. The thing of it is, I do think I actually did pretty well, on the whole. It's just that all the socializing eventually wore me out, and on a few occasions that led to psychic meltdowns. (You actually got to see one in San Francisco, remember?) And drinks would be good, but I haven't forgotten that lunch-in-the-city-with-you-know-who idea, either. I'm finishing up a big project in a few days. Maybe once that's out of the way we can plan something....

I should check out Chuck's piece if I ever decide to do a con again, Scott. He's a hell of a funny guy. Smart, too. And I feel your pain re: corporate getaways. I used to have to do similar training/team-building retreats, and they were usually pretty painful. The only retreat I was up for was the "Run away!" kind.

 inflatable Pool

This article is as intriguing as it is informative. I read through this information and couldn't find a thing wrong with it. I can't imagine anyone writing this article better.


Thanks, inflatable! You write great comments! Oh, except I took out your link to the bogus swimming pool website. That sort of thing isn't allowed around here. But feel free to pop back in the next time I happen to use the phrase "swimming pool." I'll be looking for you!

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