The YA panel on Friday at Bouchercon, left to right: Kaley Whittle, Destiny Geddis, and Matthew McGrath
Bouchercon Convention Raleigh, October 8, 2015. My First.
Bouchercon, the largest crime writers convention, came to Raleigh for its 46th convention, October 8-11, and I decided to go. Raleigh is only 25 miles from my home in Moncure. Bouchercon is named for Anthony Boucher, who was a writer, critic, editor, reviewer, mentor, radio scriptwriter, researcher, Conan Doyle historian, and friend to many in the mystery community from 1932 to his death in 1968. His real name was William Anthony Parker White, and Boucher was his pen name. The book awards at Bouchercon are called Anthonies, though there are many other awards given out at their conventions.
I rarely drive to Raleigh, so I studied all the hotel, parking, and downtown maps made available to us by internet. Two mystery writing friends were going to spend a night with me: Gloria Alden, the Wednesday night before the convention began on Thursday the 8th, and Carolyn Mulford, the Sunday night after it ended. I’ve reviewed five of Gloria’s books on my blog, and three of Carolyn’s. We originally met at the Malice Domestic conventions held in early May, usually in Bethesda. We’ve all been members of Sisters in Crime and also in its Guppy chapter–for the Great Unpublished–although half the Guppies now are published. We three all planned to go to the Guppy lunch on that first Thursday.
Wednesday I drove out to RDU to meet Gloria’s 3:18 PM Delta plane. In the parking lot, trying to find a place in the hourly lot, I got stuck near an exit from another lot, and was trying to back up and turn around, when steam began boiling off my radiator. I stopped, got out, and saw my radiator fluid pouring out. Parking attendants and police came and helped me. I called AAA but no tow truck was available for over an hour. I met Gloria’s plane and brought her back to the truck. The lot attendants hung around so as to help the tow truck driver get into the lot, and eventually another tow business, Dave’s out of Durham, came but not until after 5 PM. I made sure the driver knew where to take my 20-year old pickup, and then Gloria and I took a cab to Moncure. Gloria was very adaptable and cheerful. She wrote in her diary and read a book while I talked to attendants and made phone calls until my cell phone ran out of juice. She also talked non-stop to our taxi driver originally from Africa, and insisted on paying for the ride, which was pricey.
Once we’d eaten, I could think better and decided to get a rental car for the weekend, as the radiator itself was cracked, and it wouldn’t be ready before Monday. The car was not delivered as I’d been told, but the local Enterprise business in Pittsboro came and got us. By 10:30 I was driving–very nervously–a new Nissan to Raleigh, with Gloria riding shotgun, and encouraging me. I had to learn to drive all over again. No key, only buttons, and you could not have your foot on the gas when you braked! I jerked us both around in the beginning, with Gloria laughing at me and predicting we would not get to Raleigh until late afternoon.
We finally got to Raleigh at 11:30, still in time for the Guppy lunch at the Twisted Mango, and we were able to leave our bags at the desk in the Marriott Hotel, where Gloria was staying. The Marriott and the Sheridan were both used for panels and other events, and are close to each other. As we left the parking lot, I saw that it was a monthly lot and no one else was supposed to park there.
Immediately after the Guppy lunch, once I’d left my books for the Canadian bookseller of Scene of the Crime Books, in Gloria’s room (she had loaned me her key), I hurried back to the lot to move the car. Fortunately it hadn’t been towed. The very next parking lot was one where I could pay in advance with my credit card. I then collected my books and took them to the very nice Scene of the Crime man. I also registered for the convention, though somehow I lost my ballot and my name tag. It was after 3 PM when I made it to the panel I’d picked out that began at 2:30: “Stiff Upper Lip: British Investigators Are Murder.” I’d wanted to hear a favorite of mine, Elly Griffiths, but I couldn’t even see her until the panel was over, or figure out who was talking. I did go up to her afterwards and tell her how much I loved her books.
I left for home at 5, after the interview of the American Guests of Honor, by Oline Cogdill, of Kathy Reichs (author of the “Bones” books and TV series) and Tom Franklin, who told us the story of how he burned his Tarzan comic books. I got lost coming home which I did every night until Sunday afternoon, where I finally did what I’d been trying to every night, follow Dawson until it turned into Saunders and led to I-40. On Sunday Carolyn and I both made it in 40 minutes.
On Friday I got there in time for my first day actually relaxed enough to enjoy the convention. I’d parked in the hotel lot, but came up in the Convention Building. They pointed me to the Marriott. I was in time for the 7:30 SinC breakfast where I learned about the new YA mystery readers and writers whom the Low Country Sinc chapter had brought to the convention. The panel I loved most on Friday was theirs at 4 o’clock.
“The Importance of Book Clubs and Young Adult Literacy.” The teens were Kaley Whittle, Destiny Geddis, and Matthew McGrath. Kaley’s mother, Tina Whittle, a crime writer herself with Poisoned Pen Press was moderator, and they also had B.K. Stevens, who has a YA novel out. The young adults were lively, excited, funny, and very passionate about helping us adult authors understand better the YA novel requirements. So here’s their advice.
1. Talk to real teenagers. Know your audience. We talk differently. Words like spiffy don’t go over with us. We have different languages.
2. Not all characters need to have a tragic background, and most of them probably are understood by their parents and teachers. We have readers and friends among us. Not everyone is a loner, and there needs to be more diversity among the characters.
3. Adults are not always difficult and not always perfect. Family is important to us.
4. Don’t force the romantic theme.
5. Trust your chemistry.
6. Give us more diversity, more original characters, e.g., homosexual, Platonic relationships, friendships. Romance is a great education.
7. Animals get killed sometimes. Emotions should be natural, not faked. The baby doesn’t need to die.
8. This generation is used to sexual diversity. One character they liked is a deaf African American female.
9. Solve the mystery by finding clues. Limit suspension of disbelief. We can handle a complex mystery. Each human being is unique. The villain should be a real person. Loose ends should be tied up. Once they never learned the fate of a character. Men shouldn’t be stereotyped. Characters should be up and down the binary gender line.
10. Leave your moral at home. Subtlety is appreciated. Preachiness feels clunky.
11. Okay to be serious and funny at the same time.
They had 10 items, but my notes were rough. You get the idea. They want from mysteries what we want! At least this is what I want in a mystery!
They review books and they read “crossover” books. Favorites are Catriona McPherson and Janie Cody. They like B.K’s YA novel, too.
Their website is: http://ccatmystery.blogspot.com
I wrote to Tina Whittle, and asked if I could send one novel that might be considered a “cross over” novel, Killer Frost, and she okayed it, and I sent off two copies last Wednesday. I can’t wait to hear what they think. Ezra Pound talked in his poetry about “the hard Sophoclean light” of the young. Will Killer Frost measure up to these young critics? I hope so.
More on Bouchercon next week, but the YA kids were my favorite panel of the whole convention!
You might want to check out the Bouchercon website: www.bouchercon2015.org
Left to right: Tina Whittle, Moderator; Kaley Whittle, Destiny Geddis, Matthew McGrath, and B.K. Stevens Photo by Kaley's father.