Monday, October 20, 2014

Oh the People You'll Meet!





So you want to make new friends, but you’ve heard Bouchercon is too big. Or maybe you’re the shy type, or worried you might do something to embarrass yourself. Just to put you at ease, I’m going to tell you about my most embarrassing moment at a mystery con ever—if you don’t count the time I accidentally threw a bagel smothered in cream cheese into an editor’s purse. Actually, now that I think about it, the bagel incident was more embarrassing, especially considering that I was trying to appear so professional. But since it took place years earlier at a romance writer’s conference, I feel as though it shouldn’t count. (Note to readers who attend these gatherings in the hopes of meeting an editor and maybe getting published: I don’t recommend the bagel method for introductions.) 

But I digress. It was 1997, my first-ever Bouchercon in Monterey. Like anyone walking into Bouchercon as a newby—and perhaps also because I was an aspiring mystery writer—I was intimidated by the vast number of people attending, worried that I’d say something wrong, perhaps commit some grand faux pas. Even so, I wanted to immerse myself into this world and so I stepped out of my comfort zone, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself to the first person I met in line at registration. She in turn introduced me to several more people in her group.  Mission accomplished. I now knew someone in the room.

That first night, this same group invited me to dinner at the pub behind the hotel, and being on a budget, as many of us are at these cons, I ordered an appetizer-sized spinach and feta pizza for my meal.  Undoubtedly the more cynical readers (especially those who know me) are probably wondering how I could possibly remember what I ate seventeen years ago, when I can’t even recall what I ate yesterday. Well, I’m getting to it. A few of us from dinner stopped at the bar afterward, and I was having the time of my life meeting so many people. After an hour or two, I reluctantly bid goodnight, and went up to my room. The moment I looked into the mirror, I thought I’d stepped onto the set of a zombie movie. Every single one of my upper teeth appeared decayed and rotting. On closer inspection, I realized each was covered in green and white globs of various shapes and sizes.

Just. Plain. Ew.

Horrified, I wondered why no one had told me? Did anyone notice? How could anyone not notice? Perhaps the combination of alcohol and the dim lighting of the bar kept the majority from seeing the condition of my teeth—and if they did see them, from remembering anything about it the next day. 


Being that this traumatic (at the time) event occurred almost two decades ago, you’re probably wondering why would I bring it up now, when everyone has surely forgotten? I do so, because embarrassing things happen. To some of us (me), more than we care to recall. (I think I’ll save the Bouchercon/DorothyL handcuff story for another time…) My point is that you shouldn’t let the fear of being in large crowds stop you from meeting new people. Sure, Bouchercon is a big conference and it can seem intimidating. But mystery people are the nicest people. They don’t hold those moments against you. So step out of your comfort zone, introduce yourself to someone new. Just maybe don’t do it after you’ve eaten spinach and feta pizza.


31 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh. I laughed out loud at the bagel in the editor purse incidence, and felt complete empathy at the spinach in the teeth debacle. Thanks for sharing, Robin. Conferences have to be the most excruciating events for introverted authors. Re: The bagel in the purse. What happened? I might have said, oh I gave you that because I thought you might be hungry later :)

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    1. I better save the bagel story for another day! I still turn red over it. (She's a Harper editor, and this was before I was published by Harper! I can only hope she's long forgotten it!!!!)

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    2. Can't wait to hear it. Enjoy Bouchercon. Ideally next year. I hope to be at Left Coast Crime again.

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    3. I'll miss seeing you there, Donnell!

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    4. CONTEST TIME !!!
      We need a word to discreetly tell someone they have something in their teeth. Marni Graff suggested a safe word. Lise McClendon suggested XYT (from the XYZ for telling a boy his zipper's down.) Any takers out there? Anyone think of a better word?

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  2. Conferences are daunting. A safe word--or several--would help. We need to stick together on this!

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  3. I love your story...it seems we all have embarrassing moments...and at some point can laugh about them...much, much later. It's the reason I write comedy...if you can't laugh at yourself you're in serious trouble. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Deb. I agree. You must be able to laugh, even if it takes a while!

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  4. What happens at Bouchercon, stays at Bouchercon. :D

    Lisa (Brackmann)

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  5. Years ago I decided to embrace my klutziness because there was obviously no other choice. I loved this story and I'm so glad you shared it with everyone. I'm looking forward to seeing what new trouble AKA future blog post we can get into at this convention!

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    1. Undoubtedly, Cindy! I look forward to it and the moment we can all laugh about it!

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  6. I bet you now take a toothbrush wherever you go. Funny story.

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    1. Definitely! And now with smart phone cameras, I can "check my email" while accessing the camera, hitting the switch lens to front, and smiling into my phone! (Subtler than pulling out a mirror at the table, don't you think? Still, sometimes prohibitive, because it's not always polite to "check email" at the table!)

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  7. All the more reason for us "seasoned" conference goers to be aware of folks with that deer-in-headlights person who appears to be at her first major con. I'm always amazed at folks who will first introduce themselves and then ignore the newcomer the rest of the evening. You were lucky to meet a welcoming group! I'll certainly up my efforts.

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    1. Agreed! I try to make introductions whenever possible. (and try to ignore my phobia of messing up or forgetting someone's name, then have to stare at their name badge, mortified because I have known this person for years!)

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    2. Oh that happens to me! So embarrassing... but in a crowd of thousands, understandable.
      Lise McClendon -- see you there!

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  8. I've had a great time at all the cons I've gone too. I'm not going this year--it's just too hard for me to fly and then get taxis etc. these days, and never will I drive in L.A. again. Yep, getting old. For all of you who are going have a fabulous time. Great story, Robin.

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    1. Marilyn! So sorry you won't be there!!! :(

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  9. CONTEST TIME !!!
    We need a word to discreetly tell someone they have something in their teeth. Marni Graff suggested a safe word. Lise McClendon suggested XYT (from the XYZ for telling a boy his zipper's down.) Any takers out there? Anyone think of a better word?

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    1. A signed ARC of THE KILL ORDER to the winner! (Because I have some of them left!)

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    3. How about Sharky? Whenever there is talk of teeth, I think of shark's teeth and how they usually have something between them that maybe shouldn't be there, like human flesh.
      Reminds me think of the word my mother and her girlfriends had for saying they were going to the toilet/bathroom. They would say there were going to Hollywood. They were of a generation when it was more considered "ladylike" to say that .

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    4. Sharky! That's a good one!

      Love the Hollywood reference, too, Deborah!

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  10. Is "A zombie ate your face" too much? Shorten it to AZAYF?

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  11. Oh my gosh, I feel your pain! My daughter and I are both addicted to lipstick, and I tend to wear bold colors like red. My daughter and I have developed a 2-step method of notifying the other if we've managed to get lipstick on our teeth. A quick nudge or blink, and then a pointed look at the other's mouth. If I don't get the message, she'll just hiss, "Teeth!" at me. That's not exactly subtle, but if I'm nervous and in a crowd of authors and editors, subtle may be beyond my grasp. I'm trying to think of a safe word but they all seem pretty obvious. I have a friend who says, "Bite me!" a lot. If this would be in character for one of your friends to say, that would work.

    I'm not shy, and I had a blast at my first RWA National. I was there with a friend, as I was when I attended Malice Domestic, and that makes a HUGE difference. I went to Bouchercon by myself, but I had arranged to meet up with two authors I had met before - Rosemary Harris and Hank Phillippi Ryan. I felt comfortable when I was hanging out with them - and, thankfully, they introduced me to many other authors I'd met previously online - but I felt very awkward when I went into the scrum on my own. So many people looked familiar but I was only able to match a few with my mental image of their back cover photos. I had the same problem at RWA National. I'm a little near-sighted, so I came up with this idea, although I can't imagine any conference actually adapting my idea. Instead of file-card-sized name badges that invariably hang at boob-level (making it awkward for those of us who have to squint to make out the name), I like the idea of sandwich board-type name tags, complete with large print and accompanied by recent cover shots, to be worn on author's backs (so people like me can slink up behind them and figure out why they look familiar BEFORE I'm face-to-face with a favorite author. I recognize book titles better than faces, especially if I mainly see the faces in thumbnails online or glamorous "official" photos.

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    1. Sandwich boards are a great idea, Becke!

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  12. My friend and I say "tippy toes" - it's short and no one knows what we're talking about - then we can repair the damage. This will be my first Bcon!

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  13. Julia,
    I swear that if Google lets me post this, finally, I will be amazed! (Three days now!) But I love your response that you and your friend have come up with! Brilliantly simple!

    Enjoy your first Bcon. And do look me up while there. Would love to say hi!

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