Monday, October 13, 2014

The Magic of Conventions

My dad dropped his newspaper on the table and whisked me into the car. Driving down the highway, he explained that today was the last day of a magic convention in Fort Lauderdale and there was just enough time to make it to the closing Sunday breakfast. We got there right as the final lecture started. Brief as it was, it was a great first conference. 

I’d go on to visit, and eventually lecture at, several other magic conventions. Although they were certainly influential for me, my first really transformative experience—the kind of event I walked out of a different person—was a literary conference in South Florida. I was invited to tag along by a friend of the family, writer Jeff Wallman, who knew I was an avid reader; there I met a future girlfriend, spoke to some living breathing legends, and realized that maybe I, too, could be a writer one day.

What was special about that conference was the blurriness of it all. While at a magic conference there’s a sharp divide between the pros and the fans (you’re either there to teach or to learn), but that wasn’t the case at the literary conference. The woman headlining a session could be sitting next to you an hour later listening to a panel.

It was there I realized that to be a good writer, you need to be an even bigger fan. While I didn’t think much of my writing at that point, I had no doubt about my passion for well-told stories. I was about as big of a fan as you could find. (My mother was constantly worried my shelves of books were going to collapse, suffocating me in an avalanche of Asimov, Leonard, Crichton and Harris.)

I saw people like me there. We loved books. We loved storytelling. The professional writers I talked to were fans that got so consumed with their fandom they had to devote their life to it.

Because of them, I knew I could be a writer. All I had to do was not die in a book avalanche and nourish the fan inside of me. Eventually, when I was ready, I’d find myself sitting in front of a blank page, ready to unleash that inner fan and share all the things I love about storytelling.

I’m excited about going to Bouchercon because it reminds me of where it started for me twenty years ago, when I realized something about myself that changed me for the better. Ever the fan, I can’t wait to find out where this new experience, and sharing with others like me, will take me.

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