“Bouchercon Tell-All” by Sarah M. Chen

I’m exhausted yet still riding this high from the lovefest that is Bouchercon. For those who have never been, it’s the biggest mystery fan convention anywhere. I heard this year it was a record number (close to 2000) and it’s no wonder. New Orleans is one of the most exciting towns and one of my personal favorites for its food and music scene. I can’t even begin to encapsulate the incredible camaraderie and frenzied joy of Bouchercon in one blog post but I’ll try. Here are a few of my personal favorite moments:


I arrived Wednesday in time to do a reading for the Noir at the Bar After Dark. Jay Stringer from Glasgow was the host and asked me to read (thank you, Jay!) along with Johnny Shaw, Christa Faust, Danny Gardner, and Renee Asher Pickup, to name a few. The readings were fantastic and downright dirty. Perfect way to start B’Con!


The free books were done a little differently this year. Instead of receiving the books in your tote bag, you were directed to a ballroom where rows of books lined four long tables. You were given 6 raffle tickets to exchange for 6 books of your choice. Unfortunately, the high-demand books were already gone by the time I picked them up, but there were still plenty on hand to make my choices difficult.


I attended three panels on Thursday. The first was the “Metropolitan Glide” panel with my friend and fellow writer group-er Travis Richardson moderating. This was about writing crime fiction involving police. I learned about a new website (http://police-writers.com) that features cops from all over the country who write.


Then I headed to the “Invisible Touch: Agents & Editors Panel: State of the Industry” with Juliet Grames of Soho Press moderating. This panel included Jason Pinter of Polis Books, a fairly new publisher who is making quite a name for himself already with both Rob Hart and Patricia Abbott’s books being nominated for an Anthony for Best First Novel (both fantastic books too!). Jason said, “We have professionalism, terrific distribution with Publishers Group West, and we’re ‘scrappy.’” They’re definitely a publisher I’m keeping my eye on.


Lastly, it was time for my panel “Murder Under the Sun” with Michael Stanley, C. Michele Dorsey, Jeffrey Hess, and Annamarie Alfieri with Mysti Berry moderating. It was a great discussion about what inspires us to write crime fiction in hot places. There were some great audience questions like does a hot setting inspire you or is it character? (I’m inspired by character or a scene in my head. The setting I flesh out later.)

                                                                laura-lippman wilde-lake

Friday, I had a bookseller/publisher luncheon hosted by Harper Collins to honor Laura Lippman and her book WILDE LAKE. It was a fantastic 6-course lunch with such folks as Sarah Weinman and Oline Cogdill. And of course Laura Lippman. She talked about her husband’s show Treme and getting on a krewe.

hardboiled-book           the_postman_always_rings_twice

Then it was back to the hotel for the “Hardboiled v. Noir” panel with Susan Alice Bickford moderating along with Craig Faustus Buck, Rob Hart, Barbara N.S. Nickless, and Lisa Turner. A few definitions of hardboiled and noir were given, including “hardboiled involves a detective, noir does not. Noir is about losers.” I also liked, “with noir, you choose between bad and worse” or “in hardboiled fiction, heroes fall from a pedestal. In noir, they fall from the curb.”


Lee Child and I!

Saturday was an exclusive William Morrow panel called “Women Taking Shots.” The first 60 people to email got in. I had no idea what to expect but all I knew was it involved Lisa Unger, Alafair Burke, Kate White, Karin Slaughter, and Sara Blaedel, moderated by Lee Child. When I walked in to the room, there was a complimentary bar and chocolates. The discussion turned out to be along the same lines as one I had the night before at the bar. Do men blurb crime fiction for women as much as women blurb for men? The answer is no. The authors talked about how this imbalance is a reflection of our male-centric society in general. Male readers may see a blurb from a female author as a “weaker” story as opposed to a blurb on a book written by a female as “stronger.” Sara Blaedel was the only one who said it wasn’t really the same in Denmark, mostly because nobody blurbs (except her). This was definitely a conference highlight for me as these legendary authors joked around with each other while discussing a timely topic.

“I, as a writer, choose how I want to frame the dance.”

Saturday I attended the “Social Issues” panel with Julia Dahl, Ovidia Yu, Bruce DeSilva, Paul Hardisty, Erica Wright and Gary Phillips moderating. It was an interesting discussion of how these authors stay current when it comes to writing social issues. When Gary asked Ovidia how she wrote about Singapore with its fairly constant changing political and social landscape, Ovidia said something I liked: “I, as a writer, choose how I want to frame the dance.”


A friend and fellow Sisters in Crime/LA writer, Ellen Byron, had her launch party for her second novel, BODY ON THE BAYOU, at an art gallery on Saturday night. There couldn’t have been a better party location for a book set in New Orleans than an art gallery!

Walter Mosley and I!

So what else can I say about this conference? It just shows how supportive and lovey-dovey us crime fiction writers are no matter how hard we try to convince everyone we’re jaded or competitive or whatever. We’re not any of those (okay well maybe some of us are but I have yet to meet them). It’s basically a big reunion and tribal bonding over 4-5 days. The “big shots” have no problem taking photos with us and my friendly chats with Lee Child and Walter Mosley were definitely conference (and life) highlights for me. Whether we’re cozy or noir, big publisher or indie, newbie or veteran, we are all crime fiction writers and readers. Too often we feel all alone in this writing gig, but conferences like this prove we’re anything but.


I’m already counting down the days until Toronto!


                                               author-sarah-m-chen   cleaning-up-finn

Sarah M. Chen juggles several jobs including indie bookseller, transcriber, and insurance adjuster. Her crime fiction short stories have appeared in “Shotgun Honey,” “Crime Factory,” “Betty Fedora,” “Out of the Gutter,” and “Dead Guns Press,” among others. Cleaning Up Finn is her first book, available now from All Due Respects Books.

5 thoughts on ““Bouchercon Tell-All” by Sarah M. Chen

  1. Reblogged this on e. michael helms and commented:

    Crime writer Sarah M. Chen reports on Bouchercon 2016 at Motive Means Opportunity!

    “Bouchercon Tell-All” by Sarah M. Chen
    I’m exhausted yet still riding this high from the lovefest that is Bouchercon. For those who have never been, it’s the biggest mystery fan convention anywhere. I heard this year it was a record num…


  2. Wow! I have heard only fabulous things about this huge conference. Now I wish I wrote mysteries! Especially in New Orleans! Great post-
    So far the only conference that fits my needs is Society of Children’s Book Writers in Charlotte. Since I’ve been going since 2002, I look forward to socializing throughout the weekend, and going to workshops that will keep me motivated throughout the next year! It is so much fun, I’d like to add another conference. Maybe one on dogs!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sheri, thanks for joining us today–really appreciate your support! Just an idea, but have you thought about turning your children/dog books into short mysteries? Sydney found the missing child, right? So, you have a private eye dog and children who work together to solve little neighborhood crimes: somebody stole the money from the lemonade stand; someone dognapped a missing puppy, etc. The opportunities are endless and sound like they would be fun. All the while your hero would continue to be a service dog. Just a thought!

      Liked by 1 person

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