Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Fly on the Wall at the Mystery Writers Conference

I always sign on to work the summer conferences at BP. During conferences, our role as booksellers expands to include serving food and wine at the conference dinners, moving furniture and audio-visual equipment about for various seminars, handling crowds at the public events with speakers like Elizabeth George, John Lescroat, and Robert Crais with Michael Connelly. Elaine made us laugh as we bused tables one night and she asked if we ever thought the "bookseller" job description included such duties. It does at Book Passage-- we wear many hats!

But the real payoff is to be a fly on the wall as the seminars happen, or the evening speaking engagements are going on. I heard Connelly and Crais describe how to work with helpful, encouraging police officers when they research their books, and haunting the courthouse to speak to police, criminal attorneys, or judges for information they would later include in their stories. I heard Elizabeth George and Jacqueline Winspear discussing the writer's life ("Did I really complete that novel? How did I do it? Can I ever do it again?") and the joys and challenges a writer faces every time they sit down to compose. And many, many more great tidbits as I worked the registers, or filled a wineglass, or straightened chairs in the Event Room.

As we tidied the bookstore and cleared away the last Mystery Writers Conference materials on Sunday, I sneaked a peek at the feedback forms from the students. Of course, the educational structure and speakers at the Conference are all in the brilliant hands of Sheldon Siegel, Jacqueline Winspear, and Kathryn Petrocelli and not my work, but I couldn't help wondering if the students learned as much as I did, or had as good a time. They sure did! They all left just buzzing with the knowledge they'd gained, the support and encouragement, the feeling that they can complete their projects and get them published. They loved the speakers, the food, the workshops, their consultations with the experts. The comments about the nature and usefulness of the Conference were really gratifying.

So did they have any complaints? Well, our folding chairs caused some sore bottoms, and there was this giant poodle taking up seating space. I think we can handle these challenges. [grin]

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