BOUCHERCON | A Tale of Yearning from the Land of “If”

Who knows, maybe this guy will make it to Bouchercon someday.

Last year I attended Bouchercon, the mystery convention. But not this year. I thought I was okay with my decision until I popped into annoying Facebook — why oh why did I bother? — and noted how much fun everyone was having. I don’t know many of the publishing novelists having all the fun, yet I regressed to the mindset of a ten-year-old not invited to the popular girl’s sleepover.

This, even though I wasn’t a girl who pined for sleepovers. So I ask you, what the hell was my angst all about anyhow? Could I have been more immature, more childish, more silly?

The truth is that I yearn to be a member of the wider community of crime writers and known by at least a few of them for my writing. “Oh, Lisa Alber, yes,” Deborah Crombie might say. “Her debut novel is excellent.” Or from, say, Laura Lippman, “She got some buzz at BEA.” Or, from Louise Penny, “Haven’t read her novel yet, but it’s on my nightstand.”

That I don’t feel part of the larger community says too much about me, I guess. (Maybe I should look into therapy?) I’ve always strived for “As” — which is to say, external acknowledgment in return for my efforts. I don’t need much, but a few gnawed-on bones thrown in my direction would be nice; writing to the accolades of my inner critic and my friends and family isn’t enough.

Yesterday, I attended a lecture given by The Oregonian‘s book critic. On the return drive, a writer friend and I spoke about our futures in terms of “when,” not “if.” When we sell our first novels, when we have to start promoting ourselves…when, when, when…I felt fine (no Facebook!), and then…

My childishness resurfaced this morning as I peeked at a few fictionista blogs. There I went, bobbing back into the land of “if.” As in, “if only I went to the sleepover…,” as in “if only the damn novel would sell already…” One and all, the novelists who posted and who had attended Bouchercon professed to post-conference exhaustion. A good kind of exhausted, I’m sure. I remember boozing it up in the bar along with everyone else last year, watching the well-known authors greet each other with hugs. I eavesdropped on many a conversation about book tours, publication dates, agents, and publishers. Oh the fun! Even for me, the authorial voyeur. And man, I was exhausted just from absorbing it all.

I do love the writing process, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that my ten-year-old girl self won’t shut up. She still wants to be invited to the popular-girl sleepover (with boys, always with boys). This yearning of mine helps keep me motivated on the worst days. I don’t banish my ten-year-old self; I say to her, Hey, you, let’s keep chugging.

You never know, maybe next year I’ll show up  at Bouchercon with a book sale under my belt. A girl can yearn.