Last Wednesday I flew to Madison for Bouchercon, an annual mystery convention that changes moves around the country. My fight was at 6 am (originally scheduled for 6:27, but for some reason American changed the time without asking me). So I set my alarm for 4:45--an ungodly hour, I think you'll agree. And of course, I couldn't sleep.
The day before my trip I heard that travelers are now allowed to carry on-board liquids and lotions, each less than three ounces, all in a quart-size zip lock bag. That's a small bag, I discovered, but I was surprised to find that I could fit quite a number of items into said bag.
On the flight from L.A. to O'Hare, I watched Nacho Libre, with Jack Black. It's hard to enjoy a movie in flight, especially when the captain keeps interrupting to point out the scenery, but Jack Black was funny, and some of the bits were hilarious. In O'Hare I had to walk a mile from one gate to the other. The flight was short - less than half an hour -- and when I arrived at Madison's newly remodeled airport, I recognized fellow convention attendees, including George Easter, editor of Deadly Pleasures. Now You See Me..., my 2005 Molly Blume mystery, was nominated for a Barry Award by Deadly Pleasures, but I told George that since I would be attending the award ceremony, I was certain not to win (read "Lucky Thirteen" to understand why).
We were staying at the Madison Concourse, which has an airport shuttle. But the shuttle was slow in coming, so George and I and two other authors took a cab to the hotel. As soon as I stepped inside the hotel lobby, I saw half a dozen friends -- one of the highs of attending a mystery convention is reuniting with people you haven't seen in some time. I checked into my room on the fourth floor (switched to the third floor momentarily, because I don't use the elevator on the Sabbath, switched back because the pool is on the third floor and the odor of chlorine was uncomfortably sharp. It bothered me, and I was concerned that it would bother my roommate, Judy, even more).
I registered for the convention and received a hefty collection of books in a bag that celebrated Sisters in Crime's 20th anniversary. I attended a Sisters in Crime (SinC) board meeting (I was vice-president this past year, and assumed the presidency on Saturday night). Then I was picked up for a speaking event for Hadassah of Madison, where I met a fan with whom I'd been corresponding for several years. It was wonderful to put a face to the letters and e-mails. Also at the Hadassah event I indulged and ate a slice of divine cheese cake, and I didn't say no when the hostess offered to pack two more slices for me to take back to the hotel. A girl's gotta eat, right?
Not that we didn't have food. Libby Hellmann, SinC president, had offered to bring an ice-chestful of kosher food from Chicago, where she lives. And for Shabbat, the wife of the rabbi of the Chabad shul in Madison insisted on providing us with home-cooked meals.
Thursday morning I awoke early for a meeting with an active representative of our German and Austrian chapters. Then I explored the book room, went to my room to nibble on the cheese cake, and did my panel: "Sister Act," with fellow SinC members S.J. Rozan, Carolyn Hart, Zoe Sharp, and Dana Stabenow, and moderated by Jim Huang, who has joined our national board as bo0kstore liaison. Although it was Thursday noon, and many of the convention attendees hadn't arrived yet, the huge room was packed. What a delight to have a great turnout!
After the panel I spent an enjoyable half hour at the Mystery News table. And early that evening I attended the opening ceremonies, where toastmaster Kent Krueger entertained us, and where the winners for the Macavity Awards and the Barrys were announced. Nancy Pickard won both for her short story, "There Is No Crime on Easter Island" (yey, Nancy!). Tom Cook's beautifully written Red Leaves won the Barry for Best Novel, and Reed Coleman beat me out for the Barry.
But I had cheese cake in my room, remember?
Friday was busy -- attending a panel formed of representatives of all the mystery organizations; a meeting with SinC chapter presidents, participating on another panel. I had a delightful coffee with my agent at a coffee shop a few blocks from the hotel. When I returned it was time to prepare for Shabbat. So Judy and I decided which lights we wanted to leave on throughout the weekend. I phoned the Front Desk and asked them to tell Housekeeping not to change any of the lighting. We set out our tealights, the challah, the wine. We phoned our families back in Los Angeles, and family members who live elsewhere. Then we lit our candles. I made the kiddush on the wine, and the blessing on the challah. Downstairs the convention was still going on, and many of the authors were attending dinners hosted by their publishers. But in our room it was Shabbat.
Shabbat morning we slept in late. I davened, made kiddush, and walked downstairs to sit in on a panel where Carolyn Hart, Margaret Maron, Nancy Pickard, Dorothy Cannell, and moderator Gillian Roberts entertained us while talking about the traditional mystery. And how a bra can be used to effect an escape. You had to be there.
In the afternoon Judy and I read and napped. I took a short walk outside the hotel to the capitol, passed by the stalls of the farmers' market, took a look at several of the art cows on my way back to the hotel. After havdalah, we dressed and went downstairs. First, to the SinC business meeting, where I was officially installed as president and received the SinC seal of approval - which is actually a stuffed white seal that Margaret Maron picked up in London years ago and started a tradition. Then we moved across the hall, where SinC hosted a dessert reception for all Bouchercon attendees to celebrate our 20th anniversary. It was a grand evening, highlighted by the presence of past presidents whom I presented with crystal roses and baseball caps: Nancy Pickard, Carolyn Hart, Margaret Maron, Sue Henry, Eve Sandstrom, Kate Flora, and Libby Hellmann. We all missed Sara Paretsky, one of the founders and the first president of SinC, who wasn't able to join us.
And the ever-charming Parnell Hall, a SinC member of long standing, capped the festivities by singing a song he wrote especially for our 20th. You can read the lyrics on our web site, and we hope to get it on a CD, too.
Wish you could have been there!