Or, as I like to call it, the Cheers factor. Remember the 1980s sitcom about a bar named Cheers and its crew of quirky characters? Remember how Norm would stroll in and everyone would say, NOOOORMMM, and he’d always have a great one-liner such as:
Woody: “How’s it going, Mr. Peterson?”
Norm: “It’s a dog eat dog world, Woody, and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear.”
High probability random encounters are all about community. We walk into a place and know that we’ll see at least one like-minded person who likes us. We don’t necessarily know who we’ll see, just that there’s a high probability of seeing at least one person.
Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, has kind of become my Cheers. Next month I’ll be traveling to Long Beach, and from November 13th through 16th, I’ll be hobnobbing with some of my favorite people on the planet: fellow mystery writers and readers and bloggers and book people! Woohoo!
It’s been a few years since my first Bouchercon, when my novel wasn’t a light on the publishing horizon. In 2010, I traveled from Portland to San Francisco on my own and ventured into the vast land that is the bar scene on my own. Was I scared? No, but I’m also not the most extroverted person in the world. Was this a problem? No! Even at my first Bouchercon I ran into a few people I knew.
And, as we all know, the mystery community is super supportive and welcoming. I plunked myself down with a group of Sisters-in-Crimers who invited me into their conversation. I made new friends such as Leslie Budewitz, Angela M. Sanders, Stephen Jay Schwartz, and Robin Spano (just to name a few).
I had no expectations, but I came away with dreams of a future within the community. I wanted the Cheers factor. I wanted people to see me and say, “Hi, Lisa!” I wanted, as the Cheers song goes, people (at least a few dozen!) to know my name.
Fast forward to Bouchercon, Albany, one year ago, in which I was a debut novelist with an ARC — at long last! I showed that ARC to everyone who’d grant me a few seconds. I was thrilled to have something to say for myself. Because of social networking, I could say, “Hello, Hank, so nice to meet you at long last.” And, “Johnny, congrats on the win!”
A few people did know my name by then, and I knew a few people’s names right back.
Now, we come to Long Beach in just a few short weeks. KILMOON, my mystery set in Ireland, has been out in the world since March. I’m officially an “author.” I’ll be on a panel and participate in the debut author breakfast. I’ll get to sign books alongside my peers.
Most of all, I’ll stroll into the Hyatt bar and know people, and many will know me. Bouchercon is totally nuts, don’t get me wrong, but it also allows me an opportunity to get off my merry-go-around life and just be — be with my peeps, drink a few, support others, be supported, educate myself at the panels. I’ll talk to friends I’d normally hurriedly comment to on Facebook. In an odd kind of way, it’s about slowing down a little bit.
And, of course, I’ll meet new people who will become part of my ever-expanding network of high probability random encounter mystery friends. Each year, the Bouchercon reunions will get that much better. For me, going to Bouchercon is an investment in our community. What could be more fun than that?