by Holly West
Last month, I attended Left Coast Crime in Monterey, California–my first conference as a published author.
Truthfully, I didn’t give this much thought prior to arriving. I’ve been attending mystery conferences since 2009, when I went to Bouchercon in Indianapolis. I’ve moderated panels at subsequent Bouchercons and elsewhere, and overall, I never felt like being unpublished held me back. I’d made enough friends in the crime fiction world (and continue to do so) that it didn’t seem to matter whether I was published or not.
I learned, however, that being published changed, ever so slightly, the way I was treated (for lack of a better phrase) at this conference. For the first time, I was on a panel as a panelist and not a moderator. People who’d read my book introduced themselves and told me how much they’d liked it. I was able to participate in the New Authors Breakfast, along with many other fellow first timers I have great respect for (special shout out to Terry Shames, Terri Nolan, and Matt Coyle).
And for the first time, I got to sit at the signing table.
I didn’t expect this last one to be of any great significance because Mistress of Fortune is an eBook. What was I going to sign? Nevertheless, several attendees asked me to sign their conference programs, and darned if it didn’t make me feel pretty good.
But there was another unexpected reason why sitting at that signing table meant something special to me.
Back in 2009, when I attended that first Bouchercon in Indianapolis, I met one of my favorite authors (and certainly one of the reasons I write crime fiction in the first place), Sue Grafton. A friend, Ali Karim, introduced us at the PWA Shamus Awards and she graciously spent about fifteen minutes talking with me about my project, writing in general, and her own writing process. I’ve met Sue a few times since then and she always pretends to remember me, which I greatly appreciate.
|Holly West & Sue Grafton (or as I like to call her, my BFF)|
After my Left Coast Crime panel, I dutifully went downstairs with the other authors to sit at the signing tables. The first thing I saw when I got there was that Sue Grafton, who’d had a panel during the same time I did, was at one end of the table and I was at the other end. We were “bookends,” if you will. This moment was not lost on me. In all the fantasies I’d ever had about being a published author, this had not been one of them–it had never even occurred to me. I was thrilled.
I waited until Sue’s long line of fans had dissipated and took the opportunity to tell her just what it meant to me. My first conference as a published author and here I was sitting at the signing table with my idol. Always a gracious one, she gave me a big hug and congratulated me.
I spend a lot of time complaining about how hard writing is but let me tell you–there are a lot of great moments along the path to publishing. This was one of mine.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me about one of the great moments you’ve had as a writer. Big or small, they all help to keep us going in this journey that sometimes feels like a fool’s errand.