I learn a lot about myself when I go to conferences. At Malice Domestic, I learned I might be the only person in the United States who hasn’t had Chick-fil-A. I admit, I sort of cringed when my wide-eyed lunch partner asked, “You’ve never had Chick-fil-A?” (which I spelled Chick Fillet until a couple of seconds ago). I had to answer no.
Which is why it’s important for me to travel. It’s important to learn all the things I don’t know, and going to conferences helps. The first time I took on O’Hare airport, I made a wrong turn and ended up back in the security line. I’ve learned Chicago airport personnel have very little patience for newbies; the only help I got was a finger point in the right direction. But this time? I walked through the underbelly of O’Hare like a boss. Changing terminals wasn’t a problem. I even grabbed a bag of popcorn.
The snack was serendipitous, because I had to sit on the tarmac for two hours, waiting for the weather to clear in Washington, DC. But seeing friends I’d made from previous years at Malice was worth the wait. I got a big hug from Dru Ann Love, one of the nicest book bloggers I know. Last fall, she invited me to tour Salem, MA, with her, and I’ll never forget her kindness. Donna Andrews, who was this year’s Guest of Honor, was also on that trip. Many of you know her as the author of the Meg Langslow mysteries, and I enjoyed hearing her interview. I also enjoyed seeing blogger Christine Gentes of Map Your Mystery, who first put South Dakota on her reading map with a review of my Prof. Prather series.
Saturday night, I hosted a banquet table with fellow cozy mystery author Catherine Bruns. It was a new experience that allowed me to talk with readers. During the conference, I was able get reacquainted with several readers I chat with online. (Special thanks to Shirley Landes and Nicole Vickers for reaching out!)
Sunday morning, I had my panel Book-Loving Sleuths. I love books, Em Prather loves books, and everyone at the conference loves books, so the discussion was just as bookish as you’d expect. One of the panel members had a nice aside about the Oxford comma, bless her heart. It’s incredible to be around people who revere books as much as you do, and for that reason alone, I think conferences are worth it.
Learning what you don’t know is also worth it. While I had an opportunity to try Chick-fil-A and passed (gasp!), it’s important to get out of my comfort zone once in a while. Traveling by myself and listening to panels gives me a nudge. So does learning about places like Chick-fil-A.
Though I don’t think it could hold a candle to Al’s Oasis.