Folks are streaming out of New York and back to their home towns this bright Sunday morning. The maids work hard cleaning the rooms up and down the hall as I type, sequestered away from the world for one more day, waiting to see if these are allergy symptoms or a Covid infection coming on. Today, I’m thinking a lot about this year’s quiet yet very successful ThrillerFest conference.

First, a few caveats

  • I don’t write thrillers, so I am not the target demo for this conference. At least, not yet. But my published short stories and unpublished novels are always described by readers as brisk, fast-paced, and so I like to visit with and learn from the real masters of this genre. I agree with something Sophie Littlefield said ages ago, that one can think of “thriller” as an element of any genre, not just as a genre/subgenre of its own. And apparently ThrillerFest agrees, as the invitees and attendees are from across the crime genre spectrum.
  • I almost didn’t attend because of the high community spread of Covid. It had just started to plateau, and hospitals were not overfull, so I took a chance. Now all the major measures are decreasing. To reduce risk, I skipped the mass events (cocktail parties, BarCon, and the Awards Banquet), ate most meals in my room, and tried to mingle with small groups of people, and mask up whenever I could. I didn’t even get a chance to share my tasting whisky with anyone:
Three tasting whiskys! Guess they’ll have to wait for Bouchercon?

Okay, so with all those caveats in mind, why is his year’s festival a success? Because this year has taught me that compromise is not losing, compromise is everyone winning!

My success metrics include fresh voices, mixing with peers, and getting the chance to share what I know.

First: Fresh voices

Writers whose craft (and general all-around great-people-ness) were rewarded with accolades or exciting industry accomplishments this year. It’s lovely to see S.A. Cosby, Jess Lourey, Amanda Jayatissa, and all the nominees and winners recognized for their work. Voices–we need ALL THE VOICES!!!!!

Also, I’ve got a friend whose good news will be announced shortly. She’s the most generous person, and a damn fine, award-winning writer. I’m excited to see where she’ll take us with her new work.

Second: Some mixing despite Covid

I did get to mix and mingle a bit. I’m a natural-born introvert, however, I present as extroverted. But I’m really not. And now that my knee is frozen and I can’t walk far, I ride around in a mobility cart at conferences and let me tell you–carts and wheelchairs don’t start as many conversations as they end.

Sidebar: One woman thought it would be funny to make the beeping truck sound as I backed out of an elevator, and well, it was kind of funny. But also very humiliating–not her intention, of course. Lots of people here at ThrillerFest went out of their way to say hello, make a small joke, extend themselves to me so I wouldn’t feel so isolated, and I’m grateful for their kind efforts. But in large gatherings, even without the threat of Covid hanging over everything, it’s just really hard to feel like you belong when everyone is standing up while you’re stuck sitting in a chair. So I hid from Covid and my own insecurities in my room.

Last but not least: sharing what I know

ThrillerFest graciously included me on a panel about pacing, and I learned so much from Nina Sadowsky, Brian Andrews, Reed Bunzel, Al Pessin, and Brad Taylor, as well as learning from the audience Q&A. Color me grateful!

Sidebar: I’ve only been doing this disabled thing for a few years, but I’ve learned some things: offer help to a disabled person if you must, but don’t insist, *ask* the person what kind of help they need, and then do as the person asks. Try to see the person in the chair as an individual with as much agency as you, as easily embarrassed, as easily frustrated by physical limitations, as smart as you, and better informed about what they need. More than once, someone has insisted on “helping” me in ways I neither wanted nor needed.

An apology

To all those able-bodied people who missed their elevators because of my big fat chair–I am truly sorry. Nothing closes quicker than a New York City elevator!

Same time next year?

Now, back to writing, the day job, and all the mundane tasks that we escape when we convene for these events. See you next year!!!!!

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