You'll have to excuse me if I'm a little nervous. In two days, I'm meeting up with 650 young readers, and I'm hoping to make a good impression.
It's all part of Bouchercon 2009. What the bleep is Bouchercon, you ask? Well, Bouchercon (bow-cher-con) is the world's biggest annual gathering of mystery authors and fans, drawing about 1,500 people every year. It's a certified blast, for reasons that include but aren't limited to: (a) panel discussions with great authors; (b) evenings at the hotel bar (provided you're 21, natch) worth the price of admission alone; (c) and field trips like the one I took at last year's convention in Baltimore, where you see cool stuff like Edgar Allan Poe's grave:
Anyway, the convention's numbers will swell a bit when the convention hits Indianapolis on Thursday, because the conference organizers had the genius plan to include, for the first time, programming for kids.
Baseball teams are smart enough to have "kids get in free days" -- which expose kids to the game, make some lifelong fans in the process, and bring their parents along in the bargain. That's just what's happening at Bouchercon this year: the convention is sharing the thrill of mystery novels in particular, and books in general, with mystery authors' future readers.
For YA writers, it's even better, because the kids coming out to the convention are our current readers.
I hope they do this programming again next year, and if so I hope more YA writers get on board. (Although we've got a great group this year, including Chris Grabenstein and honored guest Wendelin Van Draanen.) I underscore that point because I imagine many authors reading this might be saying, "yeah, that's great and all, but I don't write mysteries." If you just nodded your head, don't be so hasty.
Earlier this year, the Mystery Writers of America gave its prestigious Edgar Award for best YA mystery novel to the very deserving Paper Towns by John Green. It's an excellent book, but one that most probably wouldn't think of primarily as a mystery.
Similarly, I think for purposes of the Bouchercon conference, the definition of "mystery" is probably best left fairly open. Open, that is, all the great YA authors out there writing stories that include foul deeds, hidden pasts, secret identities, microscopes, and/or fake mustaches.
I mean, that covers most of the good books anyways, right? In any case, there are a lot of you out there, and I hope to see you at Bouchercon 2010.