Guest Post: James Ziskin on how to prepare for Bouchercon

boucherconWith Bouchercon, THE mystery convention of the United States, starting tomorrow in Raleigh, James Ziskin, author of the Ellie Stone series, offers this course for his fellow writers to prepare for it and other conferences.

This four-week course prepares authors for success at writers’ conferences, covering norms of professional and social behavior while offering insight into how to get the most out of the conference experience. Here’s what to do and what not to do at Bouchercon.

“Learn from my mistakes. I’ve done all of the things below!” – A not-so-famous writer


Week 1


Topics Covered:
1. Securing the middle seat on the panel table without throwing elbows
2. Suppressing the creepy smile
3. Monopolizing the microphone
4. Feigning interest in your fellow panelists’ remarks
5. Springing your hilarious sex joke at the appropriate moment to maximize the discomfort of your fellow panelists and the audience
6. Playing it cool after you’ve drunk from a fellow panelist’s water glass
7. Suppressing the belch
8. Slipping in your sarcastic, apropos-of-nothing digs at Fifty Shades of Grey
9. Tossing out one high-brow literary reference per panel to impress the audience
10. Bouncing back to your feet with grace after you’ve leaned back pensively in your chair and fallen off the back of the dais

Week 2


Topics Covered:
1. Avoiding and/or ditching the duds who can’t help your career
2. Glomming onto the guy buying drinks
3. Impressing that pretty young author. (The one rolling her eyes.)
4. Saying it, not spraying it
5. Pacifying the drunken, chest-poking, Whaddya-think-you’re-better-than-me? mid-list author
6. Playing down the severity of your anaphylactic shock after accidentally ingesting a peanut from the pretzel dish on the bar
7. Putting out the vibe
8. Extracting the plastic cocktail sword from your olive with panache and pimento
9. Explaining to your noir-writer friends why there’s an umbrella in your drink

Week 3


Topics Covered:
1. Cornering William Kent Kreuger to ask for a blurb
2. Stalking Lee Child and following him outside for a cigarette even though you don’t smoke
3. Gushing and fawning
4. Palming Louise Penny’s award; she won’t miss it
5. Offering title advice to Sue Grafton for Y and Z
6. Convincing yourself you’re fit to shine Tim Hallinan’s shoes
7. Perfecting your Scottish brogue to impress/baffle/insult Ian Rankin, Catriona McPherson, and Val McDermid.

Week 4


Topics Covered:
1. Shoe-horning your chair into the last space at the best table
2. Identifying your entree: vulcanized chicken, carbonized beef, or gluey pasta
3. Perfecting the discreet post-prandial pick of the tooth
4. Telling the eager fan sitting to your left to F off so you can pitch your novel to Janet Reid
5. Sobbing on the shoulder of the fan sitting to your left after you pitch your novel to Janet Reid

1. Disposing of your promotional bookmarks and postcards. Conference organizers set up convenient tables in the corridors outside the panel rooms for this purpose.
2. How low should your lanyard hang?
3. Author speed dating: for those who prefer their humiliation public

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