Ten days ago, I participated in the Tucson Festival of Books. This coming weekend, I’ll take part in Left Coast Crime, a conference devoted to the mystery genre, which will be held in Reno, Nevada. In September, I’ll be at Bouchercon, the world mystery convention in St. Petersburg, Florida. And also that month I’ll be a part of the South Dakota Festival of Books.
That’s a lot of traveling, a lot of days out of my year. You probably think I do these things to promote my books. When I first became a published author, that was true. But I do them for an entirely different reason now, and here it is: Community.
In this day of instant internet communication, of Facebook and Snapchat and Pinterest and Twitter, human interaction has become virtual. We participate in list serves and chat groups. We email. We Skype. All well and good, but we don’t shake hands. We don’t hug. We don’t sit down over coffee or a beer and really talk. We don’t read faces or interpret body language or connect in all the ways our physical chemistry has evolved to help us understand one another as flesh and bone and blood human beings.
At a book conference or a book festival, I have that lovely opportunity to talk face-to-face with other authors and with readers who enjoy my work. We sit and share conversation. We absorb the humanness of one another. We create community. During these events, I see people roaming singularly and encountering a friend or two, and they become a group, and the group meets another, and like molecules colliding, they form whole new relationships. In the end, everyone feels a part of something much larger.
These days, I don’t do these events to promote myself or my work. I do them because I love what comes from them, which is connection, community. I do them because I’m with people who, like me, value the power of the written word and want to celebrate that. And, lest I forget, one of the important reasons I continue to do them is because they’re so damn much fun.
If you’ve never attended a mystery conference or taken the opportunity to visit a book festival, I can’t urge you strongly enough to get off your duff and come. Like the song says, “What good is sitting alone in your room?”