Simon Wood

SHELF LIFE: Bouchercon 2014

I’m the toastmaster for Bouchercon 2014 in sunny Long Beach, California.  Bouchercon is the world mystery convention and it’s kind of an Olympics for the crime fiction community.  There’s no award for the 100 meters sprint, although if you’re a criminal, a good 100m time would be an asset.  I’ve not really talked much about it because I’ve been waiting for the organizers to come to their senses and get a proper grownup to emcee the event.  It doesn’t look they’re going to change their minds, so it looks as if I’m it.
I don’t take many things seriously, but I am taking this role seriously.  First off, there’ll be over 2,200 people in attendance, so I’d better bloody give it the attention the role deserves.  Secondly, I’ll be the 45thToastmaster and I’ll be following in the footsteps of Harlan Coben, William Kent Kruger, Laura Lippman, Lee Child, Jonathan Gash, Reginald Hill, just to name a few.  I have a strong tradition to maintain, so I need to be on my A-game.  Thirdly, there’s the 2014 Guests of Honor themselves to consider which include Jeffery Deaver, Edward Marston and J.A. Jance.  They don’t want dope fronting for them.  Lastly, the organizers have put their faith in me by selecting me, so I owe a lot to them.
So what does being toastmaster mean?  It means I have to keep festivities moving at the formal events, keep people in check if someone decides to act out and of course it means the big speech at the opening ceremonies.  This is the icky part for me.  Public speaking isn’t something that comes natural to me and speaking to big crowds is kind of scary, but it’s something that I’ve had to develop over the years.  Usually, my approach for speaking events is to have a topic in mind, talk off the cuff and stare into the stage lights so that I’m blinded by the fact that are people in the room with me.  That won’t cut it for Bouchercon.  I need to be considered.  I have to follow on from the previous forty-four toastmasters.  This has been the tough part.  I’ve listened to a number of past Toasties (my slang for toastmasters) and they’ve all managed to put an original spin on the convention.  I was picked for the Toasty job back in 2010 and to be frank, I’ve had no hook for my speech…
…until now!
Now, I can’t go into details, but I will say no one has gone in the direction that I’ve chosen.  So I feel I can hold my own with my predecessors.  Phew!
Getting a handle on my duties couldn’t have come soon enough.  The convention is little more than a year away and there’s a lot of work I need to do and prepare for.  There are a number of extra-curricular events associated with the event I’ll be involved in, some I can’t mention yet.
Anyway, the clock is ticking and should be clearing your calendar in order to be there.  If you need what’s what, go to the website.  I expect to see you there.

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