Author Charlie Huston says there’s no polite way to decline a drink if you want to remain welcome among professional writers at Bouchercon.
Worse fates there
are than to be asked repeatedly, “What are you drinking?” Indeed, for
that first day it was something of a fantasy come to life. Not only
were drinks being purchased for me, but they were being purchased by
people who had read my books, people who had read them and took
occasion from time to time to mumble a word of praise. As I drank deep,
my ego drank deeper.
The only fault with the scenario being on the second day when I
realized I was supposed to repeat my performance as
sloshed-youngish-writer-with-an-attitude, found that I was in far over
my head, and tried to cry uncle.
You’d think I had squatted in the middle of the carpet and shat upon it.
There is, I promise you, no gracious way to bow out of a round that
has been offered by a far more experienced writer than yourself who has
just told you he likes your work. If you ever have the good fortune to
stumble into this situation, humbly nod your head and repeat after me,
“Hell, yeah, I’ll have another fuckin’ Bud, just let me take a quick
puke in this potted palm here, HHrrrruuuuPPP, whew that’s better, now
where was I? Cheers!”
No offense to Charlie, but while that might be true with a certain clique, it’s certainly not true of mystery writers, or Bouchercon, as a whole. I’ve been going to Boucheron for years. I don’t drink. But that hasn’t stopped me from being welcomed in the bar or restaurant to hang out with "big name" authors more experienced and vastly more successful than I am (I don’t say that to brag, but to make a point). If I am offered a drink, I take a Diet Coke. No one has ever made me feel like a pariah.
I would hate for Bouchercon to be painted as a convention of puking-on-themselves drunks…though drinking certainly seems to be the big issue coming out of the Chicago fest.
As soon as author J.A. Konrath got back from Bouchercon, he began wondering if he drank too much and behaved like a jerk.
But I also heard many negative things about me, some of them from good friends.
Those include drinking too much and acting inappropriately, showing off, being
loud and obnoxious, trying too hard to be funny, and crossing the lines of good
His post brought him a lot of comments, prompting him to later write:
Why is it when I act like a loudmouth on a panel and drink too much that’s
grounds for excommunication from the mystery world, but when I work my butt off
and do some good, no one cares? Rhetorical question.
I think that is all
that needs to be said.
Not me. I think too many writers drink at these events as much for pleasure as for a ridiculous desire to live up to an image. Some writers think that drinking to the edge of alcohol poisoning is what hard-ass mystery writers are supposed to do…and if you don’t, or can’t, you’re a fake.
That’s bullshit. It’s trying to live up to a cliche.
Writing is an art, but it’s also a profession. When you’re at Bouchercon, you’re there as an artist and a professional, mingling with authors, fans, publishers, editors and agents. Is it any wonder you’re judged by how you behave? Writing is a solitary profession. Most of the time, people can only judge you by your books. On those rare occasions when they can see you in person, you will be making a far bigger impact than you would if they saw you on a regular basis. If you’re an obnoxious drunk, that’s what people will remember about you.
I’m not saying Joe Konrath was obnoxious or a drunk — I wasn’t there. But I can understand why people are judging him on how he behaved (besides, in his post he invited them to).
I’m sure there was a lot more going on at Bouchercon than writers drinking and puking into their book bags. Besides, is that really the professional image we want to project to the public about mystery writers?