Helen Nelson answers: “What Bouchercon has meant to me…”

When friends convinced me to come to the first organizing meeting for Bouchercon 2004 (in early 2004), I had never been to Bouchercon. In fact, although I wanted to help out, I wasn’t sure I would actually attend because it was going to be held on the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend. And my husband and I had a long tradition spending that last long weekend of the year getting in one more camping trip before it gets seriously cold.

By the end of that first meeting, I had agreed to chair the Registration committee. A few weeks later we added other tasks to the Registration committee and I was joined in chairing the committee by Patricia Pedersen. One of the people we convinced to join our committee was Janet Costello. She, too, had never been to Bouchercon before.

Of course, by the time Bouchercon 2004 began I was there. I had taken on a wide range of tasks that really couldn’t be accomplished from a comfortable campsite in a Provincial Park. So, too, had Janet Costello, who had worked on the Registration committee and co-ordinated the charity auctions. Of course we didn’t really attend all that much of Bouchercon – we were so busy with the background tasks of making sure that everything happened. Even though we had independently bought T-Shirts that featured a picture of “The Silent Scream” with the words “Stop me before I volunteer again”, we were hooked.

What is the hook? 

It is hard to fully describe. But I’ll try. 

It’s the fact that Bouchercon is run entirely by volunteers who pour their hearts into making it happen every year. It is the fact that it has happened every year without fail for 47 years – soon to be 48. It is visiting new-to-us cities – and revisiting cities we think of as old friends. It is the same every year and different every year. It is the sense of community, of family. It is meeting new friends and visiting with old friends. It is the hugs of greeting and the tears of parting. It is mourning those who have died in the last year. It is celebrating the successes of new authors, and the veterans. It is reminiscent of a high school reunion except you like everyone! It is a joyous party for up to 2000 kindred spirits.

And so it was probably inevitable that we would want to do it again in Toronto!  In the almost 13 years since Bouchercon 2004, Janet and I have poured a lot of our energy into the Toronto Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Janet was newsletter editor for 7 years; I worked as co-editor for the first two of those, then spent 5 years as chapter president. And we’re still active there. And it didn’t hurt that people would constantly ask me “So when will we do Bouchercon here again?”

Co-Chairs Janet Costello and Helen Nelson

Co-Chairs Janet Costello and Helen Nelson

That feeling of wanting to give back has never left us. So in 2012 we made a successful bid to host Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto. Janet and I are the Co-Chairs.

We’ll be busy during Bouchercon this year.  No matter how well planned, there are always a host of last minute details and fixes and oversights and questions to be answered!  But the highlight is all of you!

See you all in October!