Our Cathy Ace has just been acting as toastmaster (mistress?) at the prestigious 2019 Left Coast Crime FestivalWhale of a Crime, in Vancouver. Here is her report.

Hello there, Cathy Ace here. I was born and raised in Swansea, attended UC Cardiff, worked in London, around Europe and North America for twenty years, then migrated to…British Columbia, Canada! I’ve been here now for almost twenty years – though my mum and sister are still in Swansea, and I’m also married to a Swansea Jack.

Although I’ve always written for a living (working in marketing communications, brand building and PR) my crime writing life has all happened since I moved to Canada, so I’ve always approached it with a view that I have to get out and about to get known. As such, I travel far and wide to as many crime fan conventions as possible each year – a wonderful way to meet readers and fellow authors – and I’ve promised to produce an ongoing Roving Reporter’s Viewpoint for the Crime Cymru blog.

First up? Left Coast Crime 2019: Whale of a Crime, which was held in Vancouver, British Columbia from March 28th-31st. The Left Coast Crime (LCC) website states the following: “Left Coast Crime is an annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, both readers and authors. LCC is held during the first quarter of the year in Western North America. Conventions have been held from Anchorage to El Paso, from Boulder to Hawaii, and various locations in between. Our purpose is to host an event where readers, authors, critics, librarians, publishers, and other fans can gather in convivial surroundings to pursue their mutual interests.” This year was its 29th iteration; next year its 30th anniversary event will be held in San Diego, California (yes, I’ll be there).

Coal Harbour looking its best

I was honoured to be chosen to be Toastmaster for the convention this year, which was attended by over 700 avid crime readers (including almost 200 authors) from all over the world. A lot of work has been put in over the past four years by two avid crime-readers Linda McNab and Colleen Glynn to organize the event, and all their hard work paid off last weekend, with feedback noting this was a happy and relaxed convention. One of the determining factors (as is always the case) was the weather! Despite the fact most delegates wish they could clone themselves to be able to attend more than one of the hundreds of panels at a time they also arrive days before the convention, and sometimes stay on afterwards, to enjoy the area where each convention takes place. I’m so pleased that the sun shone for them! The Pacific Northwest is often referred to as “The Wet Coast” rather than “The West Coast”, so no rain for a week was a delight.

Me trying to take a selfie with my Sisters in Crime – my husband took this photo

Inside the Hyatt Regency (a wonderful hotel with excellent staff – thrillingly, I had my own suite!) the entire third floor was buzzing at all times of the day and night. Groups of readers and authors set up their own get-togethers in the meal-breaks and after the panels had finished for the day. I managed to fit in getting together with fellow members of Crime Writers of Canada (I’m immediate past-Chair, so had no organizational responsibilities this time) as well as Sisters in Crime and a group with whom I blog on a bi-weekly basis, 7 Criminal Minds (there are ten of us…it’s long story!).

me with Sue Grafton in 2013 at the Bouchercon convention in Albany, New York

Back in 2017 Sue Grafton expressed delight when she was told she was to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award at LCC 2019; her untimely death later that year meant her daughter came to receive the award posthumously. I had the responsibility of putting together the memorial event, and admit I was rather daunted by such a significant task. I’m so pleased that it went well: Sue’s daughter spoke touchingly about her late mother, and guest speakers (I was able to invite some friends from the business to speak) poured out their hearts. Like me, many of them had met Sue and had appreciated her support.

There was laughter, and there were tears – just as it should be. I know how many of us enjoyed having the chance to share our love of, and enthusiasm for, Sue’s Kinsey Millhone alphabet books after the event.

L to R: Cathy Ace; Barbara Peters (Poisoned Pen Bookstore and Press); Maureen Jennings (Canadian Guest of Honour, author of The Murdoch Mysteries, amongst other works); Jamie Clarke (Sue Grafton’s daughter); James W Ziskin (multiple award-winning author of The Ellie Stone Mysteries); Kellye Garrett (multiple award-winning author of the Detective by Day Mysteries); Ovidia Yu (multiple award-winning author of the Aunty Lee Mysteries).
Catriona McPherson (left) and Cathy Ace

My Guest of Honour interview was conducted by Catriona McPherson, the delightful Scottish-now-Californian author of The Dandy Gilver Mysteries, as well as some excellent standalone suspense novels and a new humorous series (she won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Novel for “Scot Free”, the first in the series). I was nervous, never having been interviewed in public like this before…podcasts feel quite different. But I shouldn’t have worried – Catriona was well-prepared and asked some excellent questions, allowing me to speak about my work and life.

Hosting the banquet for over 500 people was another challenge, but I managed to bring the room to order so we could celebrate One-to-One Literacy, the charity for which we raised funds with our silent and live auctions and quilt raffle (each year two wonderful fans create a quilt to be raffled off).

Commemorative plaque, carved by a local First Nations artist and inlaid with mother of pearl.

The Lefty Awards were presented, and each Guest of Honour was presented with a commemorative plaque. I adore mine, and it will take pride of place with my collection of Pacfic Northwest art – Linda McNab and Colleen Glynn tracked down a local artist and worked with them on a unique design for each Guest of Honour and Lefty winner. I’m thrilled that mine features the loon bird…not only does it feature on our Canadian one dollar coin (which are called “Loonies”) but their hooting call is something I hear as they fly around and land upon the lake behind our house; it’s haunting and somewhat mournful, but I love it.

When it was time for everyone to depart for their little corner of the world, there was as much hugging as when people arrived – but this time with sad faces. If you’ve never been to a convention, or festival, I can tell you it’s a great experience. I’ve met people with whom I’m then able to maintain a relationship in the Twitterverse, in Facebookland or via the Blogosphere, reuniting in the real world once, or even a few times, each year. It’s also expensive and time-consuming, and requires a fair amount of travel – but, for some folks, it IS their annual holiday, where they are able to mix with some of the only people in the world who really understand them…fellow crime readers and writers! Cheers, folks!

Toastmaster Cathy Ace

Next time: Malice Domestic – the convention for fans and authors of traditional crime fiction (it’s the convention which gives The Agatha Awards). It’s being held in Bethesda, Maryland (close to Washington, DC) from April 30-May 2nd.

Respectfully submitted, Cathy Ace

3rd April 2019

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