03 November 2014

Who Me? Moderate a Panel?


Jan Grape
by Jan Grape

If you haven't already, then one day soon, you will be asked to moderate a panel at a mystery con, writer's event or even locally at a group signing. Personally, I enjoy it, but I'm a bit of a ham. If you are registered to attend a con and you want to be asked to be on a panel or to moderate one and you're worried that you won't be asked, then make your own panel.  Let's face it, you can pick up a few new readers if you're on a panel. You might even do better by moderating one.

To make up your own panel, find out the writers you know personally. Or ones you don't know, but you enjoy their work and want to get to know them better. Come up with an idea for a panel, "Writing Killer Characters?" "Walking the Mean Streets...Research or Not?"  "Can There Be Humor In Murder?" Contact you might want to be on a panel with, Jane Bestseller (you know a little), John Unknown (Just published but funny and you know him from your critique group), Tom, Dick or Harry Whodunit (you've never met, but you love his work.)

So you've chosen a topic, Writing Killer Characters and before you contact other writers you think about your idea on the topic. Most writers have their main characters in mind but you'd like to delve into the mind of your BAD GUY, your Killer. That's a bit of a change than just creating your main and secondary characters and that idea might be more interesting.

You write to your future panelist, Jane Bestseller, John Unknown and Harry Whodunit, telling them you'd like to work up a panel with them to present at Malice, or B'Con, or Magna or whatever con you're all attending.  You mention that you'd like to explore their minds on "How Do They Come Up With a Killer" in their story.

You add that you've never been worth a darn until after lunch time so would something around 1, 2, or 3pm work and why don't we try for Friday afternoon.? Tell them to please let you know if they'd be interested as soon as possible so can write to the program chair and get this panel on schedule.

In the meantime, you also write to Judy Program Director and say that you've published three books in your series with a private-eye. That you'd be delighted to send her a copy of your latest, in case she's not familiar. That you'd really enjoy an opportunity to moderate a panel on "Writing Killer Characters" to be scheduled on Friday afternoon at 1:00 pm. That you think talking about how a writer comes up with a character who kills. Are they evil and devious? Are they just an ordinary person who allows greed, or anger to take hold and they strike out? Or they someone who had been abused and actually only killing in self defense? You mention that you think there can be a number of ways this discussion can be explored and developed. Say that you have contacted, Jane Bestseller, Johnny Unknown and Harry Whodunit to be on the panel with you. That you are sure that Jane and Johnny are on board but you haven't heard from Harry yet. But that if he declines for whatever reason, you'll be happy to invite Tom or Dick Whodunit.

You immediately hear back from the program director and Judy Programmer says she is thrilled that you've done the hard work already. Thanks for the book offer but she's already bought and read all three of your books and thoroughly enjoyed them. She also says she'll be happy to set you up on Friday at 1:30pm. That she's hoping to stagger the times so people can attend more that one session if they want.

In the meantime, you hear from Harry Whodunit who says he'll be delighted to be on a panel with you, that he knows Jane Bestseller quite well and he's read your recent work and likes your writing style and voice.

Now begins the hard part. What can I do to highlight these writer and give them the best light in which to shine? Start by reading their book/s. Read their Facebook pages. Think about your own bad guy character and his or her motives. Is this killer a dark side of you?

This all came to mind the other day when I was asked to moderate a panel at the Jewish Book Festival this coming Thursday, November 6th with Best Selling Authors, Faye and Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman. I didn't have to set up a panel, it was already determined who would be on the panel. I was just asked if I'd be willing to moderate. I was delighted to answer yes.  Faye Kellerman's latest Decker/Lazarus novel, Murder 101 is just out. Jonathan and son, Jesse Kellerman have collaborated on their first novel also just published, A Golem in Hollywood. Jonathan is a Best Selling Author with around 40+ novels under his belt and Jesse is a Best Seller in his own right with five novels published.

Next time we'll talk about how it all went and my take on how to promote your panelists and not promote your own work as much.

5 comments:

Leigh Lundin said...

Wow, Jan, that's terrific! And congratulations. I'm sure your panel's well served with your knowledge, experience, and sense of humor.

Fran Rizer said...

Jan, thanks for pointing out that while moderating a panel opens the door for the moderator to gain readers, the first goal is to promote the writers on the panel. I hope to someday be on a panel with you. I'm sure we'd have a great, fun time. I've been on both sides - moderator and guest, but I never thought of pitching my own panel idea to an event planner.

Eve Fisher said...

Sounds great! And thanks for giving us a template on how to plan a panel.

Jeff Baker said...

Sounds like fun! Wish I could be there! (Remember to talk directly into the microphone! :) )

Robert Lopresti said...

Thanks for the tips, Jan. I have been on many panels, but my preference is moderating them. Never occured to me to set up my own though, I just offer to do it and see what happens. Maybe next time I will be more (oh, I hate the word) proactive.