Showing posts with label panels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label panels. Show all posts

06 August 2018

Show Time!


About a month ago, I joined eighteen other writers from Sisters in Crime (two others were men, too--we've learned not to call ourselves "male members") at the University of Connecticut branch of Barnes & Noble.

I've been trying to crack Barnes & Noble's resistance to self-published authors for several years, so I would have joined this event in any case, but there were a few planning glitches, probably because this particular store is quite new and the staff probably hasn't done anything of this scale before.

Obviously, getting 19 writers from three states together demands a weekend slot, but with a perfect beach day and thousands of people protesting the current administration's immigration policy only blocks away, I'm not sure we saw a dozen patrons in the three hours we were there. The store wanted us to introduce ourselves and read from our works, taking fifteen minutes each. That's 45 minutes longer than the event was scheduled to run. We convinced the store that five minutes each was better, and I cut my own slot to three minutes by explaining where I got the idea for my newest book, reading the cover blurb, and sitting down. I sold two books that day, and I'm not sure anyone sold more than that.

Everyone either learned or confirmed something from the experience.

I participate in three types of author events.

The mass author bash like the one above is my least favorite. If you put a lot of genre writers together, they nullify each other and nobody sells much. The readers have trouble keeping the writers straight, too, so they don't really connect with anyone, and that's the whole reason I do any event: to make friends with my potential readers.

When the day turns into a carnival, it's hard to remember that you're selling yourself more than you're selling your books. If people like you, they're more apt to buy your books, so I chat with as many  as I can. I bring lots of flyers, bookmarks, and business cards to plug my editing and workshops and make sure my roller ball has a fresh blue cartridge for signing copies. Swag is advertising, the sales pitch I don't have to make out loud.

In two weeks, I'll join four other Connecticut writers on a panel, but we represent cozy, historical, PI, and suspense stories so we don't get in each others' way. The library is beautiful and the staff is worth their weight in uncut cocaine. Unless we get a cloudburst (which happened two years ago), we'll have an enthusiastic audience full of thoughtful questions. We may even sell a few books on the spot. We'll certainly sell some in the aftermath.

Next month, I'll do a local author fair as a fund-raiser for another local library, and they do it up big. They charge a solid admission fee so the people are already prepared to spend money. The evening event features catering from an excellent local restaurant so patrons (and authors) get fed. They also have a cash bar, which seems to stimulate sales (heh-heh-heh). Two years ago, I shared a table with a former student who had a self-help book for sale, and we traded war stories between chats with friends of the library. Best writer's fair I've attended.

The second type of event, which I like marginally more, is the single-author appearance. Sinclair Lewis said that audiences attend events like this to see if the author is funnier in person than he is to read. After 35 years of teaching and community theater, I can do stand-up, but no matter how clearly (or not) the venue promotes you, half the people are upset to discover that you don't write poetry, history, memoir, romance, or cook books, or whatever their favorite happens to be.

I don't like reading from my books either, brilliant as they are and scintillating as I am in person. I prepare passages of about five minutes each, cutting as much description and exposition as I can so they're heavy on action and dialogue, but reading puts the pages between you and your audience. I'd rather take lots of questions and turn the event into a big conversation. Naturally, I bring all the Fabulous Parting Gifts to these events, too.

Workshops rock. They satisfy my teaching jones, they give me money whether I sell books or not, and people tend to talk them up to their aspiring writer friends...and come back for more.

I used to conduct workshops in several libraries around central Connecticut, but library budgets have been slashed over the last few years, so now I do smaller venues that support writing groups. Instead of a flat fee, the venue charges an admission price to each participant and we split. The groups are smaller, but that means everyone gets a chance to ask questions.

Sure, there's some prep involved. I load my workshops with hand-outs and make sure the venue has an easel or dry marker board (I can bring one if necessary). I make a point of including an unsigned evaluation form in the handouts so the participants can turn it in to the venue. That way, I get recommendations and ideas for improvements...or even new programs.

I never sell books directly. I sell myself. If people like me, they're more apt to buy a book, and they're even more likely to buy if they receive something in return (writing instruction). Generally, I sell more books at workshops than at a panel or reading (the fund-raiser I mentioned above is an exception). It used to be that I'd sell a book for every six people at a reading or panel and one
for every three people at a workshop. Both those numbers have dropped in the last couple of years, but I seem to sell more eBooks in the few weeks after an event than before.

How do you feel about events? Are your results different from mine?

12 June 2018

Paneling


Paneling at ArmadilloCon 2012
I have participated in panels at several science fiction/fantasy conventions and a few mystery conventions, and I’ve noticed a distinct difference in approach. I have only once participated in a panel at an sf/f convention in which the moderator contacted me in advance, yet I’ve had pre-convention contact with the moderators of every mystery convention panel in which I’ve participated.

On several occasions, the moderators of the sf/f panels didn’t realize they were the moderator, and on more than one occasion the moderator didn’t bother to show up, leaving panelists to draw straws for the task. While a panel in which none of the participants is prepared can be, and sometimes is, wildly entertaining, more often it consists of five writers saying variations of, “I don’t know why I was selected for this panel. I don’t know anything about Transsexual Taiwanese Tyrannosauruses” and one blowhard spouting variations of “Look at me! Buy my book! Look at me again! Buy my other book!”

Gathering the masses before starting the “Make it Snappy
panel at Malice Domestic 2018. L-R: Me, Gretchen Archer,
Barb Goffman, Debra H. Goldstein, Gigi Pandian,
and Art Taylor.
(Photo by Eleanor Cawood Jones)
When offered the opportunity to moderate “Make it Snappy: Our Agatha Best Short Story Nominees” at Malice Domestic 2018, I followed the best-practices example set by all the mystery convention moderators and one sf/f convention moderator with whom I have paneled: I contacted all the panelists in advance, introduced myself, and sought information that would help me formulate questions. Once I had the information I needed, I developed questions specific to each panelist (though I did not have time to ask them all), shared with them my plan for the panel and, once at the convention, had the opportunity to meet all of the panelists prior to gathering onstage.

I think the panel went well, but I’m not here to tout my skills as a moderator. I’m here to share some tips for successful paneling from the perspective of someone who has attended many panels, participated in several, and moderated a few.

EIGHT TIPS

1.  While you may be there to promote yourself and your work, the audience is there to be entertained and informed. So, entertain and inform.

2. If you have never been told by a parent, teacher, or significant other to use your “inside voice,” practice projecting. Use any provided microphones, especially if the panel is being recorded.

3. If you’re a moderator, know your panelists. At the very least, read their bios in the program.

4. If you’re a panelist, know your moderator. At the very least, read her bio in the program.

5. Asking generic questions and having each panelist answer in turn is a lazy moderator’s approach. So, prepare questions specific to each panelist and try to foster a dialog among the panelists.

6. Share the limelight. For moderators, this means ensuring every panelist has the opportunity to speak. As a panelist, this means speaking up if you’re shy, and it means curtailing your tendency to bloviate if you’re not shy.

7. Allow time for questions. If the audience is engaged, they will ask great questions. For the benefit of the rest of the audience, repeat or paraphrase questions before answering.

8. Start on time, end on time, and clear the stage for the next panel. If you are lucky enough to have fans swarming the stage afterward to ask questions and seek autographs, encourage them to follow you into the hall.

I have also participated in panels at writing conferences. The audience—primarily writers and would-be writers rather than genre fans—expect more information and less entertainment, but otherwise all the tips apply.

EMULATE BILL

One writer whose paneling skills deserve emulation is Bill Crider. Every time we paneled together, he was the most knowledgeable, most experienced, and best-known writer on stage, and many of us would have sat at his feet in rapt attention while he talked for the entire 50 minutes. Yet, he never took advantage of his stature. He shared the limelight and regularly used his time to tell the audience something they might not know about one of the other panelists, or to direct a comment toward or ask a question of one of us.

That’s in direct contrast to several authors so enamored of their own voices that other panelists might as well not exist, and when moderators—either unable to unwilling to interrupt—let the blowhards take over, everyone suffers.

I’m not much good with small talk, but put me on a stage and ask me about writing, and I can bend an ear with the best of them. So, if you’re ever paneling with me and I start to bloviate, please kick me under the table and remind me to channel Bill Crider.

We’ll all be better off.

My romance “Too Close to School” appears in the anthology A Wink and a Smile (Smoking Pen Press), released in May.

17 November 2017

Moderating a Short Story Panel


James, Alan, Janet, Travis, Angel, and Barb
At the Bouchercon in Toronto a few weeks ago, one of the highlights was a panel on the short story moderated by my friend James Lincoln Warren. He wrote a long piece on FaceBook about it and graciously gave me permission to edit it and put it up here.

James says he feels like the Godfather of SleuthSayers, and he's right about that. He founded a website called Criminal Brief in which seven writers took turns talking (mostly) about short mystery fiction. When he decided to shut it down several of us grizzled survivors started SleuthSayers.


James is the author of many short stories that have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazines. Perhaps his best known works are ahe tales of 18th century insurance investigator Alan Treviscoe but he won the Black Orchid Novella Award with a contemporary private eye story. His "Shikari" is, in my opinion, the best Sherlock Holmes story ever written that does not include Sherlock Holmes.

Without further ado, here we go. Any mistakes below can be blamed on me.

— Robert Lopresti



Moderating a Short Story Panel

by James Lincoln Warren

The panelists and I have received comments from the audience that this was their favorite panel at the convention. People have also mentioned how well attended it was—it was SRO, which is very unusual for a short story panel at a crime fiction fan convention.So I decided I'd explain how I structured it and my theories for its unusual success.

First, I think its success was largely due to the wonderful panelists: Alan S. Orloff, Janet Hutchings of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Travis Richardson, Angel Colón, and Barb Goffman, all of whom are greatly respected in the crime short fiction community. Kudos is also well-deserved by Janet Costello, the Bouchercon Programming Chair, for scheduling such a panel.

But let me begin by explaining why I at first dreaded having it assigned to me.

My working rule as a moderator (and I always prefer to moderate rather than contribute as a panelist) at a fan convention is first and foremost, "Connect the author with the reader." In other words, I want to get at least one person in the audience to read the work of each of the panelists.

The themes for panels at fan conventions usually key on elements relative to a particular subgenre, or things that particular works, in a variety of subgenres, have in common, e.g., a panel about private eyes, a panel about hard-boiled female detectives, a panel on detectives with pets, and so on. Usually on such panels, one of the panelists will be a prominent star writer with a big fan base---those are the folk who are going to come to the panel. In so doing, they will discover lesser known writers whose work is previously unknown to them, but whose stuff they are guaranteed to enjoy. Everybody wins!

Short stories are not a subgenre, like hard-boiled, cozy, police procedural, fair play, romantic suspense, etc. The short story is a form, not a thematic genre, and the subgenres represented by it cover the whole spectrum of crime fiction. This means that other than length, short story writers' works may have very little in common with each other. On top of that, writers like me, who work almost exclusively in the form, are not likely to be stars, because crime fiction has been dominated by the novel since the 1930s. Likewise for the panelists---no matter how wonderful their work, it is bound to have less exposure than the works of novelists. The upshot is that it's unlikely that an audience will be drawn to the panel on account of the names assigned to it.

As I said, my goal is usually to connect every writer on the panel to someone in the audience. But I noticed that on every short story panel I've moderated, when we get to the Q&A, the questions are never about the authors whose work I've tried so hard to expose. Instead, the questions are always about "How do I get published? What are your secrets?"

So I proposed to Janet Costello that for this short story panel, we'd go all the way and make it about writing short stories. I proposed that we'd come up with a list of simple concepts the panel could agree upon, or if they disagreed on the concept, at least recognize its importance, and illustrate how that concept worked by reading examples of it from the short fiction written by the panelists, along with other observations and suggestions from short fiction editors.

But then I ran into some trouble, because I couldn't figure out how to structure the panel, or whom to assign to which nugget of advice. And then it hit me.

Aspiring writers have entire libraries of sound advice available to them on how to write: Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard, Steven King, and divers others, have all written very good books on it. For access to markets, there's the venerable Writer's Market---every writer I know has bought one at sometime or another. So what's different about asking published writers these questions face to face? We're not going to dispense more wisdom in an hour-long panel than you can get from any of those books.

The answer is, of course, that there is personal interaction. The rookie wants to pick the brains of the veterans. And that's when I realized that the way to run the panel was to make it consist of questions from the audience, and not the questions that I thought should be asked. I had the audience members write down their questions on a leaf from a small tear-out notebook, restricted the questions to one or two, and had them collected and given to me. I would then read the questions, pick the most interesting or generally applicable ones, and get the best of both worlds: the audience would get answers to their personal questions, and I would remain in control of the panel.

To open the panel, I listed five pieces of advice everybody agreed on, and read from the works of the panelists to illustrate each one. This also gave the audience time to phrase their questions and turn them in while we were still able to dispense some basic advice, while also establishing the bona fides of the panelists.

That took about fifteen minutes. The rest of the panel consisted of questions from the audience.

Robert states that I dispensed with several questions on my own with the mantra, "There are no magic bullets." This is true. I did this because, well, there are no magic bullets, no perfect formulas, no foolproof techniques, and aspiring writers must understand this. But there were lots of very interesting questions that were directed individually to the panelists, and some directed at more than one panelist. And as I had encouraged the panelists to speak up when they had something to say about a question pitched to someone else, there was a lot of stuff that got covered from more than one angle.

The personal touch is why everybody loved the panel so much. Now, you can't teach someone to write a commercial crime fic short story in an hour, but a frequent comment was, "I learned so much!" The important point here is that they learned not what any of us wanted to teach, BUT WHAT THEY WANTED TO KNOW. Respect your audience!

All right, that explains why the panel was a success, but it doesn't explain why the house was packed.


I think there are two essential reasons: (1) Janet Hutchings, the editor of the world's leading crime fiction magazine, was being honored at Bouchercon, and people from the audience thought that maybe they'd learn how she picked stories for the magazine; and (2) the subject of the panel, "how to construct the short story", was something they had always wanted, but never before had offered to them. Bouchercon is not a writers conference. It's a fan convention. But we sometimes forget that writers usually start as fans of other writers.

(Now, I don't think that Janet told them exactly how she picks a story, although she gave them some very good advice---be in control of your narrative, do not fixate on the opening but on the whole narrative, and that she could use a lot more fair play detective stories featuring a crime and its solution. I should also mention that I gave a shout out to Janet's colleague Linda Landrigan at EQMM's sister mag, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, who once told me she likes stories that seem to be about one thing, but are really about something else.)

I was extremely fortunate to have so much expertise on the panel, and for Janet Costello allowing me to have my own way with it. It was a helluva lot of fun.

26 September 2016

Bouchercon 47 Blood on the Bayou



Down in New Orleans

by Jan Grape

    If you have never attended a Bouchercon before,please listen to me and plan to attend one in the next few years. The one in New Orleans was number 47, Number 48 will be in Toronto, Canada, Number 49 will be in St Petersburg, FL and Number 50 will be in Dallas, TX. Just remember all of these events are run totally by Volunteers.

   If you want to register for Toronto, the cost is $175, cost will go up on Jan 1st. Dates are October 12-15. At Sheraton Center Toronto Hotel. PASSPORT  TO MURDER Guests of Honor: Canadian: Louise Penny, American: Megan Abbott, International: Christopher Brookmyre, BCon for Kids: Chris Grabenstein, Fan: Margaret Cannon, Ghost of Honor: John Buchanan, Toastmasters: Twist Phelan & Gary Phillips.

     If you want to register for Dallas, Bouchercon 2019, DENIM, DIAMONDS, DEATH. 50th year anniversary. From now through Dec. 2016, $135: From Jan 2017-Dec 2018: $150, Jan 1, 2019 (till What are you waiting for?)  $175 at the Hyatt Regency-Dallas.

   If you've never heard of Bouchercon until recently, it is a World Mystery convention in honor of Anthony Boucher, the distinguished mystery fiction critic, editor, and author whose real name was William Anthony Parker White. It brings together all parts of the mystery and crime fiction community attended by Authors, editors, agents, publishers, booksellers and fans. There are about 2000-2200 attendees. I know in the past 2500 have attended and yet in the early days there were 100-150 attendees.

   I hate to tell you who the Guests of Honor in New Orleans were because it's over and I'm sorry you missed it, however just want you to know you missed. That way you will see all the wonderful people you didn't get to see and perhaps entice you to sign up for one of the upcoming BCons. This year: American Guest of Honor: Harlan Coben, Lifetime Achievement: David Morrell, BCon 4 Kids Guest of Honor: R.L. Stine, International Rising Star Guest of Honor: Craig Robertson, Local Legend: Julie Smith, Toastmasters: Harley Jane Kozak & Alexandra Sokoloff, Fan Guests of Honor: Ron & Ruth Jordan.

    One of the major happenings is panels every day pretty much every day. Mostly authors are on these panels but there are special panels with editors and booksellers, etc. There is even a special event for first time authors and there were 25 new authors listed in my pocket program. After each panel and there are 5 or 6 people on each panel, there is a mass book signing for each panel member. And there are 5 or 6 tracks of panels going on at the same time. Which gets to be frustrating because almost every time the panel you really want to hear is running at the same time of that other panel you want to hear. Soon it comes down to you will sit in the bar area, hoping to meet an author you really wanted to meet. You don't have to drink alcohol to sit in the bar, you can drink tea or soda. Usually you can even order food, Most of the guests of honor will come into the bar once or twice a day to meet people. Of course you can always meet them at their signing time.

    The Anthony Awards are given out and other awards are also presented like the Mccavity, the Barry, the Derringer and probably others I have not mentioned. The Shamus award given by the Private Eye Writers of America at the PWA Banquet. There is a charge to attend this and it usually is at a different location from the host hotel.

    There is a hospitality suite where you can go and get a snack and a drink often at no cost. Often sponsored by publishers or a group like Sisters in Crime. There are also parties hosted by publishers in the evening that attendees are invited to attend. There are a few events that are by invitation only but those are listed.

    There are also free books....FREE BOOKS. Donated by publishers hoping to gain readers of their authors. The attendees of Bouchercon this year were each able to pick up 6 free books each. They gave out 6 raffle like tickets with your registration goodies which also this year included a free book bag, a T-shirt, your big program book and a pocket program booklet, your name that is placed in a nice little lanyard pocket holder.

   One important event is a silent auction that benefits things like adult literacy and children's programs. Each host Bouchercon will have their charity partner listed.

    The most fun thing to me is to stroll down the street and find little nooks or diners or hole in the wall cafes that serve the most amazing food, And naturally great sight seeing in whatever city you are spending time in. I used to always try to go a day or two early in order to see the city. New Orleans was great for that and there are also tours to special places in each city. I personally had a bit of trouble walking the first day in New Orleans due to my old bones but by the second day was better. Next time I will do some walking at home first to get my hiking legs up to speed.

    Okay, I hope this gets you in the mood to attend a Bouchercon in the next three years. I am already signed up for Dallas in 2019. Hope to see you there.

By the way on August 31 in a general note to everyone replying to Leigh's Calendar and SS list I wrote a note correcting Leigh that Susan and I were attending BCon in New Orleans not Toronto and suggesting that all SS members who were going to be in NOLA plan a little get together while there so we could meet fave to face. In that note I said we were staying at Courtyard by Marriott but at the last day...actually after I arrived in NOLA I was able to book us in at the BIG Marriot where the convention was being held.

It didn't matter because I NEVER heard from anyone. No one let me know anything. I just assumed you didn't want to get together or maybe you just didn't want to meet me.  But it seems like no one happened to read that note. In fact, John Floyd wrote me that he was really sorry not to have met Susan or I. I told him about my invitation and he said he never got a note. I suppose my mistake was in just adding it on the note about the SS calendar. But I didn't think that far ahead. At any rate I'm sorry we didn't get to have a little meet and greet while in NOLA. I doubt that I will go to BCon again until Dallas.

I did see and talk with Deborah Elliott-Upton. She found me and came over and said, "hello." I had only met her once years ago but since I always wear "GRAPE" earrings that's probably how she found me.  

DON'T FORGET EVERYONE INVOLVED IN BCON ARE VOLUNTEERS. NO ONE IS PAID.






25 July 2016

Moderate What?


A few days ago, one of my nieces read in  one of my post on Facebook about moderating a panel a couple of years ago with Jonathan and Faye and Jesse Kellerman. My niece, Linda, wanted to know exactly what did I mean about moderating a panel? She enjoys reading my books but had no idea what I meant about the panels. It occurred to me that this would be a good topic since Bouchercon is coming up very soon and many of the folks here on Sleuthsayers will be attending. The non-author types might wonder a little about panels. And the author types who have probably been on many panels might not have ever moderated one.

Like I told Linda, every moderator does things their way. Here's how I moderate a panel. Believe it or not, I just received my panel for Bouchercon and was assigned as moderator for a discussion of PIs. Gumshoes, Shamus, Private Investigator, Private Eye. Whatever you may call a person who investigates a mystery and gets paid for that investigation but not paid by a law enforcement agency. The PI probably is licensed by the state and may have previously been employed by a police or law enforcement agency. The founder of Private Eye Writers of America or PWA, Robert J. Randisi has often explained it thusly: if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Back to the panel. I have five authors on my panel for the upcoming mystery con. Two I know personally and three I've never met, although they may have been writing for some time. At any rate, I contacted each one via email and asked them to please send me a short bio, a list of their books and a hard copy of their latest book. I prefer to read each author's book prior to the panel if possible.

With the Kellermans I had read several of both Jonathan's and Faye's books. I had not read Jesse before. And the new one they were introducing was co-authored by Jonathan and Jesse, titled Golem of Hollywood. I had less than a two week window bu,t I got a copy of Golem and also a copy of Faye's latest. Her setting had changed but her characters were basically the same. I read the books and from that point was able to come up with what I hoped was some interesting questions or comments to ask each author. In the case of BCon, I'll try to send a couple of question to the panelist.

After a brief introduction of each author, which includes a brief bio of that person, and a short synopsis of their work, then perhaps hold up a copy of their book. Personally, I think the moderator is not there to promote their own work, the major object is for each panelist to shine. However, if the moderator has a new book they might want to mention it. It's usually nice to have one of the other panelist mention your very short bio and your book if that's possible. I've been a moderator when I've had a book and also when I have not.

Then you ask your intriguing questions and hope each author has an intriguing answer or comment to make. I always suggest to them that if they are able to inject some humor that's helpful. But also to keep their answers short because we have a set amount of time and I want everyone to be able to speak. If I have someone who wants to monopolize the time, I will try to nicely interrupt and keep the session moving along. I have been on a panel when that has happened and if the moderator doesn't interrupt, then I'm hopeful that a wonderful other panelist will do that.

Then if we have time the last 10 minutes or so, I will take questions from the audience. Then tell the audience where the book signing will take place. At most mystery cons there is a special place set up for author autographing.

When I wrote to the authors on my panel I sort of mentioned most of this except in a briefer form. The audience is there to hear the authors and it's important for the moderator to allow that to happen. Also if you have an author who is shy and hasn't had a chance to speak then the moderator needs to be sure that author gets a chance by asking something along the lines of "when did you first come up with your character or is your character based on anyone you know?" And the moderator guides the question and answer session.

That's more or less how I do it and I've probably done a hundred or more panels, counting both moderating and as an author. But as I mentioned earlier, every person does these things their own way, I'm only telling more or less how I do it.



Brief Personal Note
Some of you may have heard through Facebook that one of our very good friends and terrific writers, Bill Crider just found out this week that he has an aggressive carcinoma. Please keep Bill in your prayers and healing thoughts and send him positive energy. Thanks all.

26 January 2015

Calling All Literary Sluts (and Others)


Several SleuthSayers and I have been discussing the possibility of one or more panels at Bouchercon 2015 consisting solely or primarily of SleuthSayer authors.  Jan Grape suggested previously that many organizers and planners appreciate receiving suggestions of a specific topic and writers for the panel and/or moderator. I have inquired about where suggestions should be sent.

Melodie Campbell and I exchanged emails about making a few proposals.
We need your help.

A visit to the Bouchercon 2014 website schedule reveals many interesting panels last year (including three workshops with our own R. T. Lawton on Surveillance).  Format for the titles is primarily in the form of a catchy title, followed by a colon which introduces a more explicit explanation of what the panel is about.

Examples from 2014:  No More Badges:  Crime Solvers Who Left the Badge Behind

                                    Short but Mighty:  The Power and Freedom of the Short Story

                                    Crime Goes Visual:  Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Check out the website for more examples.

My question for everyone today, both writers and readers:

 What do you suggest as an interesting topic for a panel at Bouchercon 2015? 


Melodie and I are seriously considering a proposal (or maybe I should say proposition in this case) of a panel entitled:

      
Writers as Literary Sluts: Publishing in More Than One Genre



Of course, both Melodie and I are eager to be members of this panel.  Be sure to let us know if you want to be with us or if you want to be suggested as the moderator of this sure-to-be-fun session.

We are also looking for a super cool title and topic about short stories and will suggest SleuthSayer writers for that panel and moderator.

Another thought that's been roaming around in my mind is related to Bouchercon 2015's location in Raleigh, NC, as well as Ron Rash being one of the featured writers.

Would any of you want to be a participant in this one?

Murder Down South, Y'all: Southern Writers, Southern Mysteries

Please share your thoughts on topics for panels. If you're a writer, let us know if you are planning to register for Bouchercon 2015 by May 1, 2015 (deadline to be considered for presentations) and if you'd like to be recommended for a panel or rather handle it yourself.  If you don't want to announce your plans publicly, just email Melodie or me.

Until we meet again, please take care of . . . you.

03 November 2014

Who Me? Moderate a Panel?


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.