Open Wounds

Events

Pissing Contest

I’ve got some things to say about panels.

I had good experiences last week at the Virginia Festival of Books but it doesn’t always go that way. I’ve also moderated and facilitated panels, workshops, interviews, small and large groups discussions and there’s a few things I think it would be helpful to have said about the experience right from the beginning about the challenges of moderating and participating as an author panelist.

Also, Meredith Cole, the moderator for one of my panels last week was just so good at moderating that I thought using her process as a frame would be useful for all to see.

How to run a panel of authors in 12 challenging, agonizing, jaw-breaking (only kidding) steps:

  1. Give the authors a theme and then try to make that the focus of the discussion. This will make the event different from the usual interview/author questions that come up over and over for authors and will keep them on their toes.
  2. As the moderator, come up with your questions ahead of time and send them to the authors a good week before the event. This will help steady author nerves and give them something constructive to obsess about other than what they will wear to the event.
  3. On the day of the event have all panelists meet half an hour before the event. This will do several things: 1) get introductions out-of-the-way, let everyone size each other up (like gunfighters) and get the authors talking (verbal calisthenics); 2) lets the moderator meet everyone and the authors meet the moderator; 3) helps steady nerves if they need to be steadied; 4) gives the moderator a chance to remind everyone how she will organize the questions, who she will go to first – those kinds of things (especially helpful if authors have not read the questions the moderator gave them ahead of time – hey… I’m a realist); and 5) it will get everyone at the event on time – hopefully – even those who are chronically late will have a 30 minute cushion.
  4. As the moderator, read the authors books so you can tailor the questions to the authors. And… it makes the author feel really good because someone else has read their book.
  5. As the moderator, if you introduce each panelist don’t read their intro from their website: but give just a few bits of information about each that spurs interest in the author but also lets the author still have something to say about himself.
  6. As the author, follow the guideline you are given when you are asked to introduce yourself. If the moderator says take only two minutes then only take two – otherwise you’ll piss everyone off something fierce. A four person panel for 60 minutes can’t have long intros. Even at five minutes each that’s 1/3rd of the time on intros. Short and specific is the way to go.
  7. As the moderator, if you want the authors to read from their book, tell them ahead of time so they can prepare and tell them how long they’ll have – and be firm about the time. Firm. Give them a number of pages (1-2 minutes a page depending on font size and speed of the reader) if you have to as a guide.
  8. As an author, if you are asked to read you should do the following: 1) choose a piece to read that stays within the time limit you’re given or you’ll piss your co-panelists off something fierce; 2) practice reading your piece out loud and with (as my son would say) fluency. Practice reading it through 3x and time yourself. Use tone of voice, body language (eye contact and facial expressions as needed) to give added meaning to your words (fluency). 3) choose something to read that reflects the theme, has sense of completeness in and of itself, and makes them want to go out and buy your book immediately creating a stampede to the cash register.
  9. As the moderator, make sure everyone gets equal time speaking to the audience. If someone dominates and they are not taken down the others will get pissed off something fierce.
  10. As an author, know when to finish and hand the mike over to your co-panelists or you’ll piss them off something fierce.
  11. Listen to what your co-panelists say and refer to what they say, when you can when you speak. For example, “I agree with what Elizabeth said about process and I’ll take it one step further…” It will feel like a conversation to the audience and your co-panelists will respond in kind because you did them a solid and actually listened to what they said.
  12. When you’re finished with the panel, thank your moderator for all the work they put into moderating (so they’ll do it the same way next time – called positive reinforcement – they made you look good so they deserve it) and your co-panelists because you never know when you’ll work together again and a panel is about synergy not independence – you make each other look good.

Let me know if you have any other rules to add. There’s always room for more structure. The one thing I run from as quickly as possible is the moderator who says to a group of authors, “Let’s just get there, mix it up, and see what happens.”

Run away.

Now.

As fast as you can.

Don’t look back…

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Doing the Rocky Dance

I was away last week at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I did no blog entries. I’ve been in Charlottesville Virginia, moving between the Omni, downtown, Emmit Road B&N, Allied Road Charlottesville Fencing Alliance and Allied Yoga. Oh, and the AMTRAK station.

I took a seven hour AMTRAK ride down and wrote some while my butt rode the rail. That made me smile.

Here’s the other thing that made me smile besides the beautiful town, the nice and friendly people, and the warm weather and flowers.

Barnes & Noble in Charlottesville carried my book there. There’s no other B&N in the country that carries my book. But in Charlottesville VA, they carry it. That’s cool.

It’s in two different places, the New Teen Fiction section and the table with all the books from the book festival authors – at least that’s where it will be until the end of today when the festival closes. This was the best series of events I’ve ever done. Seriously. If you ever get the chance to do this as an author, don’t hesitate, do it.

Panel I, Fiction: Conspiracies and Obsessions – I did with three very cool authors – Alma Katsu (The Taker), Amelia Gray (Threats), Virginia Moran (The Algebra of Snow) – and an even cooler moderator named Meredith Cole. Meredith knows how to moderate (not as easy as it would sound). She gave us a series of questions she would ask ahead of time, met us 30 minutes before the event to get to know us and help us settle in, and read all four of our books so that when she introduced us and asked us questions she knew what she was talking about. Meredith rocks. And, she’s a heck of a good mystery writer herself.

There were over 60 people at the even at the Barnes and Noble in town. They were standing in the aisles and sitting on the floor. That was a very cool thing to see. I don’t know who they were there to see and I don’t care. We all had a good audience to talk to and the panel kicked butt. Seriously. These women were funny and interesting and I added a touch or two myself, but watching the ladies work, I wanted to be in the audience myself. I had fun and… sold ten books, at least as far as I can remember. j

The Festival volunteers were helpful. The B&N staff were helpful. I probably had too much coffee because my hands shook. Or it could have been the influence of the Christianity section behind us. Or that might have been my nervousness showing. In any case it couldn’t have gone better.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the fencing. Oh yeah, and Panel II with Elizabeth Nunez.


Conspiracies, Obsessions, and Crossing Boundaries

Virginia Festival of the BookIt’s coming.

My first book festival in which I’ll be on a panel discussing a subject that has to do with my book.

I’m very excited about this. So far I’ve been to a few (3) conferences (ALA, BEA, and a NYC Dept. of Ed Librarians Conference) and each of them I’ve signed and done some author speed dating but no presenting on panels.

It seems like a cool thing that an author would do. I’m excited about it.

The Virginia Festival of the Book invited me (thanks to my great publicist JKSCommunications!) and as a Yankee, it’s a real honor to have been picked. Maybe the road trip last summer down south paid off. Whatever Goddesses were looking out for me I’m one happy camper.

I’ll be on two panels.

Panel 1: Conspiracies and Obsessions – novels of unravelling lives – with Alma Katsu, Virginia Moran, and Amelia Gray (and me). It’s an adult author line-up, not YA. I’ll have to think about the context but it sounds like a good fit for Cid Wymann and Open Wounds.

Panel 2: Crossing Boundaries – novels about family drama, love, and loss beyond borders – with N.M.Kelby, Jacqueline E. Luckett, and Elizabeth Nunez (and me). I can’t forget me. Also adult novels but I think I’ll fit in with Open Wounds just fine.

The festival is on March 21-25 and I’ll be on panel 1 on Thursday the 23 and panel 2 Friday the 24. If you’re in Charlottesille VA around then… come say hello. I’ll be the author with the big smile on his phiz.

And here’s the real kicker. The panels will be at a Barnes and Noble. They won’t carry my book normally in store (although they do sell it online) but I’m betting they carry it for the festival. Oh yeah. Uh huh. Oh yeah. I’m still stopping at indi New Dominion Bookstore – oldest in VA. That’s going to be even cooler. Maybe I can convince them to carry my book…

Here’s the link: Virginia Festival of Books


Cold Nose and Fridays

Flyer at Espresso 77

My son asked me if I had a nickname when I was growing up. I told him yes. When I played rugby I was called Joe Nose, usually accompanied by,  “the Nose knows.” I broke my nose 9 times on the rugby pitch, so often that the last few times I had to push it back in place myself before it swelled and I had to go the doctor for rearrangement. Rugby players all have nicknames. I don’t know why. One guy we called IDK because whenever someone asked what his name was none of us knew. “I don’t know,” became IDK.

In Open Wounds Cid calls Winston Arnolf Leftingsham, his cousin from England who comes to get him from the orphanage he is stuck in for five years, “Lefty.” Winston has no left arm or leg (the leg is a wooden replacement) and is badly scarred on the inside and out from mustard gas fighting at Ypres in the First World War. Cid never calls him “Lefty” to his face because… that would be wrong. But the nickname sticks.

My son has had some nicknames so far, like Maximum Max, Maximo, and Maximillion, but nothing that has stuck yet like Lefty or The Nose or IDK. I hope he gets a good one. They’re good for character and myth building.

In case I forget later, I’ll be at Espresso 77 in my neighborhood on Sunday evening 7-8pm reading and talking about Open Wounds. If you’re in Jackson Heights, Queens, come on by and have a latte with me and talk books.

Espresso 77


Cambridge Library Author Trio

Going to Cambridge MA this week for two days. Cambridge public library will be hosting an Author Trio event this Wednesday the 16th that I’ll be a part of with the wonderful Amalie Howard (author of Bloodspell) and Leigh Fallon (author of The Carrier of the Mark). We’ll be reading and answering questions so I hope to see you there if you’re in the neighborhood.

I’ll also be visiting local indies in the Cambridge/Boston area and a fencing salle or two (Bay State Fencers on Thursday the 17th in the early evening from 5-7pm) before I head home late thursday evening.

OWS

Oh… and the pictures are of Occupy Wall Street Zuccotti Park. We went on Friday, Veteran’s day, and took a bunch of pics. I also gave their library a copy of Open Wounds to add to their reading list. I’ll be putting up pics of the demonstration all week.