Saturday, July 15, 2017

Giving Good Panel

I slunk into the Grand Hyatt at 8:32am on Friday morning.
Fortunately, the staff know me and were prepared.
A coffee IV pole was waiting at the top of the escalator.
I rolled it, and myself, to an out of the way corner and texted Patrick Lee:
"Good morning?"

My goal was two-fold. If he was still snoozing, I wanted him to wake up since his panel started at 9am.

If he was awake I wanted him to know I'd arrived.

He was awake, attached to his own coffee IV pole, and we rendez-voused in the Broadway meeting room just in time to catch the last bit of the 8am panel that featured the Amazing and Talented Jessica Faust.

At 9am Patrick's panel began. All the panelists were of the male persuasion. (The panel moderator was a woman.) I did a quick gender tally of the audience. 48/64 men, 15/64 women, 1/64 shark.

The panel topic was on writing realistic fight scenes. It was a lot better than I'd been expecting and one reason is Patrick Lee is a really funny guy at 9am.

The gent on Patrick's left turned out to be a great storyteller. A question from the moderator about real life fights got him started on a story about being mugged for a case of beer, and cutting his hand very badly on a broken beer bottle. When I tell you we were laughing as he told this story, it makes us sound like a bunch of sociopaths, but really it was very funny. And it was funny cause of how he told it.  My guess is this was not some impromptu riff, but something he'd told before, maybe often, and gotten it down to a nice taut tale.

The point is this: that's the guy whose books I bought after the panel. I hadn't heard of him before but I figured a guy who could spin a yarn on a panel could probably write a pretty good book.

So now I have two of his.

What this means for you: when you're going to be at a public event, have some stories in your reticule. You may not need them. But if you do, you'll be glad you were prepared.  Trying to be funny, and succinct, with no prep is very difficult. Make it easy on yourself. Be prepared.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

To the folks I work with, when a new employee (bait) shows up, it's one of those, ...tell the one about...and I'm off.

Like the Amy Irving, Richard Dreyfuss movie, The Competition, always have a another piece as backup. You never know when the scheduled music just doesn't match the competition.

Unknown said...

My dad's family are storytellers at heart. I'm not sure if it's tradition or DNA, but storytelling continues through the generations. Storytelling is a win-win for writers. Oral tradition makes great literature when someone bothers to write it. And, writing stories helps to remember them for telling. I tell a mean "gecko" story. Once I write it, my goal is to tell it on a Moth Radio Hour stage.

LynnRodz said..., at 8-9 in the morning? No way. Catch me at 3-4 in the morning and I can tell you some doozies.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Oh, stories like that do tend to be well-worn, having been told to friends pretty much as soon as it happened, polished for new acquaintances, etc. etc. Though, Ms. Reid, what was that gentleman's name and what are his books titled?

I'm going to be in a local author panel this Thursday, my very first! Everybody else has books of various types out, and I'm over here rubbing my short stories together, but Fearless Dominance, that's my motto! That panel is at 7:30 at night, though. This 9 o'clock business? I guess I'd cross that bridge when I got to it, dragging my own coffee IV.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am not a morning person. I don't like mornings and I don't like people. After an IV of coffee, I am still not funny. Or a morning person, but I won't bite and might tell you about the time a baby kangaroo beat the snot out of me. :/ Does that work?

Pamela Toler said...

Just the post I needed to read as I start thinking about an upcoming panel!

Many thanks for the always helpful info.

Unknown said...

E.M. "I don't like mornings and I don't like people." Hah! Just say that and the place will crack up!

Steve Forti said...

I'll add to the list of people wondering "so who was the author?"
Also, this is great advice. (And that's coming from someone who usually rehearses most every conversation in his head (and out loud to himself), complete with several rounds of edits, before conducting them.)

CynthiaMc said...

Toastmasters is great for honing short, humorous talks (or any talk, really). You also learn to think on your feet. I highly recommend it. Lots of fun and great skills learned.

I met Jessica Faust years ago at a conference in Orlando. The thing that most impressed me was her looking me in the eye and saying "If you are my client, I will fight for you." I remember thinking "This is what I need."

I am a nice, polite Southern lady who expects everyone to get along. I need a Fighter or a Shark or a Slitherina to look out for me.

Except war. War breaks out I'll kick your butt (I'm trained for that).

Timothy Lowe said...

Wish I could have made it to Thrillerfest. I looked at the panels and every single one of them looked amazing.

Joseph S. said...

I'm not a morning person, AND I don't drink coffee. Sometimes my body doesn't wake up until it's time to go to bed.

John Davis Frain said...

I just checked, and I look funny enough at 10 in the morning that I won't even need a story.

9 a.m.? I'll have to sneak on to a horror panel.

Colin Smith said...

Writers are not supposed to be either morning people or sociable people, so I suppose if you can get a bunch of them to sit in front of an audience, you can pry them out of bed before 10. :)

Thinking as a reader, yes I do have certain expectations of writers, especially published writers. I expect you to be good with words, to be a little more literate than the average person, just as I expect the guy about to perform brain surgery to know a bit more about biology than the average person. That's why not everyone's a writer, and we don't all do our own brain surgery. Well, one reason. I'm really not into cutting people open. Anymore. >:]

Seriously, though, yes, I think we do expect writers, especially fiction writers, to be able to tell stories. I think I'm a relatively uninteresting person, and really don't have a lot of stories to tell from personal experience. But I probably do, given the right context and prompt. I'm sure we all do. In fact, we've met twice now, Janet, and I still haven't told you the ham biscuit story. Remind me next time. :)

Karen McCoy said...

I have a ton of wacky family stories in my arsenal that people tell me I should write down. I might, or I might hold onto a few that are best told orally.

That sounded weird.

I am also curious who the author is. And what Colin's ham biscuit is about. Sounds like a new Carkoonian delicacy.

Amy Schaefer said...

I once had to do an interview at 4am due to time zones differences. It was torture. I couldn't even listen to it when it came out, because I didn't care to know just how terrible I'd been.

I'm guessing we'll all know who the mystery broken bottle author is soon enough, when Janet finishes his books then passes them along in a contest.

BJ Muntain said...

I'm at the age where I have many stories, and I've told them so often that I can't remember who I've told them to. My sisters often just look at me and nod when I start another one. I may be putting them to sleep. Hmm. Maybe I need to go to more public events so I can tell more and more new people... Oh wait. They have to be entertaining, right? Dang.

Joseph S. said...


My big insecurity is my lack of a solid vocabulary. I envy writers who throw beautiful words out and they land right where they should. I don’t have that ability. I’m especially weak on adjectives since my writing over the years has been more the Subject-Verb-Objective variety. I’m good with those. And, obviously, my legal, business, and financial vocabulary is above the norm, but they don’t carry me far in writing publishable fiction. I’m trying though.

BJ Muntain said...

One person who can really tell a story is Jay Clarke, aka Michael Slade, a Canadian thriller writer. He can sometimes dominate a panel, so he needs a strong moderator. He's also a great storyteller. He usually writes with a co-writer, who I suspect keeps the thriller going in one direction, rather than following his flights of whimsy.

For anyone going to SiWC, sit on one of his sessions - or at his table when possible - to hear a LOT of his stories. And you must attend Michael Slade's Shock Theatre on the Friday night after supper. (Hint: There's always suspense - and a lot of laughter.)

RosannaM said...

Oh, great. So now I need to go get in some bar fights. I thought that was in my past, but if Janet finds those stories funny, I need some more recent material for that panel discussion that is in my near future.

And I thought today was going to be spent doing summery things like a garden tour followed by a garden party. Wait. That could still work. Rick Nelson got a song out of a garden party, I should be able to get a story out one. There will be wine. Maybe that could work, if the wine comes in glass bottles, not those non-cut-your-hands-on-them boxes. Yes, this might work.

Colin Smith said...

Joseph: I don't know about anyone else, but I don't equate being articulate with having an expansive vocabulary, and throwing around antiquated polysyllabic words. To me, being articulate is about being able to use the words you have correctly, and to their best effect. Communicating with clarity. Stephen King, one of the best examples of this I can think of, having seen a number of his interviews and presentations, puts vocabulary on the top level of the writer's toolbox. A necessary tool. One you need to have to hand in every situation. BUT he cautions against trying to expand one's vocabulary for the sake of trying to sound more literary. The moment you start using words in your writing that you've never used before, and, most importantly, would never use in real life, that's the moment you start sounding phony, and your voice suffers. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but that's the gist. Have you read ON WRITING? If not, you should. I'm not a flowery writer, and King does a good job of saying, "That's okay!"

Unknown said...

Rosanna, with garden parties, sometimes you have to start the excitement yourself. A bug dropped here, a sprinkler started there, a little encouragement to the dog or cat under the table... ;)

Lennon Faris said...

Wow, I am envious of that writer! (in a good, please tell us the name soon so we can read his books kind of way).

I AM a morning person but I am NEVER funny around a group of strangers.

John (mss) Frain that made me laugh.

Rosanna, Kathy's advice sounds solid.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I'm one of those annoying morning people - wide awake and witty before 7am or coffee. By 8pm I'm brain dead.

And stories? I turn everything into a story. (Poor Colin has recently suffered through a few of my stories in some recent email correspondence). I'm notorious at family gatherings for standing up as though I were on stage to regale everyone with the latest "I have to tell you all about the other day when..."

Friends and family say I'm hilarious. My husband (who witnesses most the events I'm retelling) says I "embellish."

Jennifer Have fun sitting on your first author panel. As Janet says: Be prepared. Oftentimes, being prepared sparks creative spontaneity.

CynthiaMc said...

Melanie - I think you and I were separated at birth.

Kate Larkindale said...

I've never been a morning person. Generally, my body seems to wake up around 4pm and keep chugging along fine until the small hours of the morning. But children and necessity have made me get up at 5:30am to get any writing done. I still hate being forced into being a morning person, but at the moment, it works for me.

Claire Bobrow said...

The odds that I'll be speaking at a public event soon seem infinitesimal, but you never know. So, I'll keep working on that story about the time there was a cockroach in my coffee at a certain NY restaurant, and maybe purchase a reticule. Love that word!

Craig F said...

I've never felt the need to control a room but I can spin a yarn with some of the best. I just like doing it on a personal level. If I got stuck in the front of a room I think I could do okay, as long as someone prompted me. Maybe a lifeline question would name it better.

Unknown said...

Amy said: "I'm guessing we'll all know who the mystery broken bottle author is soon enough, when Janet finishes his books then passes them along in a contest."

Why do you think she bought two? ; )

Pharosian said...

@Kelsey Hutton - Probably because she said, "So now I have two of his." ; )