On Moderating a Panel

anime yelling
Noted, I will only yell at you if your question is not in the form of a question, or lasts longer than two minutes.

Being on a panel at a convention can be a lot of fun, especially when it’s about a subject in which you hold a ridiculous amount of knowledge and fannishness.  [Not to mention that it’s a perfect time for a bit of shameless self-promotion!]  It’s also a great way to meet other people from all levels of the writing world.

But what about moderating?

This past weekend was definitely a learning experience for me, as I had to moderate not one but two panels that I’d created for BayCon.  The first one (recent music inspired by SF/F) ended up being more of a group conversation, as there was a total of six of us in the room.  When it’s that small, it’s usually better to be a little informal, and have a bit of fun with it.  The audience will enjoy being a part of the conversation as well.

The second one — regarding mentors in the Star Wars universe — needed to be a bit more strict in format.  We had about a dozen people in the audience, there were were four on the panel, and of course there would be A Lot of Opinions being shared.

One thing A and I did for this second one was to prepare ahead of time — she created a spreadsheet of possible character relationships to talk about.  The panelists were excited by this and used it as a quick reference guide on what they wanted to talk about.  Another thing was that I emailed all the panelists ahead of time — especially as a moderator — to ask if there were any issues or points they wanted to make, or if they had any personal requests.  [One of the guys wanted to bring in some of his collection of lightsabers, which he very creatively tied in with the theme of the panel.]

Another thing I kept in mind is that I had to, well… Be the Adult In the Room, for lack of a better term.  Not that everyone acted like petulant kids, mind you… this was about being the one to keep everything reined in.  The moderator has to lay down the rules, make sure that the panel doesn’t drift off topic, and also has to be the official timekeeper.   I was willing to let the audience comment now and again — especially since it was relatively small — but I also had to jump in and be the one to say “okay, moving on…”

[I should also mention here that, this is precisely where the moderator should also pay attention to who’s talking and who’s merely interrupting.  There were one or two moments where I noticed someone was about to talk over someone who was making a point, so I had to make sure that didn’t happen.  And yes, this does in fact include Those Guys who will interrupt women who are speaking.]

That doesn’t mean you have to be the teacher watching the kids at recess.  Have fun and be a part of the chatter!  But you definitely need to remember that you’re also the one in charge — you own this group and this subject for an hour and a half, so you most definitely have the right to steer the conversation where it needs to go.

Note: ALWAYS start the wrap-up about fifteen minutes before the ending. This is for last minute questioning, not to mention gathering your things for a smooth exit to your next scheduled event.  Many find that the clock feature on their cell phones is a perfect time keeper.

And in the end, if the audience enjoyed it, they will may want to come up and have a question or a comment they’d like to share.  If you’re not in a mad hurry to get to your next panel, by all means, chat away!  [And if you can, leave your books and freebies out on the table in front of you for a few moments longer, because they might want to take a peek!]  Just remember to leave enough time so your panelists and audience can leave, and the next panelists and their audience can come in.

I still have to get used to moderating, and I’m sure I made a few mistakes, but all in all, I definitely had fun with it, and would totally do it again.

Upcoming Appearance — BayCon 2018!

Baycon 2018

Hey gang!  I’ll be at BayCon this weekend in (hopefully) sunny San Mateo, just down the peninsula from me!  If you happen to be there, come by and say hi!  No readings this time out, but this time I’m trying something new — Moderating!  [This will either be a fantastic experience or it will end in tears, depending on how out of control they get, heh.]

Here’s my panel schedule:

Friday (5/25) at 1:30pm, Room Connect 3:  The Next Generations of Science Fiction and Fantasy in Music.  Description: What music have we heard in the recent past — from the 90s to today — that infuses the ideas of science fiction and fantasy?  I’ll be moderating this one, of course!  This was inspired by a panel I’d gone to at Readercon some years ago that did the same thing, though it focused mostly on the 60s-70s prog, psych and folk rock scenes.  If I can pull it off, we may actually play some tunes!

Saturday (5/26) at 1:00pm, Room Synergy 4:  The Elder As Mentor in the Star Wars Universe.  Description: While the Star Wars universe often has the young maverick saving the day, it’s often thanks to their elders who helped pave the way and made them who they are.  I’m moderating this one as well!  This was actually A’s idea but neither of us could resist it.  This one should be a lot of fun.

Sunday (5/27) at 11:30am, Room Synergy 5: Can You Go Home Again?  Description: A good many authors these days are returning to the worlds of their successes in years past. Some critics and readers sneer.  But why shouldn’t writers expand a beloved concept, if they have something new to say about it?  I won’t be moderating, and I believe I’m the youngest/newest writer on the panel, but I’ll of course comment on how much I loved working on the trilogy and how I’m itching to return to it.

Here’s the con’s link right here if you’re curious and want more info.

Hope to see you there!

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NOTE:  As I’ll be at the Con on Friday, there may or may not be a blog entry then.  Perhaps a fly-by if I have the time!

Convention Time Coming in 2018!

anime crowd

HEY KIDS!  I’ll be hitting the science fiction convention circuit with a force next year, as we’ve just bought our registrations for three of them that will be our neck of the woods!  And yes, I’m planning on getting myself on some panels and maybe even doing a reading of something from the New Project (aka the Apartment Complex story)!

If you’re in the SF Bay area, and are at one of these, come and say hi! 🙂

March 9 – 11: FOGcon, Walnut Creek, CA

May 25 – 28: BayCon, San Mateo, CA

August 16 – 20: WorldCon 76, San Jose, CA

[I will of course be posting this elsewhere on the blog later on under an ‘Appearances’ tab and again when it gets closer to the dates…just thought I’d share the excitement now!]

Fly-By: One Last Con Day

panda train

I’d completely forgotten today is Monday.  This is what happens when you have a four-day weekend full of fun plans:  you completely forget what day it is.  Which means I’d completely forgotten to write up an entry for today.

D’OH.

Oh well, that’s okay.  I have a few things in mind that I’d like to post about, though we’ll be heading out to San Mateo pretty soon for the last day of BayCon (in which I’m featuring on two panels).  I’ll either post something later today or I’ll have something in the next day or so.

Hope your weekend’s been relaxing! 🙂

two novels, finish my blueprints, begin my beguine

nowhere man typing

I’m writing this on Wednesday evening, but by the time you read this on Friday, I’ll be awake and preparing for BayCon down the road in San Mateo.  Come by and say hi if you’ll be there!

Speaking of preparation…this is officially the second convention I’ll be going to where I’m actually taking part in panels to some degree.  Which means that even though I’ll be going there mostly to have fun and meet other writers, in a way I’m also there on business.  As much as I feel more at home riffing in conversations, playing off what other people are talking about, I should also ensure that I stay on subject.  And more importantly, I should be prepared to bring up certain points that I’d like to share with the audience.

For two of the panels, the moderators reached out to the rest of us panelists for some preplanning and idea sharing, which I thought was a brilliant idea.  [The moderator for one of the panels I was on at FogCon did the same, which helped a lot then as well.]  It gives us a chance to come up with a barebones list of points to make and where we’d like the conversation to head.  It also breaks the ice a bit!  If you’re ever moderating a panel at a convention, I highly suggest doing this.

There’s also my half-page flyers to prep.  By this, it’s just a simple address label stuck in the lower corner where I’ve written something along the lines of “I’ll be at these panels.  Come and say hi!”.   If someone sees these on the freebie table, then they can follow up if they so choose.

And as always, I’ll have needed to take some allergy meds and stashed a few bottles of water with me.  Yapping on a panel for an hour or so does dry you out!

And lastly, A. and I are familiar with the area, as it’s just down the road from SF Airport.  I’m sure the hotel will have a restaurant and probably a snack shop, but it’s good to know places nearby where we can stop for take-out on the way home!

I don’t need to prepare for every detail, of course.  But doing at least the bare minimum so I’m prepared is good enough.

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Note: Monday’s blog post will either be up late or will be up on Tuesday, due to the fact that it will be the last day of the con and I have two of the panels that day. 🙂

Not always on schedule, but at least consistent

fma running
credit where it’s due: Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa

Oh hey!  I’d completely forgotten to write up a WtBt entry yesterday!  Sorry about that, folks.  Here you go.  Sometimes the weekend gets the best of me.

Or in this case, A. and I binged on the Star Wars movies this weekend, watching the original three and following it up with The Force Awakens (which we still hadn’t gotten around to watching).  We also bought Rogue One at the mall this weekend so we’re all good to go with that series for the moment.  [Not including the prequels — that’ll be for another time.]

I’ll be honest, I’m not used to taking days off from writing.  I get a nagging in the back of my brain that I shouldn’t be wasting time doing frivolous things when I should be working on a project.  It usually goes away with a good movie or television series (British TV is really good at that for me).  But it’s worth it, especially as I have to remind myself to watch and read new things that could give me insights on my own work.

In other news, I’ve been keeping busy with Meet the Lidwells, and I’m glad to report that the word count has been consistent.  I’ve been hitting between 500 and 1000 words a night, which is alright by me.  That’s my normal average on first drafts, so I’m happy with that.   And as first drafts go, this one’s going fine so far.  Room for improvement, but I’ll let myself worry about that on the first once-over later on.  To tie in with the music metaphors here, I’m laying down Take 1, where I’ll hit a few bum notes and flub a few of the verses, but at least I’ll know what to fix when it’s time for overdubs and mixing. 🙂

Meanwhile, it’s finally dawned on me that BayCon will be in a few weeks!!  It’s probably time for me to prepare myself for that considering.

Here’s my schedule for the con…if you happen to be there, stop by and say hi!

World building techniques and approaches
Saturday 11:30 – 13:00, Synergy 4 (San Mateo Marriott)
Specifically focused on pointers for attendees to attempt rather than history of what panelists did with X.
Panelists: Margaret McGaffey Fisk (M), Kevin Andrew Murphy, Ms. Jennifer L. Carson, Jon Chaisson, Katharine Kerr

Cover Me
Monday 10:00 – 11:30, Convene 1 (San Mateo Marriott)
How to put a good cover on your book.
Panelists: Ms. Jennifer L. Carson (M), Mr. Ezra Barany, Jon Chaisson, Daniel Dociu

You Want to Build Your Own Language?
Monday 13:00 – 14:30, Inspire 1 (San Mateo Marriott)
An intro course on how to build a language.
Panelists: Jon Chaisson, Kai MacTane (M), Juliette Wade

 

In the meantime, back to the mundy Day Job with the hopes that I can sneak in some Daily Words later on when things quiet down!