Tonight I was part of a panel of mystery writers at the West Portal Library. I actually instigated the panel when Jess Lourey and I were on the first leg of our Thelma and Louise book tour and hitting all the bookstores and libraries in the Bay Area that we could hit in one day. Terri and Melissa were the librarians on duty and they were as friendly and receptive as any non-famous author could desire. They were definitely interested in having a mystery themed panel at the library and I was up for putting one together. The panel included:
Kelli Stanley, (Nox Dormienda, the first Roman Noir mystery.
Peter Gessner (The Big Hello and the Long Goodbye);
and (bats eyelashes demurely) Yours Truly,
Dana Fredsti (Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon.)
Dave Fitzgerald was the moderator at my request – I knew he’d make sure all four of us had equal microphone time and keep things moving along.
See, depending on the personality of the authors, panels can be highly entertaining and informative, or great cures for insomnia. Sometimes one panelist will monopolize the entire session, the alpha wolf in the author pack, snapping and snarling if another writer dares to get to close to the kill (i.e. audience attention). If they don’t snap and snarl, they just don’t. stop. talking. And if the moderator can’t take control, things spiral out of control, less extroverted panelists get shut out and no one is happy except the narcissist who wouldn’t shut up.
I am pleased to announce that not only did Dave keep the panel moving after first giving each of us well researched introductions and a chance to say a little bit about ourselves, but all four writers understood the concept of give and take. No one tried to monopolize the panel, answers to questions sparked comments from the rest of us, and the audience members (some of whom none of us had met before, always exciting) were responsive and had plenty of questions of their own.
The only glitch for me was having it held in the children’s room of the library and the only reason that was an issue was because a ‘bitch’ slipped out during one of my answers (why did you write your mystery in the first place? Because I worked with a total bitch and wanted to kill her) and there were still a couple of kids squirreled away in a corner with the computers. I quickly changed my reply rating from PG to G.
So my question to my fellow bloggers and authors: what’s the worst panel experience you’ve ever had? The best? And if you’ve never been on one, but attended as an audience member, same questions. Add to that, what makes a panel enjoyable for you? And what makes you want to throw bricks at the panelists?
Inquiring minds want to know.