I love moderating a writer panel.
No. Scratch that. I
love go into near sweats before moderating a writer panel. I mean, yipes, reading all those books and dreaming up questions not asked a bazillion times and if there’s gonna be a crowd or hell maybe nobody’s gonna show up and — yeah, yipes. Hard work, if done well, to connect a theme to the writers and make everybody look damn good trying.
Earlier this year, Sister in Crime Middle TN asked me to moderate the panel portion of their new Author Showcase series (full disclosure: I am kinda tight with the chapter). Oh, and the panel would be five highly-successful writers, award-winners all and NYT best-sellers multiple.
Well, of course I said yes. The Sisters are a great organization, and we have a wonderful chapter here in Nashville. Smash cut to me digging into planning. It goes like this: you whip up a catchy theme (“Cozies, Cops and Conspiracies,” on the surface evoking the breadth of the crime genre, but really having three C’s that click off the tongue), you read or freshen up on the panelists, you hone in on what resonates about their stuff, you develop a script down to key questions and emergency-back-up-hell-nobody’s-talking timefill. Then you hope, if you’re very lucky, you won’t need to use the script at all.
Pressure, yeah, but then you get panels like today. Marvelous authors. Engaged, compelling, witty to a person. In time they find a catch point and start to debate each other, and that’s when the magic starts. First trick, I disappear. No matter how much fun I’m having at a Charlie Rose turn, the panel ain’t about me having fun. Second trick, keep it like that until time’s up. The only fun that matters is what’s going on with the people who came to see the show. And a crowd came. Magic.
So thanks to the chapter for invaluable guidance in honing the session. Likewise to panelists extraordinaire Jenna Bennett, J.T. Ellison, Alana White, Steven Womack, and Lisa Wysocky. To the Nashville Public Library — Bellevue for having us. Double thanks to prez Beth Terrell for handling the logistics and bringing out the big guns for interviewing. For believing this short story guy could help launch the Showcases. Triple thanks to those readers in the audience. You had lots of other choices to spend your Saturday.
Did I put in a bunch of reading and research time? Yep. Worry myself into the near-sweats? Yep. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Man, I love moderating a writer panel.