Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What's your question?

I love events sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW); there's always a good turnout with engaged women and even the occasional male in the audience.

Over the weekend I joined Ann Parker, Diana Orgain, and Kelli Stanley for a panel discussion. Since we'd all been to this venue before, we tried to vary the topics a bit, emphasizing our works in progress. Our usual list includes the craft of writing (developing characters, plotting, setting, and so on), our various processes (outline or not?), and how we do research.

With an audience of university women this weekend, we put more emphasis on how our educational backgrounds affected our writing. Did what we studied in college and after have a direct influence on how and what we write? Well, yes, but in different ways that were very interesting to hear. Enough for another blog some time.

But for the purposes of my blog today, I'm wondering what you do to make panel discussions fresh and interesting? What are your most successful topics? Personal or academic?

And, to rephrase a burning question—what do readers want? Do you go to a book event hoping to learn? To share? To network? To flirt?

(I'm trying to cover all bases here!)


Betty Hechtman said...

If the audience are writers, I think they want the secret to getting published and if they're readers, I think they want to know the backstory on your books.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Camille, interesting question especially in light of a controversy on another blog. Seems an audience member was overtly rude to the author, sighing, making comments, flipping through her book and slapping it down. I think what he wanted was his own personal audience and a share of the attention!

When I go to an author event, I want some sense of the person behind the pages. The personality, his/her story, and maybe some about his/her work habits.

Jeanne C. said...

As a reader I would want to know some background of the book.
Flirt??? hehe!!

Monica Ferris said...

Joanna: A rude audience member? I've been fortunate not to encounter that, at least so I noticed. What a terrifying idea!

Betty, I think you're right -- in fact, I have two talks and they are split exactly as defined in your reply.

I think a panel discussion gets interesting when that impossible-to-predict event happens that the panelists excite one another. I've had it happen a few times.

Camille Minichino said...

I haven't had rude, but I have had people who, as Joanna says, want the audience!

Definitely, Betty and Monica, sometimes it's easy to figure out what people want, according to their own goals.

I think our panel at Malice last year had the same kind of magic Monica describes -- hope we can do it again in SF!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

You're all correct. I think that every author fears a rude audience member. Or an audience member who takes us to task for our work. I remember in St. Louis when a woman just vented on Lawrence Block about some of his soft-porn books. She'd paid to be in this particular audience, evidently just for the privilege of scolding him. And I thought to myself, "Why?" I mean, there's a big difference between a critique group and an author talk. There's a time and place for both!

What we had at Malice and at Bouchercon was unique. We were all working in concert, respectful of each other, and of the whole concept of crafts.

Camille Minichino said...

Jeanne, what better place to find an intelligent, book-loving friend!