Guesting at a Convention - Debbie Bennett

Me and horror writer Sam Stone
I spent last weekend in the company of several incarnations of Dr Who, a few daleks, lots of stormtroopers, jedi knights and Chewbacca – plus various characters from Lord of The Rings, Batman and numerous other film and television shows. Not forgetting the creepy Pennywise the clown and other scary creatures.

I was at Sci-Fi Weekender – an annual get-together of more than 6,000 fans of science-fiction, fantasy and horror in all media forms. At a Haven holiday park in North Wales, I stayed in a gorgeous caravan with stunning views of Tremaddog Bay and so close to the sea, you could hear it at night.

And I was there as a “guest artist”, with an access-all-areas pass! With several other writers, I co-hosted a variety of panels on writing in the Author Zone – part of the Spaceport (aka the smaller of the two main areas on the site – with a stage, seating, bar etc). I somehow managed to get listed in the lovely, glossy, full-colour event guide on the first row of guests, together with Rene Auberjonois from Star Trek and Deep Space Nine!
That's my name in there!

I was thrown into the deep end, so to speak. I’ve freelanced for Telos Publishing for more years than I care to remember and Telos was responsible for organising the author programming stream. So I ended up on stage talking to an audience of 50-100 or more people about e-publishing, writing into “shared worlds”, writing crime etc. Plus I interviewed horror writer and absolute sweetie Simon Clark. When I wasn’t on stage, I was manning the Telos table in the trader area.

That's me on the left ...
It’s not for the faint-hearted. Getting up on stage and moderating a panel is hard. Radio head-mikes don’t make it easy to grab a drink of water when your mouth dries up – get the mike too close to your mouth and you can hear yourself breathing! Fortunately my co-panellists were all lovely chatty people and I don’t think I made too big a fool of myself over the course of two days.

I'm not sure which is the most difficult - moderating a panel or simply speaking. Moderating requires you to keep control, to ensure that each panellist gets equal time and to have a list of questions. It also makes you responsible for filling any awkward silences, But at least you know what is coming next. As a panellist, you have to be able to think fast and come up with more than a one-word answer for whatever question the moderator might throw at you! On one panel, there was only myself and comic/magazine editor Dez Skinn, moderated by Jonathan Green. Now Dez is a fascinating person to listen to - he's clearly an expert at public-speaking and can work an audience like the professional he is. Poor Jonathan was trying to make sure I could get a word in edgeways, resulting in him firing questions at me and my having to think very quickly! And in reality, Dez was far more interesting anyway ...

A rare good photo of me
Was it good for my career as a writer? Absolutely. Possibly the wrong demographic for selling my own books, as this was far more science-fiction orientated than crime, but hits on my blog are up, as are ebook sales. It's all about exposure and I certainly got a lot of that - on the Friday I did 3 panels in a row and I expect the audience were sick of the sight of me! But other authors and media people have friended me on facebook and I’m sure it’s raised my profile, if nothing else. 

It's also a baptism of fire in raising confidence levels too. I'm not completely unused to public speaking as I used to frequently make off-the-cuff presentations to the entire board of multi-national companies in my day job. But it's still slightly nerve-wracking to sit on stage and take audience questions about your writing.

But I had a great weekend and I learned a lot. I’m hoping they’ll ask me back next year!

I'm a bigger star than you...



madwippitt said…
Wow! How exciting! Confirmation - if you needed it - that you have ARRIVED! ;-)
(P.S. Was B7 represented?)
Debbie Bennett said…
Stephen Grieff.:-)
Chris Longmuir said…
Brilliant, you're definitely a name to watch and I'm not surprised you had friends requests afterwards. We may have to make you our Authors Electric celebrity and use you to promote us!
madwippitt said…
Aaaaack! Stephen Greif! My favourite Travis! And missing his monicker off my signed B7 poster which hangs on the wall next to my desk! (yes, really, it does)
Lydia Bennet said…
Good exposure Debbie, and it sounds fun too! I took part in Harrogate crime fest when my first crime novel came out, this year I'm on panels at Bristol CrimeFest and at Iceland Noir. These conventions/conferences tend to be mocked like anything nerdy but I believe in geek chic and enthusiasm! you should try for Bouchercon next year for sure.
Cool, Debbie! Sounds like more fun than World Fantasy, where they wouldn't let us dress up...

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