Guesting at a Convention - Debbie Bennett
|Me and horror writer Sam Stone|
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 ...|
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|
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!