Tuesday, 19 September 2017

What I Learned: First Time as a Panelist

In my last blog post, I talked about facing my fears and doing something that was beyond my comfort zone. Even though I was pretty terrified, I discovered to my delight that the rewards were amazing! In this post, I will elaborate more on that.

Once I had arrived at When Words Collide, I went in to confirm my registration. Once the formalities were done and I had signed in, I was handed my name tag and the presenter name sign. Seeing my name on that panelist sign brought a giddy smile to my face. I allowed myself to feel a small amount of pride. This was real. I was actually there, ready to be a presenter!

My first panel was at noon, and since I had plenty of time, I decided to attend a panel by Robert Runte, titled "Managing Sustained Writing Projects". While his panel was aimed primarily at those writing papers and thesis, Robert stated that the same theories and writing strategies could also be similarly applied when working on a novel. I'm glad that I took my laptop with me on that day, as I ended up taking quite a bit of notes! I will be posting them soon on my blog, so keep an eye out.

NOTE: if you are going to attend as a panelist, definitely have your business card, and make sure you have enough. I learned this the hard way as I only had a few business cards with me in my wallet. In my rush to reach the festival venue, I had forgotten to grab some more!

The topic of discussion for my first panel was "Balance for Young Authors" and here is where I learned my first lesson of the day: do not be sad if only three people show up in the audience. I felt a tinge of disappointment at first but it was quickly washed away when I started conversing with them and the other panelist, Ariel Rodriguez, Meghan Masterson, and S. M. Beiko. Together we discussed the various ways we balanced our writing careers with our day jobs. The main thing we all agreed on was to have a specific time during the day in when we could just forget everything else and write, since that would probably be the only hour during the day when we could give full attention to our writing before being diverted to something else.

That's me in the middle! Photo Courtesy: Kirstin Morell, When Words Collide

For my next panel I didn't have to walk too far. It was right next door in the neighbouring hall. It was one that I was looking forward to, but also nervous to be a part of. This one was titled "Challenges in Presenting Video Games Narratives." I wouldn't know it until a little later, but I was actually going to be sitting at the same table as Patrick Weekes, the lead writer at Bioware for Dragon Age!!!

Lead. Writer. Bioware. Dragon Age. With his own Wikipedia page!

I should pat my back for remaining mature and dignified and not squeaking like a mouse when I spoke with him.

The other panelists were Amy Totten and Joshua Pantalleresco. I must say, amidst such talented people, my nervousness was coming back to me. I mean, these are people who actually understand how writing in video games work, and I'm just one tiny little gamer! What was I even doing here?

Second lesson of the day (as re-emphasized later by the lovely lady with the Lothlorien leaf pendant, I apologize for forgetting your name): I was sitting at that table for a reason. My opinions matter. I should not be afraid to state them.

It took a while, but slowly I eased into the discussion. I may not have worked on writing a game script, but as a player, I had experience on how a story would work in a game, and how the end product can either be a superb masterpiece or a complete failure, or somewhere in between. My experiences were valid, and they were just as important to be stated in front of others.

We discussed various techniques of game script writing, while pondering over what makes players come back and replay a game. I was quite happy and proud to be up there. On top of that, it made my day when people from the audience actually came over to let me know they loved my talking. That was the sweetest moment for me.

I had another break for an hour, so I decided to quickly grab some food and head over to the "Do You Need to Hire an Editor?" panel because, boy, could I use the advice! Moderated by Barbara Scott, this panel had some really wonderful ideas and tips on finding editors, asking the right kind of questions, as well as highlighting the difference between the types of editing. Listening to these discussion was an opener, or maybe ear opener? I mean it was technically listening....

Never mind.

My last panel (of which I was one of the presenters) was one that I felt closest to my writer's heart. It was aptly titled "Young Adult to New Adult". As much as I am a fan of the Young Adult genre, I feel more connected with the New Adult genre because I still vividly remember my early 20s, the confusion about finding my place, facing and shouldering responsibilities, and exploring possibilities, and recently (at least in my opinion) there seems to be a dearth of protagonists who are around that age range. It seems all the adventures in the world nowadays are undertaken by 12 year olds or 16 year olds, and frankly, I feel too old for those stories, though I still love them.

Hence, my being a presenter for this panel. I wanted to enlighten people on what the New Adult genre truly is, and why, despite the various stigma it currently possesses, this genre should be maintained.

And for this panel, more than three people showed up. *cue smiley emoticon*

Third lesson of the day? Online presence is important for an author to build her platform, but face-to- face conversation is equally important, if not more. I would learn this later into the evening, during the book signing session.

Time for some honesty: I probably haven't sold more than a single copy in the first half of the year. Yes, in 6 months I sold just one copy of my book. Compare that with the fact that I sold one copy in one evening at the festival.

6 months vs. 1 evening.

And it happened because someone from the audience who enjoyed my panels came over to buy my book.

Power of conversation.

I hope you enjoyed learning from my experiences as much as I enjoyed sharing them. I have so much more tips to talk about, things I have learnt! Be sure to subscribe to my blog so that you don't miss a single post! Until next time my fellow new writers.

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