Sunday, July 13, 2008

How Not to Conduct a Writer's Symposium

Yesterday, I went to a writer's symposium on crime fiction writing sponsored by SFU. Five authors and three other panelists (a bookseller, editor, and reviewer) plus the moderator were to spend the day discussing the nuts and bolts of crime fiction through ten minute presentations by each author, followed by a question and answer period. As someone who's working on her fifth book and has read her share of how-to writing manuals, I hadn't expected to learn a lot that I didnt' know. And I didn't.

But here's what got me. First, the symposium started late, and as presenters wandered to the tables at the front of the room, they seemed confused about where to sit and wasted time trying to sort themselves out. Worse, two of the authors gave downright poor presentations. One had a hard time articulating her thoughts nearly every time she reached for the microphone. The other preferred to tell anecdotes about his adventures as a writer, some of which had a point to his topic, but almost all of which I'd heard before. Actually, I found the reviewer and editor far more insightful.

I've done presentations before and I absolutely believe in coming prepared. I also like to bring handouts to add more depth to topics I might not have time to discuss in class. None of these presenters did so and frankly, I could have lived without the ancedotes (or the writer should at least change his material more often). The same guy seemed a bit miffed, or at least surprised, that copies of his new book were in our gift bags. Guess he'd hoped to sell a bunch after the presentations.

The best part of the day was meeting new people and catching up with a colleague I hadn't seen in a couple of years. I also received over $100 worth of new books for a $75 course, so the day wasn't a complete loss. But will I go see these authors again? Not likely. Could I have done better as a presenter? You bet.

To read excerpts of FATAL ENCRYPTION, visit

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