I knew before I went that no matter how small the turnout, I would have great fun with the subject and my fellow panelists james_bow (Dundurn Press) and James Alan Gardner (HarperCollins/Eos), since we are all enormous geeks and have been online practically forever. I also knew that I would be paid for my time, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy and professional-like.
What I did not know was that when I stopped at the booth to get my cheque, they would also give me a gorgeous totebag and a free t-shirt with the festival logo on it. Whee! I love me some swag, I do.
(Yes, I am easily pleased, so sue me. I still have my little HarperCollins purse/nametag holder from Bouchercon 2004, what of it?)
Anyway, there are no pictures of the panel because I was too stupid to bring my camera, as usual. But about twenty people came, including James Bow's lovely and talented mother Patricia, who had to hurry off about three-quarters of the way through to do a reading from her latest children's fantasy novel The Ruby Kingdom in another tent, but who asked some good questions and helped keep the discussion moving while she was there. There were also a few teens in the audience who seemed genuinely interested in the discussion, including one girl who nodded and smiled in a most encouraging way.
Among other things, we talked about blogging and whether it's a help or a hindrance to the serious writer. This was the closest we came to actual disagreement, as JAG emphatically does not blog because he feels that it takes up time and mental energy that are better used for his writing. However, James Bow said that he finds blogging to be a helpful and even necessary warm-up for his fiction; and I fall somewhere in the middle, flinging out random blog posts as I have time and finding it both useful and distracting by turns. We did all agree that we love the Intarwebs for research, though, and all of us also agreed (somewhat to my surprise in JAG's case) that fan fiction can be a really great thing for young writers.
Somewhat amusingly, I ended up plugging Cassandra Clare's City of Bones when I was talking about how numerous authors who started in fanfic have crossed over to original fiction. This is ironic in part because I haven't read it myself, but I remarked that I'd seen it on display at one of the bookstore booths. I'm sure that after the panel was over everyone stampeded down there to buy it, along with the other books I mentioned like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight (when I was talking about authors who successfully use the web to interact with their fans) and Heather Brewer's Eighth Grade Bites (when I was talking about book trailers). Because I am influential like that.
Or, you know, not.
But anyway. It was a good discussion, and even though nobody I knew personally showed up except for the ubiquitous Bow clan, the people in the audience seemed to enjoy the panel well enough, and afterward we chatted with a teen services librarian who was very nice and appreciative, and furthermore I HAS SWAG, so there.