I went to Conestoga over the weekend, which is Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention, and pretty much all I did was attend panels on the Fangs, Fury, and Fey track. I picked up a bit of advice about writing, met several brilliant writers, and learned a lot about fandom.
Here’s my ten steps to having a successful panel-going experience:
1) There will be a lot of people, and you will sweat. Wear deodorant.
2) Bring water.
3) Bring a notebook and pen (or grab a free swag pen), because not only may there be names and advice you want to write down, but in one boring panel I sketched out a background for a character in my new novel.
4) Don’t worry if a panel is so good you forget to write stuff down.
5) If you have a question, maybe you should think about whether it’s going to make you look like a total moron before you ask it. I know a lot of people say there’s no such thing as a stupid question – but there are many ways to make a good question sound remarkably dumb.
6) If you ask a question (wicked smart or dumb) and the panel neglects to agree with you, or somehow fails to live up to your expectations, drop it. Let it go. Don’t hound them and repeat yourself over and over in order to waste everyone else’s time pushing your agenda. This will only lead to all the rest of us ridiculing you at the bar that night.
7) It’s ok to laugh! It makes writers feel better if they think they’re entertaining you.
8) Panelists are people, too. And they’re even more tired than you are at 9am in the morning.
9) Don’t talk to your friends constantly when you’re sitting in front of me, and for god’s sake turn off your cell phone!
10) Clap at the end! Let the panelists know you appreciated their presence and wisdom. Applause is not uncouth!
BONUS: The bar is your friend. Why? Because it is the writer’s friend. They will be there, and it’s easy to corner someone in the bar. Or pull up a chair. Or get smashed. And if you’re drunk you can ask all the dumb-sounding questions you’d like. Maybe the author you molest won’t remember in the morning.