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Writers Behaving Badly

Remind me to never again do two conventions (GenCon and WorldCon) in the same month where I am manning a booth, speaking, signing, and reading. It is downright exhausting. Fortunately for the world, I managed to keep my patience and my tact firmly in check. At least until well after we left WorldCon.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't have a few thoughts. I've titled this "Writers Behaving Badly" not for the usual fun reason. Between the two conventions I saw some things I would consider poor form for anyone attempting to become a professional writer. Consider this a list of what not to do at a convention.

If you preface a question to a panel with the phrase "This is an interesting question…," just stop. First, it's not interesting. Second, it is most likely off-topic. Third, if it IS an interesting question, it will be self evident. Fourth, you are trying way too hard to be clever or erudite and failing in a big way.

If you want to make a comment to a panel and the topic has moved on to a different subject, put your hand down unless it is vitally important. Believe me, it probably isn't vitally important. Especially on the fourth day of the convention. I'm sorry the moderator didn't get to you. Hopefully next time.

If you want to ask a question of a panel, ask it in the form of a question. Seriously. Just ask the question. Don't give us the five minute lead up. Don't give us your funny story attached to it. Just ask the question. Also, make sure you are actually asking a question and not commenting in the form of a question.

Do not ask a panelist a question that you have already emailed them about and received an answer for. It makes you look like someone just looking for attention and like you didn't listen to the advice the first time. Especially if the question has an obvious answer that you answered yourself in the original email. (Yes. I was annoyed.)

Follow Up: When the panelist is short with you, don't then track them down after the panel to literally get on your knees to beg for forgiveness. It embarrasses the panelist and makes you look, again, like someone desperate for attention.

It is not OK to force your way into a conversation to give your card to that publisher or editor you really want to work with. Especially when they are obviously involved in something else. Interrupting them will leave a bad impression. Trust me on this one.

If you are at a party or a kaffeeklatch or a literary beer or just at the bar and the topic strays from the point you are trying to make, it is OK to bring the conversation back to your point—once. Not four or five times. If the conversation strays away from what you are trying to talk about a second (or third or fourth) time, get the hint that no one else wants to talk about it. Especially if you are playing the Me-Show.

It is not all about you. I know sometimes it feels like it. I know you are excited about the convention. I know you want to network, to brag, to let people know about the cool stuff you are doing. You can do that in small amounts. But if all you are doing is looking for a way to open your mouth to talk about yourself—whether through asking a question or commenting on something just said and bringing the conversation around to your work—it will be noticed. Eventually, you will be mentally dismissed.

It is not OK to physically grab any author for whatever reason unless they know you well or they are about to be hit by a runaway trolley. Especially if they look like they are on a mission (to go to the damn bathroom). Seanan can get away with having strangers distract me so she can pounce on me because I know her. It is not cool to grab your favorite author/editor/publicist by the arm to say how much you love their work. Grabbing a stranger at a con is bad, mmm-kay? Don't do it. It could result in a bad result and blood. This goes for people you know online but have never met in person.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 31st, 2011 06:52 am (UTC)
interesting timing
Every time I think "Hmm, maybe I CAN use my imagination to get paid and have the job of weaving stories for a living" I read one of these and immediately I'm saved from putting myself into any of these situations..
Aug. 31st, 2011 06:59 am (UTC)
Re: interesting timing
Don't let this keep you from following your dreams. Just think of yourself as fair warned thus fair armed.
Aug. 31st, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
Re: interesting timing
Thank you :) It's not so much a dream as something that would be an enjoyable job, but there seem to be a lot of obstacles in my way; or maybe it's just me thinking that. It's hard to tell. But I'm very proud of you that you're forging ahead and doing what you enjoy.
Aug. 31st, 2011 07:15 am (UTC)
Egad. I hope these weren't all the *same* person.
Aug. 31st, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
No. Not all the same con.
Aug. 31st, 2011 10:06 am (UTC)
Interesting post.

With regard to the panel ettiquette, I think most folks don't even realize they're making a faux pas. It's one of those things we figure out for ourselves, after being irritated when someone else does it (if that makes sense).

Aug. 31st, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
It does.
Aug. 31st, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
Speaking of grabbing people: if you think they look like someone you know and they are about to wander off where you can't talk to them, shout the name you think they use. If they don't turn, accept that it is not who you thought it was, or that they are so busy that they are tuning out outside distractions. If you are truly besties, you will find a way to connect at the con at some other moment.

Also I think that generally going down on your knees, unless you are about to make a proposal of marriage to someone you have been dating long enough to have reason to think it will be accepted, is a bad move in pretty much any circumstance. It's an attention-grabber for you, puts the other person in an embarrassing spot, and overdramatizes nearly any interaction except a serious query of whether the other party will spend the rest of their life with you. It's not gallant. It's showboating.

I'm sorry you had reason to be exposed to all of this, and I hope the rest of your con experiences were good ones.
Aug. 31st, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC)
Ah, the dreaded five minute comment in the place of a question. That's why I flee most film festival Q&As.
Aug. 31st, 2011 02:16 pm (UTC)
...someone actually got down on their knees to beg an author for forgiveness. *blink* Wow.
Aug. 31st, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
To beg me forgiveness. It heightened my annoyance.
Aug. 31st, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
The people who ask questions that start with "In my book..." drive me crazy.
Aug. 31st, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes. There are LOTS of those.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )