Sunday, December 4, 2011

Loscon: On Panels and My Schedule

Convention programming varies in structure from basically a single track (one choice of a panel or event for each time slot) to many, none of them heavily attended. Needless to say, there are benefits and drawbacks of each approach. I used to prefer several choices, toward the lower end of the scale, until I attended a single-track convention and loved the sense of community that resulted. I found that the topic mattered less than the shared experience. Likewise, there are many instances where the topic is irrelevant compared to the pleasure of hearing those particular panelists in conversation. This can be true for individuals or for combinations of people with opposing opinions and wicked senses of humor. As a member of the audience, I don't particularly care if the discussion stays on its designated topic, although when I am moderating, I make an effort to keep a modicum of focus. Just because I love conversations that fly off in unexpected directions, with participants running away with each other's ideas, I can't assume the audience feels the same way.

I had two panels for this convention and they were both on Saturday; that's a light schedule for me. I was happy to have a free day (Friday), and one with a number of panels I'd like to listen to. The first of my events was not really a panel, but an experience in listening and speaking from a deep place, based on the Quaker custom of "worship sharing." Dave (Trowbridge, my husband and fellow writer) and I put the idea together, along with Sherwood Smith. We'd all noticed the tendency of people at conventions to talk too much and too fast, to interrupt one another, and to jump in immediately with whatever they have to say. A slower pace, with thoughtful silences in between, allows people to consider their words and to sort through to the heart of what they have to say. The experience of being listened to, of being really heard, reduces the sense of urgency. So we designed an introduction to this type of speaking and listening, choosing a topic on which most people will have something personal to say -- a book that changed your world.

Last night, Dave and I went by the room in which it is to be held to look over the physical setup, as this works best in a circle. The challenge will not be rearranging the chairs (they are the usual hotel style with brackets on each side to fix them in rows, but easily separated) but putting things back in an audience situation afterwards. We ascertained that we'd have a half-hour in which to do this, so we were all set.

The second panel will be of the more usual sort, some of us being a table and everyone else in the rows of seats. It's on Book View Cafe as alternative publishing; Sherwood and I and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff will be on it, along with someone we don't know (assuming that's not a misprint). Sherwood and Maya are two of my favorite people to be on a panel with. Following the principle that the thoughtfulness and wacky humor of the panelists is more important than the actual topic, I look forward to a great time.


  1. Love to hear more about the 'thoughtful silence' workshop.

  2. The first panel was amazing, although it was a bit disconcerting to get back into 'con' mode was probably a half hour or so before I was back in the same space as others :-) I look forward to your post about it.