Paying it forward with the Poisoned Pen Web Con

Alex Katz the-cocktail-partyI’ve spent the past two days setting up panel discussions for the Poisoned Pen Web Con, billed as “The World’s First Virtual Mystery Convention.” I registered for this online October 24th event as soon as I learned about it last month, and when the e-mail arrived asking for authors interested in moderating panels, I jumped at the opportunity. The organizers chose me to host two panels: “Social Issues: Do They Elevate or Detract?” and “First Person? Third Person? The Rewards and Pitfalls of Points of View.” 

Pulling together both panels before the September 30th deadline, I’m now experiencing the first-person rewards and pitfalls of this daunting assignment. I’ve moderated local authors’ panels, but never before a national one. The organizers sent me an enormous spread sheet indicating which authors were interested in which topics, and leaving it up to me to contact and choose my panelists. This part was fairly easy, and I had four confirmed panelists for each topic within a day.

Next I created an e-mail group for each panel and sent them instructions and a list of possible questions for discussion. This is a “text panel,” meaning that all the discussions will happen in writing. Answers are now starting to arrive, and I have the fun of compiling them all into a document the organizers will post on the site for viewing the day of the Web Con. I’m communicating with mystery writers from all over the United States, only one of whom I’ve met personally, and all of whom are more established  writers than me. I’m having a ball, but I feel a bit as if I’ve been drafted into a three-ring circus without the requisite training. I can’t decide if I’m a juggler, a high wire artist, or a lowly clown – maybe some of each.

At least I had the good sense not to volunteer for any of the high-tech panels. There are opportunities for blog talk radio, recorded audio, and recorded video, but judging by the spread sheet, the majority of the authors steered clear of these options. Some of the Blog Book Tours folks are registered, including Dani Greer, Helen Ginger and Jean Henry Mead, and I’ve seen scary online chats about the problems they’re having with Skype and other esoteric modes of electronic communication.

So why am I doing all this? At $25 for registration, it’s a bargain. I’ll save over $1,000 by choosing this over Bouchercon for my fall conference, and that’s not even counting the new clothes I’d want to buy in order to feel successful. Then of course there’s the exposure and the networking opportunities. Each author will have an individual web page with a biography and book descriptions, and all the material will be available online for a year. And there’s the opportunity to sample and learn about all sorts of cutting-edge technology. It’s an excuse to buy the new Mac laptop I’ve been craving so that I can join in live feeds and other options. (Dang – there goes that $1,000, and then some. But I think it’s a better long-term investment than a three-day conference.)

For me, the real puzzlement is why so many authors I know aren’t signing up. Is it technophobia? Sheer laziness? Whatever the reason, there’s still time to register right up until the conference, a month from today. The window of opportunity has passed for getting onto a panel, but authors have until September 30 to submit individual text, audio or video contributions. First you have to register, though – you have to pay to play.

This conference takes place under the auspices of Poisoned Pen Press, but the organizers aren’t PPP employees. Rather, they’re authors who’ve published with this excellent independent press. I’ve never submitted to PPP, in part because they want an exclusive look at manuscripts and in part because I’ve felt my work is probably too edgy. But soon after taking on this volunteer assignment, I looked up their submission guidelines just for the heck of it. Right away, I learned I was wrong for them on two counts: my books have already been published elsewhere, and Eldercide features a serial killer who’s a point-of-view character – a big no-no for them. He’s an artistic, compassionate serial killer, but even so, I guess that lets me out.

But I believe in paying it forward, encouraging other authors to sign up for this opportunity even if nothing comes out of it for me personally. On the other hand, one never knows – who’d have guessed that reading my poetry at open mics would have helped me earn a “Local Book and Author of the Year” award. As they say, a rising tide floats all boats – as long as it’s not a tsunami.

11 thoughts on “Paying it forward with the Poisoned Pen Web Con

  1. I guess I spend so much time in front of my computer that I find it hard to get excited about signing up for an event that takes place on my computer. I think I need the live personal interaction of a conference and face to face contact. But, I am anxious to hear more about this one and how it turns out. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider next year.

    • Hi Jane,
      You’ve got a point! I love live conferences too. Three I’ve enjoyed in the past are Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and Crimebake. The latter is put on in the Boston area by the New England Sisters in Crime and MWA. They’re a bit pricy for me this year, though. But I won’t miss the MWA New York Chapter’s Christmas party!

    • Good for you, Helen. To be honest, I don’t even know what Skype is – but I’ll probably know by the time of the conference.

  2. Good on you, Julie, for taking this on! I’m delighted to be on your POV panel and so happy to be participating in the first virtual mystery conference.

    But I’m going to Bouchercon too!

    • Hi Vicki. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I just got your e-mail with your answers to some of my questions. Haven’t read it thoroughly yet, but they look great. And congratulations for understanding my convoluted instructions and even helping set up the format for me.

      You’re lucky to be going to Bouchercon. Are you on a panel? They frown on self-published authors, which is one reason I’m not going – I’d have to just go as a “fan.” But in addition, Indianapolis doesn’t thrill me. I’ll probably go in 2010 when it’s in San Francisco!

  3. Thanks for the post, Julie. You know what they say about horses and water. One of our goals in setting this up was to help bring authors – often technophobes – into the 21st century way of doing things. We know there will be problems. We know there will be things that people can’t get to work and there will be frustrations, but we hope that overall the eye-opening experience of what can be done with the web will more than offset. We’ll see.

    Keep the faith.

    • Thanks so much for checking in, Robert. I’m having a lot of fun with this, and part of the fun is overcoming my technophobia. Back at the beginning of May when I signed up for the Blog Book Tours program, I’d never have dreamed of having a blog with over 8,000 visitors.

      So many authors say they don’t have time for this online stuff and that they’d rather just be writing. And many “experts” advise them that the best thing they can do is just sit there in their lonely ateliers and write, keep revising and sending queries, and that finally they’ll prevail. I have a hunch that’s no longer the best way to go. And I consider the blogosphere to be at least as creative as writing mysteries!

  4. Wow, sounds like you’re in it for the whole hog. It can’t help but get your name out and that’s a good thing.
    Good luck with the con.

    I don’t know too much about it. Sounds like I’d need a webcam to participate. I have one somewhere, but don’t know if the software would work, since the cam is so old. Also, I looked really weird in it.

    Morgan Mandel

    • You don’t need a webcam, Morgan. You can just read the text-only panels and/or watch or listen to videos or radio shows. I’m not really sure of the details – too busy working on my text presentations.

  5. Wow! I just now found out about this, and I think it is a brave and exciting idea. I’m too late to register and be a dynamic panelist, but the reduced travel cost to this conference is most impressive!

    I’ll follow this with interest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s