Sunday, March 7, 2021

How One Reader Went Everywhere by Staying Home

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the World Getting Shut Down, it’s a natural inclination to look back at all the incredibly shitty ways our lives have changed during The Year That (We Wish Never) Was.

Let’s not.

Instead, let’s focus on one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic—the elimination of geography. If you’re a reader or writer who would go to a few events in your area, now you could go anywhere, anytime. No plane ticket required.

People in California attended Bloody Scotland, the crime writing festival. People across the country have watched book launch parties at Murder by the Book in Houston. I had friends from Missouri and Florida tune in to a panel I was on last month at a local Sacramento area library.

True, none of these are as good online as they would’ve been in person. But if going in person was never a possibility, getting to see it in any form is an improvement, right?

No one has done this better than my friend Grace Koshida. We met, naturally, at a mystery convention. She’s a fantastic fan of crime fiction, and she’s since become a good friend. I asked her what events she’s liked—and not liked—most throughout the past year. Her answers are not only a great tip sheet if you’re interested in finding ongoing events, but valuable information for authors trying to put together their own virtual gatherings. 

A panel in February for the Lincoln (California) Library. Photo courtesy of Grace, who was tuning in from Ottowa, Canada. How great it that?

So here's a look at it from the reader side, by Grace Koshida:

AUTHOR INTERVIEWS/CONVERSATIONS

·         1-on-1 interviews, or 3 person conversations were optimal size.

·         LIKE: Quality of event really depended on the interviewer. For example, I have watched Hank Philippi Ryan interview @20 different authors 1:1 and she is so good at asking the right questions. Other events where two/three authors are close friends and are just basically chatting for an hour have also been enjoyable to watch (e.g. Kate Carlisle, Jenn McKinlay and Paige Shelton, or Rhys Bowen, Hank Philippi Ryan and Julia Spencer-Fleming).

·         DID NOT LIKE: Most of these are passive watching events, and we (the online audience) cannot submit questions or do any online chatting with other attendees.

THE BACK ROOM

·         One unique set of author-fan events that I love have been held on Sundays by Karen Dionne and Hank Philippi Ryan. It is called THE BACK ROOM.  The level of fan interaction is pretty unique. https://the-back-room.org/how-it-works/

THEMED PANELS/EVENTS

·         Authors writing similar types of books (e.g. lawyers and cops, lady sleuths, culinary cozies) were brought together to have a conversation. An average of 4-6 authors participated, and the event ran 1-1.5 hours. 

·         LIKE: If you like a certain type of book, you would probably enjoy learning about most of the authors/books. Online participants could usually ask questions that the moderator/host would ask the authors.

·         DID NOT LIKE: Mixed success depending on the quality of the moderator (well prepared or not).

 BOOK LAUNCHES

·         LIKE: Most of these events were well-organized by bookstores or libraries or regional chapters of mystery fiction associations. For example, The Poisoned Pen Bookstore FB live events are wonderful. There are 3-5 events every week! You don’t need to register for the event in advance either.  Both Barbara Peters and Patrick are so well read and prepared. Sometimes it is 2-3 authors interviewing/conversing with each other. Attendees online can ask post questions which are mostly asked/answered towards the end of the event. If you miss the live event, PP usually posts the video on their Youtube page on the same day.

·         DON’T LIKE: Some are well-advertised, some are not. Some are free, others require a fee to register, and you must buy a book (at the indie bookstore).

FIRST CHAPTER FUN

·         Again, this is a unique book launch/highlight event held every Tuesday and Thursday by Hannah Mary McKinnon and Hank Philippi Ryan. They have been running these events live on both FB live and IG live (Instagram) for almost 1 year. They read the first chapter of a newly released/upcoming book with the permission of the author/publisher. There is plenty of online chat and questions during the 30-minute event.

·         LIKE: You always know the schedule for the readings. And all the readings are saved in the archives and can be viewed later. In recent months, Hannah and Hank also do pre-event and postevent 30-second videos about the book before the event. The author is usually online during the reading and respond to the chat discussion live. Book giveaways sometimes happen.

·         DID NOT LIKE: Tech glitches occasionally occur when trying to do live events on 2 platforms simultaneously. If that happens, they restart again. You have to be a member of the private FB group to participate.

https://www.instagram.com/firstchapterfun/?hl=en

NOIR AT THE BAR

·         Attended virtual events held in D.C., New England, Richmond, Toronto, Florida.

·         Mixed bag, some were excellent, others were average/poorly done.

·         LIKE:  The hosts who added another dimension to the virtual Noir event. For example, Ed Aymar’s DC events included a mixologist who created a themed cocktail, and live jazz music between sets of readings. Or at Edwin Hill’s New England event, he posted 2-3 fun facts about each author in the online chat as they were giving their reading. This livened up the topics in the online chat. (Obviously, Edwin did some correspondence with the authors ahead of time to prepare this extra content).

 VIRTUAL CONFERENCES

·         MMM (Murder and Mayhem in Chicago), Bouchercon 2020, New England Crime Bake 2020, 2021 Lefty Unconvention nominees panels.

·         LIKE: Get the best aspects of being at a conference from the comfort of home by watching interesting panels, Guest of Honor and/or award nominee interviews/presentations.

·         DID NOT LIKE: The interviews were passive, pre-recorded watching so could not ask questions.  Like a real conference, hard to choose which concurrent panel to attend. As occurs at in-person conferences, some panels just bomb. Either the moderator was a poor choice, or the panelist(s) were not engaged during the session.

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