Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Oh, Kaye!" Goes to Birmingham

An introverted, self-published writer attends her first fan/writer book event as a participating writer/panelist instead of in her normal role as a fan.

That would be me.

Can it possibly go well?

Whew.  I am happy to say, it went beautifully!!!

When the one and only, perfectly delightful (and very patient) Margaret Fenton invited me to participate in her annual Murder in the Magic City event in Birmingham, my first reaction was "Wheeeee!  I would love to!"

But, as time went on and we got closer to the actual event, the more I fretted.

I've been to book events, but as a fan.  The book events I've attended as a writer have been signings only, never as a panelist.

Let me tell you, the prospect of being a "Virgin Panelist" was terrifying to me.

Add in the fact that I suffer from fairly severe hearing loss just made it that much more terrifying.

Could I do this without making a fool of myself?

Well, the only way to find out is just do it.  I figure if I make a fool of myself, it wouldn't be the first time, nor would it be the last.  I've learned over the years that there are worse things that can happen than looking foolish.

And so -

I pulled up my big girl panties and sent a prayer up to the god of hearing aids (I call him "HuhI'mSorryWhatDidYouSay" or "Huh" for short).

And, I had a ball.

Let me tell you.  If you're new to all this, there is no place better to get your toes wet than "Murder in the Magic City."  Margaret Fenton could give lessons on how a small con is done.  I doubt anyone can top her when it comes to making their guests feel so welcome and special.

Her warmth permeated the entire event, and the group reacted with warmth in return.  In spades.  What a fun, generous, supportive group this was!

Murder in the Magic City, Class of 2014 

I got to hang out with friends I don't see near often enough, and I was able to finally meet some people I'd been dying to meet.  Like our own Red Julia!  Finally! And if there's any doubt whatsoever, let me assure you, she is every bit as smart, funny, beautiful and delightful as she appears right here at Jungle Reds.

Toni Kelner, me, and Julia Spencer-Fleming

And, I learned some things.

I learned I'm a better moderator than panelist.

Often I find myself in situations that I will ask myself, "what would Hank do?"  And if I don't know, or can't guess, I just ask her for advice.  So, thanks to some excellent advice from our Hank, I think I was as prepared as any moderator in the history of moderators, and because of that, I was able to relax a little and have fun - and able to remember that the panel was about them.  I had three panelists who were complete pros and who were engaging and funny.  We seemed to connect with one another and with our audience.  To me, connecting with the audience and entertaining them was what it was all about.  I was pleased as punch that we seemed to do that.

Our panel was "Murder: In Four Courses with Cocktails"

They each enjoy food - preparing it, eating it and writing about it - along with the appropriate beverage of choice.  And because I do also, I could relate to each of them and the conversation went smooth and easy.  It was an easy and fun topic, with an easy and fun team.  So much fun, I forgot to be nervous.

Mike Orenduff, Don Bruns, me and Kathleen Delaney

As you'll probably guess from all the pictures I've posted below, it can go very well, indeed, for an introverted, self-published writer attending her first fan/writer book event as a writer instead of a fan.

But, I was scared.

And, in the spirit of being honest, while the first day's event, "Murder in the Magic City" was tons of fun for me, the second day's event, "Murder on the Menu" was hard for me.  That is not to say it wasn't a perfectly organized, fun event.  It was.  But part of it included sitting down at tables with groups of people we didn't know.  A lot of people are very good at this.  I admire that so much - and I envy it.  It's not something I'm good at and it's exhausting for me.  I've never learned how to make small talk with strangers (not very good at it with people I've known forever, truth be told).  But, I did it and am so proud of myself for doing it when I really wanted to lock myself in the bathroom stall.   Because the people I met were delightful and I found myself having very interesting, very insightful conversations about books and authors.  Well, of course, that's what they would talk about.  It was, after all, a book event!   What was I thinking?!  I'm an idiot.

So. Now I want to know, Dear Reds, have you pulled up your boot straps and done something you were really scared to do?  How'd it go, and are you glad you did? 

P.S. - My "Whimsey" is now available as an audiobook, and I have a few coupons for freebies.  To celebrate no longer being a "Virgin Panelist," I'd like to give one away today.  If you're interested, just leave a comment and I will toss the names into my magic Willie Nelson baseball cap.  I'll draw a name tonight and the winner will be announced in tomorrow's post.


Our buddy, the always upbeat, always delightful, Dru Ann Love is also giving one away at her place.  So hop on over to Dru's Book Musings for all the details.  (thank you, Dru Ann!!)

AND, our friend Mason Canyon is also giving one away at her place, Thoughts in Progress. Thank you, Mason!

And now catch a glimpse of some of the members of
Murder in the Magic City, Class of 2014

The event started with a reception at the hotel.

Me and Margaret Fenton

Mike Orenduff, Flo Fitzpatrick and Lynda Fenton

Karen Cunningham, Margaret Fenton and Sheila Lawrence

Denise Swanson, Jennifer Brooks and Jennifer's sweet dad

Toni Kelner/Leigh Perry, James M. Jackson and Brenda Witchger/Brynn Bonner

Robert Dugoni, Paula Benson, Bert Goolsby

Linda McCracken, Jane Tesh, Dee Phelps

Dee Phelps, Mike Orenduff, Lai Orenduff, me

Kaye Barley, Dee Phelps, Toni Kelner

Dee Phelps
Big Day for Dee - it was pub day for her "The Disappointment Room" 
(Don't miss it!!!!)

me and Dee

Dee Phelps, Denise Swanson, Toni Kelner

And, of course, Harley was there too!

The next day was
"Murder in the Magic City"
in the
Homewood Library

It really was a terrific event and a very special time was had by all

Jennifer Brooks and Flo Fitzpatrick

Jaden Terrell and Ellis Vidler

Polly Iyer, Linda Lovely, Neil Plakcy, Mike Orenduff

me, Jennifer Brooks, Don Bruns, Kathleen Delaney

Kaye George and Toni Kelner

Denise Swanson

James J. Jackson and Toni Kelner

me and Brynn Bonner

Dee Phelps, Jaden Terrell, Stacy Allen, me and Jennifer Brooks

Robert Dugoni
(I have to say this.  IF you ever, EVER have a chance to hear Robert Dugoni speak - do not miss it.  He is awesome!)

me and Mike Orenduff

Jane Tesh, Brynn Bonner, Flo Fitzpatrick, Dee Phelps and Karen Cunningham
Murder: In Time Panel

Neil Plakcy and Polly Iyer

Dee Phelps and Brynn Bonner

me, Jennifer, Don and Kathleen

along with a very fun group of readers

This is Susan.
Susan and some friends drive to this event from Atlanta every year.

She recognized my name from DorothyL and wanted to say "Hey!"

This is Lynda Fenton
Lynda was responsible for putting together the gift baskets for auction and
they were incredible!

Seriously, I've never seen baskets quite so beautifully and creatively put together.

I really wanted this basket full of chocolates, but Stacy Allen was the winner (lucky girl!)

Dee and Me

The Whole Group

Steve Herring our Delightful Official Photographer

Brynn Bonner/Brenda Witchger and her husband Bob (Delightful Unofficial Photographer)

And then - - - 


catered by Margaret's favorite Birmingham BBQ place
(it was delish!)

Polly Iyer, Linda Lovely and Kathleen Delaney

Stacy Allen and husband

Kaye George and husband George

And the next day -
Event #2
Murder on the Menu
Wetumpka, AL

This was another delightful event - an annual fund raiser for the Wetumpka Public Library
Organized by Tammy Lynn.

Tammy and Margaret

me, Linda Lovely, Neil Plakcy, Denise Swanson and Don Bruns
"I Don't Know These People! Building Great Characters from Scratch . . .  Or Not" Panel

Jaden and Dee



Dee and Bert Goolsby

me and Ellis

Jaden, Toni and Polly

me and Dee

And the final highlight of a perfect weekend

Donald's parents threw Donald and his brother Steve a family birthday dinner.
So nice to be able to spend our last night in Birmingham with family

and I thank Linda McCracken, Toni Kelner and Kaye George for getting me there!

Note: My thanks to Steve Herring and to Bob Witchger for allowing me to use some of their photos - Thanks, guys!!!!!


  1. Wow . . . I love seeing all the pictures. Thanks for sharing them!
    For me, most new things are difficult and, although I tend to be ultra-nervous about those sorts of things in general, they go well most of the time and then when it’s over I’m glad I did it.
    So glad you enjoyed your time at the two conferences --- it definitely sounds like it was a perfect weekend. [And you got to meet Julia . . . lucky you!]

  2. Kaye, you all look like you were having a great time! That picture of you, Toni Kelner, and Julia Spencer-Fleming made me smile and wish I'd been there. All those smiles! Every picture. Huge smiles. Real Smiles. Even Harley was smiling big! Yeah. I needed some big smiles like that around me. Funny. I feel like I've been smacked on the forehead by one of those tent preachers. The smiles. Very healing. Excuse me while I go think about this. xoxo

  3. "Virgin Panelist" - Seriously, I almost fell out of my chair!

    Of course you had a great time--the spirit of Anne George hovers over Birmingham. Along with the Vulcan.

    Love the photos! Interesting how many people I could point to and say, I know him, I know her, but have never met them. Love the Internet.

  4. Next time you need to take more pictures.

  5. Thanks for sharing your conference experience with us. Love seeing the photos and recognizing some faces.

    I remember when my first Malice, because I kept wavering whether to attend or not. I was so scared, but in the end, I went and had a fabulous time and now it's one of my favorite events to attend.

    Thanks for the shout-out Kaye!

  6. Sounds like a lovely weekend Kaye, and kudos on being such a gracious, well-prepared moderator and guest.

    I bet you that more than half of all authors are introverts and not a natural fit for schmoozing:). After all, we choose to sit behind our computers most days, right?

    Delighted that it all went well!

  7. Kaye,

    It was so wonderful to meet you at the two Murders. I'm one of those introverts that Lucy suspected made up at least half the authors. It is hard work for us -- but that's what naps are for.

    ~ Jim

  8. Looks like a fun event and for surviving your first experience as a virgin panelist!

  9. Joan, our Julia just glows. Just glows. It feels good just being around her.

    Reine, smiles are healing, I agree. And looking back on the weekend, I realize now that, like you said, they were "real" smiles. We all seemed to just be quite smitten with one another and it was lovely.

    Mark, I did (I guess you can tell?). :-)

  10. Kaye, It was difficult for me to go to my first Left Coast Crime. Like you, it doesn't come easy for me to be with a group of strangers. But, to my happy surprise, I discovered there are no strangers t LCC. So, I'm so proud of you! (Although, not having met you in person, I was surprised to read you were an introvert. Not Kaye!) Great pictures, and I was so happy to see her Bouchercon roommate, Dee Phelps. Hugs, Kaye!

  11. Ramona, I snitched that phrase from Dee Phelps - isn't it great?! And I know exactly what you mean - and share your love of the internet for the same reasons.

    Jack, you ALWAYS make me laugh out loud. I am never without my camera. You should see my photos from the grocery store.

    Dru, Hey!! My first big con was B'con in Baltimore and I was so afraid I'd spend the whole time in my room. But, like Ramona points out, there were tons of people there I "knew" through the internet and it ended up being a very magical experience. (See you at Malice!)

  12. Lucy/Roberta - Exactly! Aren't we an odd bunch?! And I cannot imagine any other group I'd enjoy hanging out with any more than a group of readers and writers.

    Jim - it was so fun meeting you! And yes, naps - I agree. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who needs naps after a round of socializing.

    Linda, Thank You! I did survive, and hope I get more opportunities to have that much fun.

  13. Kaye, your own personality and love of people just glows in this piece and in all the smiling pictures! I bet you'll feel like an old hand at it in your next conference, running the show, as you are so good with people! The comments here are helping me myself remember the next time I'm in a group to be SURE I smile a ton!!! Thelma straw in Manhattan

  14. Lesa, I am so excited about us finally getting together I could pop!!!!! Raleigh Bouchercon cannot get here fast enough! You will adore Dee, she is delightful.

    And I discovered a book I'm pushing and encouraging all my introvert friends to read - Susan Cain's "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking."

    anyone read it?

  15. Thelma! Good Morning my friend! When I picture you in my mind, you are always smiling. Always. Angels like you just do. It comes naturally.

  16. I really enjoyed looking at all the photos. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Thanks for sharing - that looked like so much fun. Sometimes it's easy to mix and mingle, sometimes not so much. I find myself registering for something and then wondering if I'll fit in or stand around like a stick. Solved that problem for Bouchercon 2014. Granddaughter and I attending together. We already know we will love the books and authors, and now we have someone to stand around and look awkward with ;-)

  18. Kaye, I'm sure you were wonderful! That's such a nice conference. Did you get to drive across the "Big Fish" bridge for the second day event?

    Love the pics!

    Did you know I have hearing loss, too? Almost none in my left ear, so I have know how difficult it is to go into situations where there are lots of people talking.

    And you made me think about how absolutely terrified I was at my first Bouchercon as fan--Pasadena, 1991!!!! But much worse was my first public speaking event after I'd sold my first book. It was at MWA workshop in Houston, and I thought I would just flat out DIE I was so nervous. But it went okay (or at least nobody laughed at me) and I've being doing it ever since.) I see many more panels in your future:-)

  19. Miss Molly, I'm so glad you enjoyed them - Thank You!

    Grandma Cootie, you and your granddaughter are in for such a treat! You will love it. I will always remember something our Hank said during a session she was giving at the Indy B'con. She promised all newcomers they would experience at least one magic moment. She's right - you will. At least one.

  20. Debs, that drive was a wonderfully surprising experience, wasn't it?! wow.

    No, I did not know you too suffered from a hearing loss! I find it to be, at times, somewhat isolating - do you? But, thankfully, it turned out not to be the problem that I was so concerned about for the panels, and I can now put that worry behind me. I'm glad.

    You are a fun, engaging and brilliant speaker. I have a hard time thinking of you being scared. Your audience always falls in love with you.

  21. Kaye, what a wonderful event for you and your writing! Great pictures that show everyone enjoying themselves. And, I, too, love the term "virgin panelist." Sometimes as much as we look forward to something and want to do it, we can feel a certain amount of trepidation, too. When I attended my first Bouchercon last September, I was so excited about going, but I feared I would sound like a blubbering idiot in front of all my favorite authors I would meet. That fear fell away (not that I didn't still sound like an idiot at times) when I entered the atmosphere of books, authors, and fans. I was in my element, and I'm sure that's what happened to you, too, Kaye. You were in your element, so fear took a back seat to that. Glad you shared your lovely experience with us today. I always enjoy your Sunday visit.

    Oh, I meant to comment on your and Debs' hearing loss. I, too, am hard of hearing, and my greatest fear is that I won't hear something someone says that should be acknowledged or answered. The phone can be awful at times, especially if someone decides to use speaker and the voice sounds further away. I feel like a sign or button pinned on me would be helpful at times, reading "please be patient, hard of hearing."

  22. Thanks very much, Kathy!

    The phone. ugh. I'm not a big phone person anyway, but yes - with a hearing loss that dislike is greatly intensified. And I too have felt like placing the very same button on my chest. Let's do it.

  23. Whoo hoo! running in like mad..just off the plane from Orlando and loving this--thank you dear Kaye, that is so sweet of you! And my complete pleasure.

    Thank you so much for taking us to this convention so beautifully!

    (I love this group..and hope they will invite me back! You and me , sister..)

  24. Hank, there you are!

    now, wouldn't that be too fun!!!!


  25. What fun! Thanks for sharing this conference experience and all the photos. Now I must seek you out to say hello at this year's Malice!

  26. Kaye, wonderful photos! Welcome to Jungle Red Writers! Regarding hearing loss, two questions: were your hearing aids digital or analog? Several friends with hearing loss have mentioned digital hearing aids helped a lot!

    Did you get a chance to visit the Helen Keller museum in Alabama?

    Thanks for sharing the photos!

  27. Looks like a terrific time was had by all. Thanks for the giveaway. Eager to see what this Whimsey is all about. Judy