Here are Julie Hyzy and Michael Black, who have been kindly showing me the ropes for this sort of event. Not that I didn't still make a dork-like impression.
And that leads me to TEN THINGS I LEARNED AT THE MIDWEST LITERARY FESTIVAL.
1. Be sure to show up for all of your assigned panels. Oops. Sorry again to the wonderful Henry Perez, who did such a grand job organizing everything. That empty chair shall haunt me all my days.
2. Don't hug authors who just want to shake your hand. I think in my eagerness I may have sexually assaulted a few people (for example Libby Hellman, who looks so lovely in the photo below).
3. When you arrive at your panel table, don't grab someone else's water bottle and say, "Oh, look! They gave us waters!" Sorry, Julie Hyzy.
4. When they provide you with a lovely nameplate, don't immediately hand it to your husband, who will disappear into the throng with the children and never give it back. I was the very professional author whose name appeared on a post-it note in front of her. (Thanks for the post-it, and for sharing my ignominy, Julie).
5. When you meet someone famous, like David Morrell (pictured with me, below), don't stare at the side of his head until he gets a complex, and don't show such open envy of his long signing line. Someday, grasshopper, you too will meet people who want signed books (just not your books).
6. There are a lot of nice authors out there, such as the ones pictured above and the one pictured here: Steve Mandel.
7. It's possible to meet your heroes: here my son Graham gets to meet the author of the Chet Gecko kids' mysteries, which have brought my boys hours and hours of enjoyment. Bruce Hale was kind enough to pose with both of my children, who are rain-speckled, due to a late-in-the-day cloudburst. (Notice Bruce's cool Gecko pin).
8. Have some copies of your book with you. Sure, I had them, but they stayed in the trunk of my car (long story) and I had to mooch a copy from Michael and Julie (who kindly purchased it) to display during the panel.
9. When the moderator asks you a question, it's a real Miss America moment. At one point J.A. Konrath (the legendary) asked me "If you could go back to talk to your pre-published self, what would you say?" And I suddenly felt like I'd already done the bathing suit and talent competition (juggling flaming swords) and this was my final chance to make an impression. It must have been the microphone.
10. And speaking of microphones, I learned that being on a panel is a bit like being at a Congressional Hearing.