In Which I Realize (Three Months Later) That I Put My Foot in My Mouth

So I’m on a panel tomorrow at Maine Reading Roundup–a conference for Maine children/YA librarians. My panel is entitled New Voices from Maine, and it’s highlighting four authors who live in Maine. Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that it was highlighting four NEW authors. I also didn’t think this was a very big conference. I didn’t think this based on any actual facts I had read or research I had done. I just stupidly assumed, and I didn’t pay too much attention to it.

So when an email started going between conference organizers and the members of the panel–discussing what sort of format this panel should take–I thought I’d be nice and share my wealth of panel-presenting experience with the other people. Here’s what I wrote:

Vodnik is my first published book, but I’ve been on a fair number of panels in the past at fantasy/science-fiction conventions. I’ve seen it done both ways, with each speaker on the panel getting roughly the same time, or with all panelists presenting on a number of topics (How did you get your “break”, how do you write your first draft, etc) guided by the panel moderator. I’m happy to go with either approach, although I’ll say from my experience attending panels, I’ve usually found the ones that focus on a series of topics (with each panelist contributing to the discussion) have been more interesting than the ones that just have a series of individual presentations.

My two cents.

Looking forward to meeting you all in person!

To which one of the other authors replied soon after:

Completely agree with Bryce on the format, having been on a fair number of panels myself.

“How nice,” I thought to myself. Someone agrees with me. Won’t this be such a fun little panel. I promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t until April, and this was back in January. I had lots of other things to be doing, instead.

Jump forward to just a bit ago. I’m talking to one of my coworkers, a former public library director, chitchatting about the Reading Roundup, and she mentions off hand that it’s one of the biggest librarian conferences in the state–THE biggest for YA/Childrens Librarians. Like, 350+ librarians in one spot. For Maine, that’s a whole lot of librarians. (What do you call a group of librarians, anyway? A cart of librarians? A shelf? A section? A classification? A Dewey? A bun? (blech!) A hush? A chapter? A tome? The possibilities are endless!)

This new information led me to wonder if, perchance, my quaint little panel might be a tad meatier than I had assumed. And so I put on my librarian hat and did a bit o’ research. Let’s see. It’s got Brenda Sturgiss. Seems like a nice woman. Published a picture book with Amazon. Well-reviewed by Kirkus. Okay. Maybe I was right after all. This is a panel with other new authors like me.

It’s also got Jeannie Brett. Award-winning illustrator/author of over 10 picture books. Hmm. Maybe I was right to be worried. Who’s the last person?

Catherynne Valente.

Hmm . . . That name is awfully familiar. Sounds a lot like Cat Valente, actually. And that name is definitely familiar. And didn’t somebody sign their name as Cat at some point back there earlier in this whole thing? Coincidence?

Nope. It’s Cat Valente. New York Times bestselling author of sci-fi/fantasy fame. Hugo and Locus award-nominated. Finalist of the World Fantasy Award twice. Guest of Honor at various and sundry cons across the globe.

That Catherynne Valente.

Who had been kind enough to not kick me in the keester when I claimed I’d been on a “fair number” of panels at conventions. Who instead just said she’d been on a “fair number” of panels herself.

Something tells me that if you compared my fair number to her fair number, my fair number would be left in a quivering wreckage of low self-esteem.

Well, on the bright side, she agreed with me, right? I reviewed what I said, and other than the “fair number” statement, I don’t think I wrote anything inordinately stupid. That’s a relief.

In any case, the moral of the story is to always be nice, kind, and respectful in your correspondence with everyone. (Which I was.) Also, don’t make assumptions. Also also, don’t get cocky, kid.

I’ll be away from my computer tomorrow, off at the not-so-little conference. Maybe I’ll write up a blog post tonight and have it auto-post tomorrow. Maybe I won’t. You’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to see.

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