• In Other Words

In Other Words: Paneling

March 14, 2013
Mar 14, 2013
I admit to having mixed feelings about being on the panel for The Future’s So Dark: Why Readers Can’t Get Enough of Dystopian Fiction, to be held Sunday, April 21 at 2 PM at the IRA conference in San Antonio.

Mostly, of course, my feelings are positive. I’m thrilled to be a part of the IRA conference, if for no other reason than to impress my friend Cynthia, a retired reading teacher (she doesn’t impress easily). And I’ve always had a great time in Texas, San Antonio in particular.

Also, while it’s true I don’t particularly care for the sound of my voice, I do love the words that come out of my mouth. Pfeffers are an argumentative bunch, and we have a strong belief in the wisdom of our proclamations. We’re not fussy either. We’re as likely to proclaim, “That mango isn’t ripe,” as we are, “The world is round.” I don’t think there’s a topic a Pfeffer is unwilling to proclaim about.

But there’s always a risk on a panel that the other panelists, even if they’re not Pfeffers, like to proclaim also. Proclaiming, in my opinion, should not be a competitive event. One proclaimer per panel is more than sufficient, as long as that one is me.

There’s another, equally serious, problem (Pfeffers love to proclaim about their problems). I suffer from what I call The Hostess Syndrome.

This little-known syndrome afflicts those of us who feel we’re the hostess at any event we happen to take part of. It makes sense to feel like a hostess if you are a hostess (or a host for that matter). You want your guests to relax, enjoy themselves, eat those pricey little fruit tarts you bought way too many of.

But I feel like a hostess even if I’m not hosting. Let’s say I go to the movies with friends. Not only do I want them to have unimpeded views of the screen and to enjoy the movie, I feel like it’s my obligation to make sure they do, and my personal failure if they don’t. I scout for those rows with no one ahead of us, and if the movie stinks, I come up brilliant witticisms to proclaim once the credits cease rolling. Sometimes I even take notes, so I won’t forget those brilliant witticisms, which will magically transform a mediocre movie going experience into a long cherished memory.

I am very ambitious in my hostessing.

When you’re on a panel, you shouldn’t be worrying if the other panelists are having a good time. You should be focusing on your proclamations, and maybe, if you’re in an unusually generous mood, on what the other panelists happen to be proclaiming. It’s not your responsibility to make sure they have enough ice water in their glasses, or that someone in the third row is given a cough drop if she happens to clear her throat loudly enough for you to notice.

And yet I feel as though it is my responsibility. I check the ice water levels. I carry boxes of cough drops with me. I’d supply everyone those pricey little fruit tarts if they weren’t such a nuisance to get through airport security. Even when I’m just one small part of a panel, I feel like the hostess.

The solution to all these problems is obvious. I’ll pick the panelists for this and any other panel I might ever grace with proclamations and hostessing needs in mind.

My first choice is Thomas Chatterton.

It’s a good idea to have a teenager on the panel, since they’re the people I write for. And Thomas doesn’t look like he needs much tending to.

Next on the panel is Emily Brontë. That’s her sister Anne standing next to her, but she’s not invited. There’s only so much room on a panel.

Emily was notoriously reclusive, which makes her pretty darn beau ideal for my panel. Reclusive people take care of their own ice water, and don’t tend to proclaim to excess. Sitting between them is Sigmund Freud.

Ordinarily, bearded psychoanalysts with Viennese accents intimidate me. But what with Thomas already on the couch, and Emily so enchantingly repressed, Dr. Freud will be far too busy to look for the hidden meaning of my unripe mangos.

Now all I need is a moderator and it’s clear sailing. I want one willing to check the ice water levels in the drinking glasses and to toss a cough drop or two to audience members as needed.

So for the moderator, I select Virgil.

Virgil has plenty of hosting experience, since he guided Dante through both Hell and Purgatory in THE DIVINE COMEDY. And it’s about time I got some use out of those four years of high school Latin. Just wait until I proclaim, “Arma virumque cano,” in his vicinity.

Oh dear. I just got a phone call from the TSA. It turns out my chosen panel consists of dead people (well, I knew that) and dead people are even harder to get through airport security than those pricey little fruit tarts.

It’s a good thing the panel for The Future Is So Dark: Why Readers Can’t Get Enough of Dystopian Fiction will have Mary Cotillo as moderator and Marie Lu and Rick Yancey as panelists. Their proclamations will be well worth listening to, and rumor has it they’re willing to share their cough drops!

Come see Susan Beth Pfeffer on the author panel The Future’s So Dark: Why Readers Can’t Get Enough of Dystopian Fiction, at IRA’s 58th Annual Convention, from 2PM to 3PM on Sunday, April 21, 2013. She will be joined by fellow authors Marie Lu and Rick Yancey.

Until Susan Beth Pfeffer's New York Times bestselling novel LIFE AS WE KNEW IT was nominated for the Andre Norton Award, she had no idea it was science fiction. Even with three other books in the series—THE DEAD AND THE GONE, THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN, and the upcoming THE SHADE OF THE MOON—she is still uncertain how to pronounce "dystopian."

© 2013 Susan Beth Pfeffer. Author photo: Marcie & Alice Hanners. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.

Beyond the Notebook: Writing a la Poe

IRA 58th Annual Convention in San Antonio, TX

1 Comment

  1. 1 JR 16 Mar

    I want to hear the dialogue amongst these panelists!


    Superb choices! 


    "Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem."




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