Staying on Track: Success on Author Panels

I’ve had the great pleasure of appearing on many author panels with a slew of talented authors and wonderful audience members. The experience has been consistently gratifying; I’m so grateful to have been included in each and every one. I don’t practice for the panels. I do make sure my state of mind is high, my attitude the very best, and that I bring my “A” game to the panel, meaning I do my best to please the audience. I remember well, in my pre-author days, what life was like when the focus was on the last person it should have been on: me.

Years ago, my office moved from a dismal location to a near match for Fifth Avenue. I’d packed, unpacked, organized, and may have gone slightly berserk when I attended a meeting with new colleagues. By berserk I mean that maybe some words tumbled out of my mouth before I pulled the emergency brain brake and exercised thought prior to speaking.

I attended a noon hour meeting, in a room full of attorneys. There were two problems: no lunch was being served, and I’d not eaten anything. Everyone who knows me is aware that when I go hungry, say for a period of 90 minutes or more, my usual gentle, sweet demeanor peels away and the Attila the Hun in me is let loose. Arrrggghh! To add to my crabbiness during the meeting, my stomach growled so loudly, I shouted to be heard over the din; the hard-of-hearing didn’t stand a chance.

I was the new kid in town, thrown into a close-knit clan. After listening to idle gossip for ten minutes, I introduced myself and received a slew of disinterested stares which, along with my hunger, only enhanced my foul temper. I suddenly blurted out, “I haven’t practiced law in almost ten years, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Those who placed high marks on honesty and candor might have applauded my statement. As you may imagine, the room fell silent…except for my growling stomach, which competed with the ear shattering thunderstorm outside.

I immediately realized my error and tried to induce blindness and perhaps rapid onset amnesia with a dazzling smile. Alas, they didn’t fall for it.

I wiped away all traces of saliva that appeared after watching the fellow next to me devour his chicken pot pie, and forced myself to perk up. I re-focused, not on the roar of my empty middle section, demanding as it was; I ignored my Attila-like tendencies, and directed my energies on the issues being discussed. I tried really hard…and almost made it. I suddenly interrupted a discussion with,

“When I was Business Affairs Counsel for XYZ Motion Picture Studio….”

Fortunately, I was able to switch direction quickly, realizing that these lawyers cared as much about what I did in a previous life as they did about my having had a grand time staying at home, raising my family instead of working. I needed to focus on the here and now.

We all know that awareness is the first step to changing displeasing habits and/or characteristics. I am exceptionally aware of what hunger pangs do to my typically mild-mannered personality, and I usually carry around a snack or two in my handbag for that reason. Except I forgot that day. Instead, I shoved a large slice of humble pie down my throat, reminding myself that I’m a whole lot happier when I find ways to help others instead of focusing on myself.

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Loved it! Thank you