Only a few hours ago, I finished the “Writing the Perfect Crime” discussion panel at Denver Comic Con I wrote about earlier. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to one of my friends, Vivian Caethe ( http://www.wordsmadebeautiful.net/ ), who organized and moderated the panel, for putting together such an amazing experience. I had no idea what to expect from the panel, and I tried to keep my hopes in check during the days leading up to the Con.
Vivian has been a professional writer and editor for some time, and has extensive experience participating in and moderating discussion panels at various conventions and conferences, and is much better known in the Colorado writing community. I’m a completely unknown entity, especially in Colorado, and have never participated in something like this before. Most cops have public speaking experience, and a lot of us are routinely asked to present information to organizations like Neighborhood Watch, school groups, etc., in which we’re answering specific issues, questions, or a addressing narrow field of topics. However, it really felt different to present myself, unsolicited, to the general public as a subject matter expert on all things ‘police’ and offer to answer any question they had on any cop topic. Little intimidating to have no idea if anyone would even attend, what their attitudes might be about cops, and what they might expect me to adequately and expertly answer for them.
In addition to me and Vivian, the panel included Thomas Warren, a medical examiner investigator, and Wil Nichols, a patrol sergeant. I hoped our collective expertise would effectively span most of the law enforcement spectrum and ensure we could respond to most anything thrown at us. Several days before the panel, we got word that we were scheduled for midday Saturday during the three-day event. I assumed we’d get one of the earliest or latest times of the Con, either Friday morning or Sunday evening when the crowds were smallest and, I assumed, had the least expectations of ‘quality programming.’ But, midday Saturday?! The middle of the busiest and most attended day?! Holy shit! Maybe the Con organizers know something I don’t about the anticipated attendance, or, maybe the Con includes a lot of aspiring murderers (ProTip: read with sufficient facetiousness)???
So, yesterday, I arrived several hours before our panel’s scheduled start at 1:30pm so I could find the room well in advance of actually needing to be there. I expected a small, out-of-the-way closet just big enough to fit the eight folks I thought might show up, but, instead, I walked into a large, bright room that easily sat about 250. Did they put us in the wrong room?
After wondering around the Con for a few hours and ogling celebrities upstairs (Jon Cusack, Felicia Day, and Nathan Fillion!!!), our group gathered about 1:20pm. To my surprise, about fifty folks already sat inside the panel room in expectation of our arrival. Can this many people be simultaneously lost?? We filed in, got ourselves situated at the raised and microphoned table, and, by the time Vivian started the panel, our audience had conservatively grown to about 100. 100!!
I thought Vivian did a great job moderating the questions and discussion, and took tremendous advantage of our diverse, respective expertise and training throughout the panel. The gathered audience stayed engaged and interested, laughed only when we were intentionally funny, took handwritten notes, and several made audio recordings of the discussion. When Vivian finally opened the floor up to questions, I saw about 30 hands immediately shoot up. We only got to about a third of them during our remaining time, which included great, relevant inquiries about forensic entomology, misrepresentations of police in fiction, police procedure, and effective methods to research cop work. At the end, a small deluge of folks flooded the front of the raised table to speak with us, and asked additional questions while we packed up and vacated the room so the next panel could start on time. A few took pics of the hardcopy of Enemies Domestic I’d brought along, and many more took signed bookmarks I’d also brought along. By the time we answered everyone’s inquiries in the hallway outside and the crowd dissipated, I realized it was almost 3pm!
This was a wonderful experience, and I’m looking forward to partnering with Vivian on future panels and projects like this. Hope to see you all out at the next one!