• Sarah Taphom

FIRST TIME HOSTING A BOOK PANEL

Even though this happened back in March, I still cannot believe that this was a thing that I did. Like, I'm just a reader and wannabe writer, what place is there for me on the other side of a book panel?


This post is going to cover as much as I can remember from literally 5 months ago - from how I got there to the actual event, and so forth.


So, back in October 2018, author Christina June (writer of It Started With Goodbye, Everywhere You Want to Be, and No Place Like Home) reached out to me on Twitter and asked if I was interested in hosting a book panel. I had met her maybe September of the previous year during an event at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia (possibly my favorite indie bookstore, though Read It Again in Suwanee, where I hosted, will always have a special place in my heart.)


Yeah...it really was that simple and out of the blue. I was incredulous, nervous, and elated all at the same time. We discussed details and eventually, this invite was a thing.

I had never heard of Alison or Heather, but I bought their books in preparation. I had met McCall previously at a YATL event, and was excited to see her again after liking both of her books.

As school became my central focus, I found it hard to balance my bookish life with my real/school life, but the panel was always in the back of my mind.


I was wracked with nerves in the months leading up to it, trying to figure out what to say and how to do things. I even Googled what I should do. In the end, I came up with some talking points and questions that everyone could answer, and at least one specific one for each author.


I had received an ARC of Christina's newest book (not released as of the panel), and I was well-acquainted with her other two books, so I felt confident with her part. I had also recently read McCall's books The Thing With Feathers and Meet the Sky - both of which were fresh enough in my mind for some discussion questions.


Confession time: I didn't actually get a chance to read Heather or Alison's books, but it worked out okay anyway.


The day of: I was insanely nervous - but grateful to be on spring break so I had one less thing to worry about. I obsessed over everything - what to wear, what to bring, when to get there, etc.


After I got ready, armed with my Doctor Who villains dress that I've had from my SuperWhoLock days and a denim jacket with fandom pins (inspired by the lovely Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out (which I also beta'd), my boyfriend drove us to Read It Again, which was, at the time, still undergoing some expansion renovations. We just hung out for a while, browsing, reading, until finally Christina, McCall, and Alison showed up and we introduced ourselves (Heather had been running behind).


There was a small crowd of mainly young girls, and we started a little late, but I found my groove really quick and the conversation flowed amazing. I couldn't have asked for a better experience. McCall couldn't believe it was my first time - apparently I tricked everyone into thinking I was professional lol. I even had an audience member ask ME a question. It was so surreal and amazing and definitely an experience I want to repeat.



Here was my view: Christina, Alison, Heather, and McCall all sitting down a row. I would alternate who got to answer which question first.

My questions varied from things about their current/future works, experiences publishing, and their advice for aspiring writers.



At the end, my boyfriend so kindly got a picture of all of us together, and this is a memory I'll cherish forever.

Thank you so much again to Christina June for reaching out to me, Alison, Heather, and McCall for being amazing authors to talk to, and Read It Again for being such an awesome host! If you're ever in the Forsyth/Johns Creek area, PLEASE check them out and support them.


I hope I get an opportunity like this again, because it reinforced everything I love about this community and solidified my dream of being a writer who'll be on that side of a panel some day.


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