How to Panel like a Lit Champ

How to Panel Like a Lit Champ!

I’ve been moderating and paneling for a long time and been doing a lot of panels these past few months and have a few thoughts about what makes a great panel.  I thought I would follow up Mette’s excellent A Good Moderator post from a month ago with a How to Panel like a Lit Champ! post.  These are just some things that I’ve learned along the years and try to strive for when I’m on a panel or when I’m moderating one and I thought I would pass these tips on to you.  Enjoy!

1.If you are moderating, read the books of all the authors on the panel. This means their newest book / the one they are promoting.

2. Come up with questions. Do not wing it. Do not make them general questions. i.e. avoid things like, What’s your process? What’s your research? What are you working on next? Although of course, when peppered in with your thoughtful questions those could be great.

3.When you are moderating, have a pen and piece of paper to jot down anything interesting that you can turn into a question. Meaning, be flexible to how the panel is flowing.

4. Come up with at least one thoughtful question for each panelist that pertains to their specific book.

5. Moderators, try to contact your authors before the panel to let the panelists know what you are going to be covering / how you are going to run the panel. Sometimes you only get the publicists email. Ask the publicist to forward your email to the author. If you cannot email, make sure to get to the room early to greet your authors and let them know how you are going to run the panel.

6. Moderators, have a bio of each of the authors on your panel to introduce them.

7.Authors, do your moderator a favor and have a short bio readily available on your website. One that actually talks about the highlights of your career (and not about your dog or how much you like pie.)

8.Avoid having every single author go down the line and answer every single question. It is long and tedious and oftentimes boring for the audience. This is especially bad on panels with more than five people.

9. People like a conversation! If you are moderating, encourage cross talk! If you are on a panel, ask the other panelists a question when you are talking!

10. If you are on a panel that is being moderated by someone else, be classy and at least have googled the other authors and be aware of exactly what their new book is about. Read the flap copy or the first chapter. I know it’s hard to read. Trust me, everyone on the panel is busy and on deadline! But it makes the conversation on the panel so much nicer when people at least know each others literary flavor!

11. Bonus points if you read or have read at least one book by each author on the panel even if it’s not the one they are currently promoting. It means you can at least talk to that authors style or themes.

12. Also authors, google your moderator! They could be an author as well and it shows respect to at least know who they are / why they were selected to moderate the panel. It often also makes for a better conversation.

13. If you are an author and you are moderating a panel you should of course mention that and on occasion weigh in with your own thoughts, but your job is to moderate the panel so keep the self tooting to a minimum.

14. If it is just you and another author in conversation with no moderator, read the other authors book. Seriously. This is non negotiable.

15. If you are asked to read a short passage on a panel, read no more than three to four pages. And probably keep it on the shorter side. Remember that people look forward to the conversation and that’s the fun part of a panel and if everyone reads for a full five to seven minutes than half your panel is gone and the audience Q&A is truncated.

16. If your moderator asks you to read just one page. Really read just one page.

17. Do not be a mic hog as a panelist. This is not the “look at only me show.” Even if you are the most famous author and everyone in the room is there for you, you are on a panel. Let everyone talk.

18. Keep your answers short. You personally do not need to answer every question. Other people have things to say, too. Some people are shy and will not jump on in. Be mindful of that.

19. If you are a moderator and someone is hogging up all the time, jump in and guide the conversation to another author.

20. If you are a moderator and notice that a panelist is shy and not speaking much, try to help them to come out of their shell. They usually have great things to say when coaxed.

21. If you are a moderator and an audience member rambles on or does not ask a question, at the Q&A quickly (and kindly) move it along.

22. If you are the moderator and open it up to the audience for questions and they are a shy audience and do not have questions, make sure that you have spare questions for your panel. This is a good time to use those questions / further points that you jotted down.

23. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, but you do have to be friendly, polite and inclusive. If you are on a panel with your good friends, great! But avoid inside jokes. It alienates the other authors and the audience.

24. When on the panel and in the social parts / green rooms of a festival/ conference, remember that you are all peers and that the career wheels are always turning. Some are just starting out. Some are grizzled vets. Some are on the up and up.  Some are having a hard time of it. It doesn’t matter if you are the most famous or the least famous in the room / on the panel, be nice. Stay classy.

25. Have fun!

Wondercon Schedule!

I’ll be at WONDERCON this weekend.  I’ll be talking TIN STAR (I’ll have buttons to give away!) and glowing about ODD DUCK’s Eisner nomination!  Come say hello!  It’s in Anaheim!

Saturday, 04/19

4:30-5:30 SFF for Kids: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility – Frank Beddor (NY Times bestselling author of The Looking Glass Wars), Nancy Holder (NY Times bestselling author of On Fire: A Teen Wolf Novel), Shannon Messenger (Keeper of the Lost Cities), and Dan Yaccarino (Emmy-winning author/illustrator of Doug Unplugged) and Cecil Castellucci (Tin Star). This panel comprises science fiction and fantasy authors. We’ll discuss writing speculative fiction for kids, from Picture Book through Young Adult). Moderated by Henry Herz (Nimpentoad). Room 213

Signing at Mysterious Galaxy immediately afterwards.  Booth 709

Sunday, 04/20 (Easter)
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Surviving Well

Saving the world, etc. is always important, but so is the quality of life for the survivors. Guest Marjorie Liu (Labyrinth of Stars), Cecil Castellucci (The Tin Star), Genese Davis (The Holder’s Domain) , John Mulhall (Geddy’s Moon) and Gretchen McNeil (3:59) discuss when “just” saving the world is not enough. With moderator LeAnna Herrera of Mysterious Galaxy. Room 208

Signing at Mysterious Galaxy at 3 PM.  Booth 709.

LA Times Festival of Books Schedule!


Here is my schedule for the LA Times Festival of Books!

Please come and say hello! I’ll be signing books after each session. I will have Tin Star buttons to give away!

Saturday, April 12th

12:00 p.m.

Young Adult Fiction: Putting the Story in HiSTORY
YA Stage
Katie Alender
Andrea Cremer
Rachel Shukert
Moderator:Cecil Castellucci

4:30 p.m.

Young Adult Fiction: It’s the End of the World
As We Know It

Salvatori Computer Science Center (Sal 101)
(Conversation 1045)
T. Cooper
Tahereh Mafi
Lydia Millet
Moderator: Cecil Castellucci

Sunday, April 13th

11:45 — MacKids Signing
@ Mrs. Nelson’s Booth 720

1:30 p.m.

Young Adult Sci-Fi: Fantastical Tales
Leigh Bardugo
Cecil Castellucci
Sarah J. Maas
Marissa Meyer
Moderator: Andrew Smith

Grand Avenue Lit Fest this Saturday

Hi!  I’ll be at the Grand Park’s Downtown Book Fest  this Saturday 3/29 at 2 PM with Lissa Price, Sherri L Smith and Sonya Sones.  We’ll be joined by kids from 826LA and GetLit reading their writing!

Come join us downtown!





Tin Star RPG Game!

Hello! As you all know, TIN STAR is out (hope you’ve picked up your copy )

I love Tula Bane’s world and I thought it might be fun to play in it! So my brother and I have created a tabletop RPG True 20 game based on the book Tin Star! Grab yourself a 20 sided die order a pizza and invite a bunch of friends over! You can play a bunch of aliens who land on the Yertina Feray and interact with the characters from the book!

DOWNLOAD THE TIN STAR GAME HERE *note. you should download both files the quick start rules and the adventure.

Get it on Scribd: Tin Star QuickStart Rules
Tin Star: A Simple Favor Adventure Module

I got the idea to create a game when visiting my good friend Chris Prams, publisher of Green Ronin Games! They created the True 20 system, which is an open license system. Check out their True 20 games here!

I hope you will enjoy playing! If you have any questions or any trouble downloading the game you can email me and my brother at tinstargame (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet us @tinstargame

Have fun!


Tin Star: A Simple Favor game

If you were listening to the CBC today and want to know about when the game will be released it will be a free PDF download the week of March 2nd. Feel free to leave your name in the comments below if you want to be emailed as soon as its live. Meanwhile, go buy yourself a 20 sided die!

download it here.

Events /Tour dates for Cecil & Tin Star

I’m very pleased about my new book TIN STAR!!  I am doing some event s for it and other readings.

Please come and say hello!

February 18th

LAPL Teen Author Reading Series
Echo Park Library 4 PM

February 24th
Stories at Stories
Stories in Echo Park
W/ Ben Loory, Zoe Ruiz, Jim Ruland and others.

February 25th
Tin Star Book Launch! My new book is out! I’ll be reading and then talking with JPL engineer Steve Collins!
Skylight Books 7PM
1818 Vermont
Los Angeles

Monday, March 3rd

Joseph-Beth Cincinnati, OH
Time: 7:00pm
Location: 2692 Madison Road / Cincinnati, OH 45208

Tuesday, March 4th
Schuler Books Lansing, MI
Time: 7:00pm
Location: 2820 Towne Center Blvd / Lansing, MI 48912
w/ Jenny Trout

Thursday, March 6th
Red Balloon St Paul, Minnesota
Time: 6:30pm
Location: 891 Grand Avenue / St. Paul, MN 55105

March 8th
North York Public Library
Toronto, Ontario

March 8th
The North York Public Library
Toronto, Ontario

Monday, March 17th
New York Public Library Teen Book Fest
NYPL 42nd St, South Court, 6-8):

Finding the Creative Balance: Technology, History, Imagination
Cecil Castellucci
Andrea Cremer
Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam
Lev Grossman
Andy Marino
Kass Morgan

Thursday, March 20th
WORD Brooklyn
Time: 7:00pm
W/ Andy Marino and Eliot Schrefer
Location: 126 Franklin Street / Brooklyn, NY 11222

April 12/13

LA Times Festival of Books

April 26
Houston Teen Book Con

Saturday, May 17
Rochester Teen Book Festival

TIN STAR orignal

pre order

  • Goodreads

  • Credits

    Get a free blog at The Fjords04 Theme

  • Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 6,448 other followers