Friday, May 5, 2023

The Machinations Of A Moderator


It’s the spring round of crime writing festivals and, thank goodness, I am not overly busy. I’m four events down and three to go. Out of them all, there’s only two that don’t warrant an overnight stay, a flight or a five hour train journey (one event needed all three) and that means the dog has to go to kennels, I have to pack a case, I have to cancel clinics and sort out patients. Just generally try to get organised.

And then I have the printer fear.

I wake up at night with printer fear.


                                                                    Evening All. Let's be having you!            

I’m not sure of it’s a thing but I think it is, and that it probably has a name.


It’s the fear of going somewhere, doing an event, with the notes not in the right order, or on the same page, because not all the printing was done while there was access to the printer.


                               A badly behaved panellist putting the fear into a well behaved panellist.

Today is that day. If I don't do the typing  and the printing today, it won't happen. The event is a week tomorrow, but time moves on, and it's either today or not at all. By close of play today I want a nice coloured A4 file with numbered, ordered pages of words to say.

Now, I am grilling four very lovely crime writers next Saturday. I’ve read the books, I have the bios, I have the intros, I have a joke about bitcoin ( It is possible to make a joke about bitcoin!). I have looked up murder rates in the different countries represented on the panel, I have things to say and questions to ask.


                                                                   Grilling for him.

It's a well worn topic, The Enduring Appeal of the Police Procedural, so I've tried to find new angles and new questions.

I need it all set out in front of me. The questions for each, the overall bits, a wee list of names that I tick off as they speak so I know that I have them all talking and a Chatty Cathy isn’t taking over and I notice that Dorothy Dormouse has said nothing for half an hour. It’s often useful to have already thought of the answer to the criticism that a  book might get. ‘This is a question for so en so. Don’t you think your book just shows men in power abusing that power over vulnerable woman?’ The author, very confident and articulate in the green room, crumpled. But in reality, the situation as described in the book is one that happens, the author was merely giving details of a world we could never know about, and what goes on behind closed doors.


                                                                         I'm grilling him.

For all that I need my notes printed, some in bold, some underlined, headings, sub headings, I need to be able to navigate my way easily round the page.

At the last Bouchercon, I was chairing an event with five fabulous writers. It was a lot to handle, I didn’t know any of them. The subject was the Final Twist, How Far Can You Go or something like that.  I had the bright idea (??) of giving a summary of the book, a teaser, and they had to identify their own book.  It worked well. Until I got a thump on the leg from the author sitting next to me. I had forgotten to introduce her.



                                                                      I'm grilling her

But we laughed it off by saying that was the big twist  of the panel.

I had been sitting with her on stage before we started, I had shown her her intro and she liked it. Then I had placed that sheet to the side, because the notes had been handwritten, on five pages not one. Easy to do.

Some moderators work from a laptop ( fraught with fear that it doesn’t fire up or it runs out of battery),  some do no work at all ( why bother to put yourself forward to moderate??). Some are so bright, they don’t need notes. Or do they have them scribbled on the back of their hand the way they did at school in exams.

It’s  important though. Some writers have travelled a long way, spent a lot of time money for their fifty mins (less ten for questions), that’s 40 split between five authors, probably less that eight minutes each for them to say  enough so that the book stays in the mind of the audience all the way to the bookshop.


                                                                            Top billing!

And, the issue with kindle, is the lack of a cover image to wave around, so those authors have to work extra hard.

I know it's possible to go to the elsewhere and get pages`printed. That would involve pressing buttons on an unfamilar machine and I'd break it.


 I was very glad to see an experiened moderators notes, huge bold print, large asterisks/asterix here and there. He'd been caught out once by bad lighting and poor eyesight!


My Glasgow event, in the concert hall.

I'm grilling this bloke as well.
Who is he?
Is he trouble?



  1. Tickets for the Aye Write event are available here:

  2. Bravo, Caro. Moderators rarely seem to communicate with their panelists enough, and sometimes make howlers on the day as a result. I've never had the pleasure of being on a panel moderated by you, although I confess I always tend to think of you as being without moderation! (In a good way, of course.)

    And I'm coming up blank on the fella at the end, but I agree, he does look like trouble...

    1. Waldo, I think. No, wait.. No, wait, it'll come to me... good thing I'm not a moderator. Or a moderate. Or a moderate whinger.

  3. Dear favorite moderator,

    "Extremism in preparation of moderation is not a vice."