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Chairing a panel discussion at #BelfastBookFestival.

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | Writers Wise

Sharon Thompson

What is it like to chair a panel discussion at a book festival and why be involved in panel discussion for writers? 

While driving to Belfast, I did wonder would my stomach settle and let me figure out the above questions. The Cube in the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast is a lovely venue and I was brought into the GREEN ROOM beforehand. This was a first for me and I was surprised that how much I enjoyed this experience. Advantage 1. – you get back-stage if you are on a panel! 

I was honoured to be asked to chair a panel discussion at #BelfastBookFestival. Sincere thanks to the organisers and Sharon Dempsey in particular. Nervously, we got hooked up to a microphone and slumped into the comfy couches at 2pm on 9th June. Under spotlights I shakily introduced the distinguished panel of writers; Catriona King, Kelly Creighton, Sharon Dempsey and my good self :). Advantage 2. You meet and mingle with other writers. 

For an hour, we discussed the panel’s writing processes, publication, marketing and everything in between. Wishing to keep it welcoming, authentic and informative, I questioned the ladies in turn on their road to writing and how they build/maintain their writing lives. 3. You learn heaps. 

We touched on rejection, self-doubt, writing across genres and marketing. The importance of being professional and confident as female crime writers in Northern Ireland surfaced and it was felt that we need to support other writers, as well as striving forward and believing in our own abilities and triumphs. Just as I was starting to relax with the whole process – the time was up! For a half an hour, there was a chance for the audience to query the panel and get books signed and mingle. This was just the best. 4. You meet other readers and get to natter about books! I’d highly recommend attending events like this. Not only do you always learn something, it is massively helpful to writers. Please also ask questions as this puts writers at their ease. Advantage 5 You start to feel that you’ve been slightly interesting (which is such a blessing when we ‘just write’ and cannot think of what might be in the slightest bit intriguing for others).

Feedback forms and social media posts are an excellent way of alerting authors, panels or organisers of what you wish for the future events. Also, please smile and approach authors if you feel you would like to. I do love to chat one-to-one with people. It is less frightening for us as well and it is wonderful to meet new people.

Advantage 6 – I also loved seeing a nice lady purchase my book and get it signed. She then she sat to read it in the cafe!!! This was another first for me and it was a real thrill (and she didn’t fling it in the bin and sent me a lovely message online to say that she was enjoying it)!

Thank you to everyone who said hullo, made connections or bought books. Big gratitude to those who let me chair this panel. As frightening as this is, I would love to do it again sometime.


The Healer by Sharon Thompson.


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