Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Panels are for panelists

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Sunday night. Monday morning. Lying in my bed, where I often lay, working on my computer (facebook).

PCC finished. It was ... hm ... it was. Well, to begin with, the panel, my panel, the moderator for my panel, who had prepared a wonderful bit of moderation ... I walked into the room where the panel was to be held, and he lay strewn across a series of chairs. He had a terrible fever and was quite sick, and it was determined that there was no way he could do the panel. He went home, or to a clinic, or something. Not quite sure. And so, I was given the task of running the panel.

No problem, right? I chose the topic. I chose the panelists. I can wing it. Who cares if I've never actually moderated a panel before, right? Who cares if it was going to be a room full of fairly intimidating people--never mind the panelists themselves. Who cares that there were about 50 people who showed up for the panel, because they really wanted to hear what these panelists had to say about this topic.

Everyone arrived. I showed them to their seats. Everyone took their seats. I looked through the moderators notes. I introduced the panelists. People clapped. Everything seemed fine. Lovely.

And then ... I asked the first question.


I asked 2/3rds of the first question.

And then.


Everything stopped. The world ... stopped. Time slowed. I looked around the room. All eyes on me. Waiting for me to finish asking my question, which, at that point, had entirely vanished. I had forgotten what I was saying. I had forgotten what I was doing. I began to tremble, and everything got a bit blurry. I tried to open my mouth and only smatterings of ums and uhhs came out. I looked over at Franco Boni (Artistic Director of the Theatre Centre). His head was in his lap. I said his name. He looked up at me. And then, I said only one word.


I kid you not.

Franco looked back at me. Puzzled. He said nothing.


That wasn't going to work.

I thought about getting up and just leaving. Just going. And then I thought about the consequences. I started leafing through my book and random papers, pleading with the Gods for something. Anything. Help.

I was able to get out something along the lines of "Why don't you tell me what you've been up to." I directed the question to Ross Manson, who, thankfully, knows how to speak well. Thankfully, each of the panelists knew how to speak. Slowly but surely, self-consciousness subsided and I was able to focus in on what people were saying (took about 15 minutes). And miraculously, I was able to find some sort of semblance of rational thought that went something like: "This is not about you, Michael. This is about them. This is about the question. This is about the ideas. Just listen and ask good questions."

And in the end, it actually kind of worked. I did manage to cut of John Kameel Farah once, but he was lovely and gracious and everyone was brilliant and the panel was actually quite provocative in the end.

I missed the next panel, saturated by the shock of the intensity of the previous hour and a half.

Note to self. Moderating panels are hard. And scary.

That is all.

I was going to write more about PCC, but it all sort of just ended there. There were some things I was going to attend today, but had SMART CLUB. More on THAT later.

The End.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Michael Rubenfeld

Michael Rubenfeld is a writer, director, actor and producer. His plays include Present Tense, Spain and My Fellow Creatures.

Go to Michael Rubenfeld’s Author Page