The Emporium Gazette
Issue 55 -- November 2003

Both Sides Now
by Bob Nailor

Just like the first line of the song by Joni Mitchell, I've looked at life from both sides now. In this particular scenario, life is represented by writing. Over the years I've attended different writing symposiums, conferences, meetings, etc., but always as an astute student. This year I've had the privilege and honor to be a presenter, a speaker, the person up front with the bull's eye painted on his chest.

In the past I've always been in awe of that person standing at the podium, speaking and teaching, giving me a myriad of clues I would use to become a writer. Would I dare to approach them later and ask questions? In the ruse of a meal or snack, I'd join a table where one of the speakers was sitting and glean even more information as the conversation livened up. It was in this deceptive manner that I'd ask my question and be enlightened with an answer.

This year I became that sought after oracle of knowledge.Writers, both young and old, boldly approached me with compliments of my session and then barraged me with questions that had been burning within.

It was this year that I started to notice more than the knowledge that was being offered. Each speaker has his or her own style; from simple elegance to that of a side-show barker and ranges from "I will talk" to "let's talk" to "questions and answers" types. My style is animated, gets the audience involved and I try not to do all the talking, but of course, trying to keep me quiet is difficult, too.

Just because I was a presenter didn't mean that I couldn't attend other sessions, and attend, I did. One must always remember that learning is an everyday thing and these other presenters would be sharing their knowledge, too. I had one attendee ask me why I was sitting in on a certain subject. Was I spying? I looked this person straight in the eye and told him, learning.

One never knows all that there is about any particular subject and can learn, even from a novice. In my session on character development, I shared my character analysis sheet and discovered that it was lacking. Where? Clothing. I'd detailed many aspects of my character, including obscure details like income and childhood education, but never once mentioned anything about the type or style of clothing worn.

As an attendee, I hope that any question I ask will bring out valuable information for other attendees. If the presenter gets stumped, remember, they are human.

As a presenter, I hope that every attendee would feel comfortable to ask their question. The dumb question is the one never asked. If the attendee is too shy to ask during the session, then by all means, use any ruse you can to approach and ask the question afterwards.Flattery is always accepted.

Bob Nailor is author of "The Secret Voice," an Amish-Christian story, "Pangaea, Eden Lost," an adventure story, "Three Steps: The Journeys of Ayrold," a Celtic fantasy, and "2012: Timeline Apocalypse," an end-of-time tale. He is also included in several anthologies and collections. Check his website at

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