Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Scheduling Hell

By Deborah Sharp

I've been invited to speak at the prestigious Miami Book Fair. That's the good news. The bad news: Organizers have scheduled me opposite Dave Barry, the Pulitzer prize-winning humor columnist, author, and beloved Miami icon.

With 350-plus authors at the fair, they couldn't have found someone a little less intimidating to shove into my same time slot?

Of course, this is the same international book event where in 2008 I fought with Salman Rushdie over the last lemon poppy seed muffin left on the breakfast buffet in the authors' reception room. Long story, but I definitely spotted the muffin first.

Maybe the festival's powers-that-be are punishing me for the muffin incident. I mean, really, the man survived having a fatwa declared against him. Is a little kerfuffle over a breakfast pastry really that big a deal?

Anyhoo, back to Dave Barry. He'll be packing a massive auditorium that Saturday morning, Nov. 20 at 10 am. The sound of belly-laughs and general hilarity will probably ripple all the way across the sprawling campus of Miami Dade College, echoing into the empty classroom where I'm supposed to speak. Room 7128. Did I mention the room is on the bottom floor of the campus parking garage? I can just hear the sound of errant car alarms going off now.

It's not the first time I've dwelled in scheduling hell. I've been slotted opposite the editor and agent panel at Sleuthfest. I lost out to baseball mania in Tampa, when my signing and the Rays first shot at the play-offs fell on the same night. I was trampled once at a Barnes & Noble by fans of the Twilight series, who clambered over my pathetic table to get to the merchandising bonanza tied into that same day's release of Stephanie Meyer's latest.

It's all in the timing, right? At least that's what I told Salman when I snatched the last muffin from under his nose at my first Miami Book Fair.

How about you? What's the worst scheduling snafu you've endured? An outdoor event spoiled by hurricane-force winds? Competing against Michael Connelly at a conference? Put on a panel with someone you hate?


G.M. Malliet said...

Deb - this is too funny. But you know what? Using the recent Bouchercon as just one example: We had a SRO crowd, and we were up against some big heavy-hitters' panel. I forget who we were up against now, honestly. But I was totally amazed and I bet you will be, too. Be sure to report back on what happens!

Deborah Sharp said...

thanks for the good thoughts, Gin .. your mouth to God's ear. (PS: I hear Bouchercon was great this year. Sorry I missed it ... and you!)

Lois Winston said...

Deb, I had no idea Rushdie had such pull with the Karmic gods! I feel your pain. And I can't top any of your stories. My worst war stories are bookstore signings where shoppers avoid eye contact because they fear the tractor beam that will pull them to my table and force them to buy a book. And there was the one signing where the only people to enter the bookstore for the 2 hrs. I was there was a family looking to buy a present for a kid's birthday party and a man who asked if the store sold newspapers.

Darrell James said...

There was this library event that got rained on, where only three people came in... a mother and her two children who came inside to wait for the bus.

I do have a "best luck" story. I was signing in an Indie in Troy Ohio as a traveling bicycle tour came through town. They spent the night in Troy and nearly every cyclist on the tour bought one of my books. Bicyclists read! Who knew?

Keith Raffel said...

Deb, can you really be complaining, the lucky woman who stumbled across some random fellow who provided entrée to an appearance on the Today Show?

Alan Orloff said...

Deb, I'm sure most of the people have already heard Dave Barry talk before. You'll have a full room (I mean, how convenient? Right in the parking garage--no walking!).

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks for giving me a laugh this morning. You'll be a hit!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

In my years in the biz, I've been scheduled against Lee Child, Michael Connoly and Mary Higgins Clark, to name just a few, and while I was SURE no one would be at my panel, there was always a healthy group. Didn't stop me from fretting about it beforehand though.

Deb, I see it as they put you against Dave Barry because they knew you could hold your own. Bet you get a lot of folks. Big thanks for the big laugh. See, you're working it already!

Carol Grace said...

Sue Ann is right, they've put you there because you can draw a crowd. Just imagine how Dave Barry feels, I can just hear him whining to his agent - "Where is everybody? You put me up against...who???"

Deborah Sharp said...

Lois: You have a tractor beam? I need one of those!
Darrell: Gotta love that serendipity.
Keith: Yep, I married my husband 22 years ago for the karma that would ultimately lead to TODAY.
Alan: You're right ... I'm SURE my room will be full ... of people asking how to get to the parking garage elevators.
Kathleen: You're welcome ... you'll have your own stories of scheduling hell, soon!
Sue Ann: you never fail to see the positive spin. That's why you're a mega-success.
Carol: Ooooh, I'd LOVE to hear Dave Barry whining to his agent!
Thanks, guys!

Cricket McRae said...

I've seen Dave Barry speak. He's okay, I guess. I'd rather brave the wilds of the parking garage to come see you any day!

Unknown said...

Dave Barry who...? He's so yesterday!

Barb Goffman said...

Okay, so I'm a day late, but I had to comment, Deborah. Sue Ann is exactly right. As a convention programmer myself, I can say that if someone put you up against the big guns, as I did last year at Malice Domestic with Sue Ann (she was on a panel at the same time as one with Mary Higgins Clark), it's either because you've royally pissed off the programmer (kidding!) or because the programmer thinks the competing panel can hold its own against the so-called big guns. No programmer wants to see one panel die a slow death because another panel at the same time is way more popular, so you try to put heavy hitters up against each other. Anyway, have fun at the fair!
-Barb Goffman