I am an unpublished female writer, so when I perused the panel selections the “First Ladies of Fiction” title jumped out at me. The panel included some of the larger names in fiction: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Mercedes Lackey. These women are all highly successful and writers I feel I could learn from as well as enjoy listening to.
Nancy Knight, serving as moderator, opened the panel by having the authors introduce themselves. Very confidently, Yarbro proclaimed she had 83 published novels and 79 published short stories. Hamilton happily shared that she had just completed her 31st novel. Lackey, after claiming confusion about why she would be placed on a panel with the other two ladies, admitted to having nearly one hundred published novels. Seeing her modesty, my view of the panel shifted. This wasn’t just a chance to learn about writing, but also a chance to learn about the real person behind the writing.
Knight asked the authors about their favorite part of writing. Yarbro answered simply: “getting paid.” Her advice for new writers was that if you have a choice between writing or not, don’t. But if it is a compulsion, then you should write.
When asked which book most influenced their writing, Hamilton said it was a book of horror short stories. She admitted that her first creations were styled like Louisa May Alcott, which really didn’t work for her even though she really enjoyed Alcott’s work. The horror short stories helped her find her genre.
The question “What was your most touching moment?” elicited a story from Hamilton about an early book signing, where a woman related that reading Hamilton’s books had kept her sane while she watched her child die from cancer. After expressing sincere disbelief in her writing being that good, she confessed to being touched that someone could find that solace in her work. Lackey followed by saying “what she said,” clearly indicating she’d had the same experience.
As the panel wound down, an audience question sparked Mercedes Lackey to again express her disbelief that she would be included on the panel with Laurell K. Hamilton and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Hamilton responded by looking to the audience and saying: “And she has published almost a hundred books.” Hamilton recounted a story about being at a convention many years ago and buying a ticket to a dinner at which Lackey was going to be a guest. She assured the author that she sat there star-struck, absorbing every word Lackey had to say.
I went to the panel to see three writers and I left liking three ladies.