The following are examples of responses to program questionnaires/surveys that have been very effective. While the first is much more detailed than normal, the second gives program staff several pieces of information about the writer's knowledge that are very useful. Both have told us about the people writing, and given us a good idea of how they could participate and expand the conversation of the convention in new and interesting directions.

We've also included an example of what not to write -- real email received by programming at one of our local conventions.

Giving Detailed Information #1

I've received your questionnaire, and since email is the most convenient way for me to respond (and since you do allow it), I am replying in this way:

Topics I would like to be on panels about include:

1) unsung (and nearly forgotten) classics of science fiction and fantasy 2) the greatest science-fiction books ever written 3) the greatest science-fiction authors ever, particularly those from before 1960, who are perhaps fading into obscurity 4) the greatest science fiction movies ever made 5) the most common themes in science fiction 6) anything to do with the writing process 7) anything to do with medicine (since I am a physician)

Topics that I would be like to give an individual presentation or talk about:

1) the hospital of the future 2) medicine in the future 3) surgery in space 4) the writing process: how different writers (including myself) have proceeded, including outlining, word-processors, juggling the demands of job and family, morning or night, noisy or quiet, word processor, typewriter or pen, etc.

Topics that I would rather not talk about:

1) the physics of faster than light travel 2) the physics of time travel. This being said, I would be willing to be on almost any panel, if I were given enough time to prepare

Other program:

I would very much like to give a reading and/or an autograph session. I would be happy to hold a kaffeeklatsch or a discussion group. As noted above, I would be happy to give a talk on the hospital of the future, medicine in the future, surgery in space, or the writing process.

Interests, hobbies and other points:

I was an English Major at Columbia, before attending Northwestern University Medical School. I am currently Associate Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology, xxxxxxxxxxxx, and am the Director of the Division of General Anesthesiology, as well as my departmental Finance Director. My first novel, xxxxxxxxxx , was published in xxxxxxx by xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx has received many favorable reviews, including Publishers Weekly, Science Fiction Chronicle, Scavenger's Newsletter, and InfinityPlus. My second novel, a mystery entitled xxxxxxxxxx will be published in xxxxxxxxxxx

I have heard it said (and I have come to believe) that the older one gets, the more goal-oriented one becomes. I have a limited number of pre-occupations, and I've tried to be as good at them as I can. My main interests (admittedly not particularly exotic) are: my work (medicine/anesthesiology), reading and writing (mostly science fiction, fantasy and mysteries), golf, investing and the stock market, food, wine and cooking. If you can use any of these on a panel, I would be happy to participate.

Authors/works I would really like to talk about: there are many formerly famous writers who are rarely read today (often for good reason). I would be happy to talk about Otis Adelbert Kline, Stanley Weinbaum, John W. Campbell, Edward E. Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs...not only their best works, but the impact they have had on later writers.

I think that about covers it. Again, I would very much like to be on the program. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can give you any additional information.

Giving Detailed Information #2

General Topics
= Biology, medicine, physics, astronomy, space travel, economics, beer.

Preferred Topics = Living and working in space, the future of money, human reproductive cloning (I'm against, for scientific and humanitarian reasons), where science fiction is headed and how to "fix" it (hint: I don't think it needs to be "fixed")

Other Ideas = Have you ever noticed how some reviewers will describe an up and coming new writer as, say, "Robert Sawyer on acid" or "Greg Bear on steroids?" I always thought it would be fun to comb through some reviews and pick up all these references, then make up a panel with the originals and the acid/steroid influenced copies. This idea has nothing to do with me, I just thought it would be a good panel someday, and since you asked.

Interesting bits about me = I have a PhD in Biochemistry, and I work in drug discovery at a pharmaceutical company.

I write hard science fiction (stories and (unpublished) novels). I'm a member of xxxxx writer's group. I've published two stories in xxxxx and I have a third one coming out sometime this year in the same magazine.

Last year I participated in my first ever panel at xxxx. The subject was xxxx. That was a lot of fun. Now I'm going to other cons and I hope I can do more panels.

Short Topic Ideas = I don't pretend to be the world's foremost expert on cloning, but I do understand the science. If there is no other programming on this topic it might be worth a short discussion. I could go over the technical barriers and start a dialog on the moral aspects. I'm not much on the theological business, but if the conversation drifted that way I'd be happy to sit back and watch the fur fly.

Comments = I've only participated in one other con, but I have to say in comparison yours has been very efficient. Congratulations. I'm looking forward to the con. [Note; people who run program aren't immune to flattery either!]

A Problematic Correspondence
I'm a SF/F author, [former guest at your convention],1 member of SFWA, etc. I've written 17-odd fantasy adventures for xxxxxx. And I have a brand new SF novel coming out xxxxxxxxxx.

Want me to show up on Saturday as a guest and wow many an Audience?

I may drag 1, 2, or 3 of my teens along: would need free passes for them.

1The writer was not a former guest at the convention. "Guest" is not synonymous with "program participant," but the writer seemed to think it was.

The letter gave no indication of what the writer could add to the convention's conversation, and it assumed that the convention would provide "free passes" for the teenaged children of program participants.