Last week I volunteered sixteen hours at the Writers Fest. If you’ve been reading my posts, you already know this. I wanted to give a brief recap of the week, along with pictures I took (or had taken of me).
My volunteering hours were spent selling raffle tickets. The raffle was to win a painting by Andre Petterson. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a hard sell. I think the painting didn’t really appeal to a lot of people, and I think the people it did appeal do didn’t have any place to put it. Still, during my first shift we sold 11 tickets — that was at the Opening Reception — and according to the volunteer manager I had the best sales all week. I maintain it was my purple beret. It attracted people to me like moths to a flame. (That, or I’m apparently a better salesperson than I think I am.)
The Writers Fest is on Granville Island, which is probably my favorite place in Vancouver. I used to live there, ages ago, and it hasn’t changed much since then. It’s artsy and hippy and absolute hell to drive or park in. There are at least three independent coffee shops. There’s a Public Market. And there’s Arts Umbrella, which is where I spent a lot of time as a kid, taking classes in architecture, animation, pottery, jewelry-making, film, and other arts. While I was walking past Arts Umbrella on my way to Festival House on my first day, I noticed some chalk graffiti on the wall of the building. It was Doctor Who graffiti. I had a squee moment, and took a picture. The graffiti stayed up the whole week, so I got to show the real thing to my mom, too. (Then I convinced her to watch 6 episodes and finish off season 5 before she went up to Powell River this week.)
My second shift volunteering was during Junot Diaz’s talk, which I have no pictures of, unfortunately. My phone was very low on battery for some reason. I then had two days off, during which I went to Women and Literature on Thursday (Friday was spent at Abra-cadaver, the Screaming Chickens Halloween Burlesque show). Saturday I worked a double shift: 4 to 7pm followed by 7pm to 10:30pm. This was for What If? with Margaret Atwood, Cory Doctorow, and Pasha Malla, and A Tribute to Patrick Lane, respectively.
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with Atwood. I read The Handmaid’s Tale in high school and I’ve been a fan of hers ever since, but she came off as…very pretentious and a bit ageist and sexist, which is unfortunate. There were several times I had to resist the urge to stand up and yell “Um, actually you’re wrong,” at her. She was very dismissive of a lot of things that make up the current culture for the younger generation, such as, oh, the internet and video games, and refused to hear that the internet may be the gateway for a lot of discretionary activities for people nowadays, which was the point Doctorow was making. She asked people in the audience to raise their hands if they’d heard about the Writers Fest on the internet, as if that was the defining point, and very few people raised her hands. She then looked at Doctorow and made some comment about her point being made.
I hesitate to point out that the majority of that event, and almost every event at VIWF save the ones in the mornings that are advertised as for schools, are full of middle-aged people. There are very few teenagers outside the school events, and a handful of 20-somethings or 30-somethings. These are also the middle-aged folks who have extra money lying around — otherwise they wouldn’t be at the VIWF — and therefore don’t need the internet as a source for discretionary activities. If you can afford to go out to the movies, or to the physical bookstore, you go. When you can’t afford those things, the internet becomes a source of cheap entertainment — I can either pay 8 dollars a month for Netflix and watch as many movies or TV shows as they have, or I can go out to see one movie in theatres for 25 dollars and up for one night. I can go to the bookstore once a week and spend 25 — 125 dollars on, say, 5 books, or I can peruse the works of indie authors and pick up 25 ebooks for 25–75 bucks. And there are tons of free books out there too. Blogs are free, many webseries are free. When you’re as poor as I am — as a lot of people my age are, because there’s nothing out there for us jobwise unless we have at least an MA — then the internet becomes a much friendlier source of discretionary activities.
So, no, that wasn’t a fair question to ask considering the demographics of the audience. Not to mention, you’re at a fest for people who love books. That’s why they’re there. So the question of authors having to compete with the rest of the internet for the attention of many readers doesn’t really apply to a lot of folks at VIWF, because they’re going to read anyway. They’re the smallest percentage of a writer’s audience — the avid reader. The avid reader picks up books and reads them. You don’t have to worry about them finding you, because eventually they will. It’s the non-avid readers you have to convince; it’s the attention of the non-avid readers for which you’ll be competing with the rest of the internet and its activities.
Anyway, I don’t mean to rant about Atwood too much. She’s still a brilliant writer; I just find a lot of her attitude very unfortunate. Regardless, I had a good time at the event. I got to meet Cory Doctorow when I got his book signed, and he’s super cool. I told him I tweeted him a few minutes beforehand, and within about 20 minutes after the signing he’d tweeted me back. I now have Little Brother, and will start reading it as soon as I finish a few other books on my currently reading list.
The Tribute to Patrick Lane was an event of [mostly] poetry, so I spent most of my time knitting. I like some poems and some poets — I don’t particularly enjoy poetry in general. I did enjoy Lorna Crozier’s erotic poem; it was quite amusing. There were many speakers, including Gillian Jerome, Susan Musgrave, and Margaret Atwood. My mom got to see this event, which she was very pleased about because a) she loves poetry and b) if she’d followed her heart back in the 60s, this is the crew she would have been hanging out with. The Canadian poets crew. I remember thinking with each speaker as they spoke about various poets My mom knows that person. My mom should be on that stage.
We were done closer to 11pm than 10:30pm, and then mom and I took off for home to get as much sleep as we could before waking up at 6am. Her next shift was driving Patrick Lane to Tsawwassen at 7:30am, and I’d taken an extra shift of selling raffle tickets for the Sunday Brunch. My shift wasn’t until 10am, but mom wouldn’t have been able to make it back to Coquitlam to pick me up and bring me out again in time, so I had to come in at 6:30.
Before I headed down from the hotel towards the nearest coffee shop (which turned out to be closed), I got to meet Patrick Lane. He asked if I was coming along with mom and him in the car, to which I said no, I was going to write in a coffee shop. (Mom ended up giving him a copy of my poetry book glasstown, which was pretty exciting to hear.) Of course, it was raining, so I slogged through puddles to find Agro café. Turned out they weren’t open until 9am on Sundays, to which I may have uttered a string of expletives. So I continued on towards the Public Market, which also looked closed, but wasn’t. Google Local assured me that JJ Bean was open at 7am.
Granville Island is a ghost town early Sunday morning. I felt I was walking through a post-zombie-apocalypse city. When I ran into other people I was close to yelling “Zombies!” and running away. I didn’t, but as soon as they saw me they turned in the other direction. Perhaps they thought I was a zombie. I certainly resemble one that early in the morning.
Finally I made it to the Market and dried off inside. I got a chai latte from JJ Bean (which was delicious — if you haven’t tried JJ Bean beverages yet, you should) and, after chatting up the folks who were there about the Writers Fest, I went and found a place to sit down and take off my shoes and socks to let my feet dry out a little bit.
This is where I discovered my Writers Fest tote bag, given to all the volunteers, was not waterproof. Or even resistant. I’d decided to carry my laptop in it.
I took all the things out of the bag and wiped them down, trying to get them as dry as possible. The bag got turned upside down on the floor, letting the remaining water drip out from the inside. I then sat back and tried to enjoy my chai latte and not panic over the fact that my laptop and my notebook for The Jade Star of Athering were both wet. The laptop was off, so so long as I waited until it was completely dry before turning it on again it should be fine. The notebook was only wet on the edges; I don’t think any ink smeared.
After finishing my drink, I went to Terra Breads to take advantage of my 5 dollar off discount card (part of the VIWF volunteer’s package). I also asked them for an extra plastic bag, into which I put my laptop and notebooks before putting them back in the totebag.
Voila — waterproofing achieved.
When I went outside, it was no longer raining. Of course.
The sun was up at this point, so I took a few more pictures on my way to the Festival House. At Festival House I sat down at the table in the kitchen prep area and wrote about 800 words. Finished Chapter 12 of Jade Star and started Chapter 13.
Before 10, I walked to Agro and got myself a coffee. At 10:15, my partner for Raffle Ticket sales was still not there, so mom and I took the bag of stuff down to Performance Works and got set up.
For some reason, though, they’d moved our table from directly under the painting we were trying to sell to what we were told was the author signing table. Which meant that during the last speaker we’d have to pack up and leave the table. We did so as quietly as we could, but still got shushed by someone in charge. It then turned out that the authors didn’t use the table we were at at all, but used the one right next to it. So…we could have stayed there.
It was the first year they did raffle tickets, so there were some miscommunications. It’s understandable; next year will go much more smoothly.
At any rate, it may have been for the best. I walked through the crowd selling tickets, and we sold about 15 during that shift — personal best. It was just frustrating, especially when I’d had so little sleep and not enough caffeine.
Overall I had a good time at the Writers Fest. I made some new friends, I met some authors, and I got to hang out on Granville Island for several days. Can’t beat that.
(Even if I do now have a case of con crud.)