While the first day of events for the Inspire Book Fair was on the Thursday evening’s kick-off party, there was no information about the event at the time of my ticket purchasing, so I didn’t attend. (I guess I could have added onto my The Good, The Bad & The Ugly post to have all the pertinent information on the site at the same time, especially when the option to buy tickets for the party was there, but no info about it.) So my first actual day of Inspire started off on Friday with the Toronto Book Shop Tour in the morning, with us getting dropped off in the early afternoon at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. After grabbing a quick lunch nearby, we were ready to check out the fair…
Arriving just after 3pm, we bee-lined for the mainstage to check out the I Don’t Give a Damsel panel on writing about strong young women. Moderated by LaineyGossip‘s Elaine Lui, the panel consisted of some prominent YA authors like Gayle Forman, E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski and Meg Wolitzer. They had a great discussion on writing, and sometimes it’s difficult to not write an annoying character. They might be more likable as an author if all the characters are nice & not irritating but you just have to let the characters be. Sarah’s new book Don’t Even Think About It came from the idea of being so careful, and filtering what we put out there online. What if that filter was no longer there? On unreliable narrators, Meg says succinctly, “What teenager is not an unreliable narrator? What adult isn’t?” Especially often the case with teenagers, many are living in the moment and cannot see ahead, which skews their perception of telling the story. The Q&A portion got started off with a bit of an awkward question or two, about YA being taken seriously enough or not, contemporary vs fantasy, but I thought the authors all handled it quite well. There was definitely a lot of passionate discussion on YA literary awards vs adult fiction awards.
Later that afternoon, we went to check out (and be the supportive entourage for) Jenn‘s Love to Read! How Reading Programs Lead To Success panel. With the TD Summer Reading Club and the Forest of Reading program being the key focuses, Jenn moderated a panel with Lisa Heggum, Anupya Pamidimukkala, & Marsha Skrypuch. While we had the great Pizza Hut Book It reading program when I was young, it’s so fantastic that these two programs are available for kids nowadays. It helps to promote continual reading throughout the year, even during the summer, and in the case of Forest of Reading, allows them to vote for their favourite out of the selected 10 books in their category.
After the panels, we wandered the booths a bit and came across Entangled Publishing‘s who not only were giving away a generous amount of complimentary books, but also had authors signing at their table. At that moment we were there, we had the lovely opportunity to meet Victoria James, where we got copies of her books The Best Man’s Baby and The Doctor’s Fake Fiancée.
Wendy & I met up around noon and our first stop was going to be the Penguin Random House booth, to see what the status of the line-up for Chris Hadfield’s 2pm signing. As luck would have it, there was 1 couple in line already – and that’s it. We plunked ourselves down for the 2 hour wait and passed the time with many friends and familiar faces while having a lot of fun with the social/instagram-able activities from Penguin and Random House (both of which we made it onto their posts!).
To be honest, I’m not even sure how we spent the long day. There were a small handful of panels I had originally wanted to see but didn’t get to any except for Jenn’s second reading program one. I did end up checking out Sylvia Day’s panel as some of our group wanted to see her. The format was an interesting one where she didn’t really talk to us about anything but rather welcomed questions from the audience right away. The volunteer/microphone system was a bit of a mess as Meaghan & I had a question but the volunteer ripped the mic out of her hands twice before we finally got it back to us. After Sylvia’s panel was Meg Wolitzer’s which we stayed for. I had been contemplating picking up her newest book Belzhar and after hearing her speak about it, I definitely knew I had to check it out (even though the moderator implied something about the book that kind of spoils it for me). This was one of the few mainstage panels that we also decided to go check out the signing afterwards (especially given the restrictive mainstage signing policies). That being said, we dashed over to the signing area and Meg was so gracious and kind to all of us – spending time to chat. She even took down our blog names & addresses!
Once that was over, we had a bit of time to kill before our 8pm dinner reservation. Some of us needed to charge our phones as the convention centre seems to be a black hole of battery drainage. I won’t outright name the booth in this recap, but if you were there, you’ll know which I’m talking about. This particular booth advertised “FREE CHARGING STATION” with about 5-6 adapters for phones. There were two couches on either side of said charging station. Yes, I know the schtick is to have people sit there to charge their phones while they pitched their selling schpeel to potential customers. We were approached, and some of us had already heard the pitch, I already knew about them and said I was going to look into it, and we nicely asked the guy if we could use their charging station – to which he said yes. So we plugged in, and sat on the couches to wait for our phones to charge. Keeping in mind that this was nearing the end of the fair and it was NOT busy whatsoever. SO not busy that even some of the booth staff were packing up and getting ready to go. About 5 minutes later, a woman comes over to us to try and give us the same pitch – to which we all politely replied the same thing we told the other guy. She then rudely tells us “You know there’s a café right there where you can sit around all you want.” To which I replied “Yes, but we’re using your charging station.” She stalks off in a huff. We weren’t causing a ruckus (how much ruckus could a group of polite 20-30+ yrs old booklovers cause!?). When we did in fact see a potential customer approaching, we decided to leave so they could have space to do their sales pitch until the same woman from earlier throws a rather rude comment over to us “Wow. Not even one thank you?” For what? For being rude and kicking us out? For treating us like we were some rowdy trouble-making teenagers? How quickly do you think phones charge? Why would you put couches in your booth if not for people to sit on? Maybe what she really should be selling is some magical phone that power-charges in 5 minutes! Needless to say, it definitely soured an otherwise pleasant Saturday at the fair.
While Saturday wasn’t necessarily a busy hectic day, it was a long one. So I was very much looking forward to taking it easy for this last day of Inspire. And luckily enough, most of the panels I wanted to see were this day – and what a great assortment of panels they were. Arriving at just after noon, I met up with Wendy and Ardo where I joined Wendy waiting in line to see Deborah Harkness and get The Book of Life signed. I had met Deborah two years ago with the launch of her second book Shadow Of Night and was excited to see her again for the third book. We then sat down at the Sparks Stage for a panel on Redesigning Classics with Elly MacKay, Debbie Ridpath Ohi and Cybèle Young. This was a fascinating panel as we listened to these artists discuss about how they went about reimagining and redesigning classic books such as those by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Judy Blume and Kit Pearson respectively. Debbie enthusiastically spoke about how she felt like a poser when being asked to join this panel because there’s so many more people that go into a cover design than just the illustrator. On their processes, Cybèle said the team knew they didn’t want to see the faces, and wanted minimal colour. So she had some guidance and direction with the redesigning of Kit Pearson’s books. Debbie felt huge pressure at being tasked with this project because she loved Judy Blume, and especially Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Elly first sketched what she remembered of when she first read the Anne of Green Gables books as a child and then re-read them to get the sense and feel of it again. She listened to the audiobooks while working on the cover and her covers are actually all layers of paper on wires where she positions them, lights them and then takes about 50+ photographs of them.
The following panel at the same stage was one hosted by The Beguiling entitled Comedy…? What’s Funny in Funnybooks. This hilarious panel featured Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics), Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant!) and Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals, Double Bubble jokes 😉 ). All three panelists shared such great banter and made the audience laugh with their wry wit. Ryan says that you write and hope people share your sense of humour. That “comedy is an easy genre to write because your body tells you that you’re doing it right – by laughing. Only other genre may be erotica.” Kate also talks about how there’s a difference between thinking you’re funny versus always wanting to make people laugh. On doing some work with Marvel, Chip and learned to maybe put in a ton of jokes to hope the good ones survive. Even though I’ve already read Hark! A Vagrant! and Sex Criminals, I purchased both of those as well as Ryan’s Dinosaur comics, to get them all to sign it after the panel. Fantastic and hilarious.
While Ardo & Christa went to Maggie Stiefvater’s panel at this point on the mainstage, Wendy and I went to the Discovery stage to hear Robyn Doolittle speak about her book Crazy Town. She talked about how the 2nd crack video had come out during her first week at the Globe & Mail, and what she learned the most from the fallout of the announcement of the first video was to at least get a screenshot of this second one. Robyn also mentions that Crazy Town has been optioned for a movie (!) and that if she could interview Rob, what she would ask him was what does he picture Toronto to be like? She pictures streetcards, the flat iron building, etc. but she’d love to find out how HE sees the city. After the half-hour panel, we went to catch the rest of Maggie’s where she was in the midst of telling an animated story that took her back and forth across the stage. After some questions from the audience, where she told a hilarious account of finding out on the plane her book was on the bestseller’s list and declining to do the voices of her characters, her fans split up to go to the mainstage signing area (where you could only get Blue Lily, Lily Blue signed) and the other half went to the Scholastic booth to wait for her in-booth signing afterwards where she’d sign any and all her books.
Ardo and I quickly got through that mainstage signing line and headed right back to the Sparks stage for the Diversity, DJs and DIY panel that Léonicka was on along with Greg Frankson, Kayla Perrin and Stacey Marie Robinson. This was a fascinating panel about an increasingly prevalent in topic – diversity in publishing. The panelists spoke about how publishing can be slow to change, and those who hold the power are in the job for a long time. The comment that “there is no market” is ridiculous, says Léonicka. It’s the marketer’s job to find a market for that book. The problem isn’t the readers or the writers – it’s the people to connect the two. Unfortunately they didn’t have a Q&A session as Ardo and I both had questions in mind. What I wanted to bring up was how “diversity” is much more than just about culture and race. I’d say 95% of the panel was about that and I wish they had talked a bit more about even other cultures, or LGBT, disabilities, and different kinds of family makeups.
To cap off our Sunday, Christa and I went to the Toronto Public Library booth – with USB key in hand – and got our 3D selfies done. With the scan file rendered and saved onto the USB key, we now have to take it to the Innovation Hub and get certified via course so that we could print our selfies out on the 3D printer!
All-in-all it was a fun weekend where we got to see our book friends, and some of our fave authors. A great $15 well-spent and while it may not be great for the exhibitors with booths, I personally enjoyed the quieter atmosphere so that we weren’t pushed and shoved around all weekend. Plus I came home with a ton of great new reads!