What a day yesterday was. I attended my first reading at the beautiful Art Gallery of Calgary, seeing four authors discuss their books and their libraries. However it wouldn’t be my last readings of the day, as I then headed over to the Vertigo Theatre for the Wednesday Night Showcase. It wasn’t my first showcase however as I was in the audience of The Price is Right seven years ago (I wasn’t called up on stage), and saw the showcase showdown (double over-bid). But it was my first WordFest showcase, so I suppose that could be counted as a first.
One of the great things about the venues for WordFest, is their proximity to each other. Leaving the Art Gallery of Calgary, it’s only a two minutewalk to Hotel Le Germain, where I spent 15 minutes searching every room in the place, looking for the WordFest cocktail party. I then realized it was across the street at the Vertigo, and headed over there. Again, the proximity came in handy. If the cocktail party had been at, say, the Airdrie Rotary Club, I would have had a real problem.
Of course it wasn’t, and I was at the cocktail party in time for both wine and cheese. I can’t tell you what a relief this was, as I hadn’t had any cheese since the hospitality suite Tuesday night, and my hands were starting to shake a little. As I filled my hand with as many crackers, each with as much cheese, as humanly possible, I spotted Elizabeth Hay next to me in the food line, doing the same (although perhaps not as aggressively as I). At WordFeast the night before, we were in line next to each other as well, bonding with our mutual frustration at how slow the line for food was moving. This means that every WordFest function I’ve attended with food, I’ve been standing next to Elizabeth, which brings me to one of two conclusions. Either both our stomachs work on the same schedule, or she’s stalking me. Either way, I’m honored.
At 7PM, we all headed into the Vertigo Theatre for the main event, the actual Showcase. Wednesday night’s event featured Anita Rau Badami reading from her latest novel, Tell It to the Trees, Peter Behrens offering a sample from The O’Briens, my food-buddy Elizabeth Hay and her novel Alone in the Classroom, Wayne Johnston and A World Elsewhere, and last, but not least, Johanna Skibsrud and her collection of short stories, This Will Be Difficult to Explain and Other Stories.
Like my experience with readings earlier in the evening, I again enjoyed knowing the writers were reading their books as they had intended them to be heard. And also how they explained their inspiration for their stories. For instance Peter Behrens said his novel and the characters within, were inspired by his grandparents and their lives in the early 20th century. He then read a sex scene from the book. As Behrens noted, who doesn’t like thinking about their grandparents having sex?
Another highlight from the event, was a surprise introduction from Calgary’s Mayor, Naheed Nenshi. The popular and intellectual Mayor, an obvious supporter of events such as WordFest, served as a reminder to everybody in attendance how lucky we are the City didn’t vote a different way last October. Who knows, with a certain former Alderman in the Mayor’s office, WordFest might have been cancelled, so as not to cause any traffic disruptions for hard-working Calgarians.
After the Showcase, it was off to where else, but the hospitality suite, in it’s all new location on the top floor of Hotel Le Germain!
Don’t forget to follow the Official WordFest hashtag on twitter, #wordfest2011