Staying on top of everything that’s happening at WordFest is pretty simple these days, but it wasn’t always this way. I remember the first WordFest back in 1996, when trying to plan out which authors and events I would see was a slightly different process. Ahhh, 1996, I remember that event as if it was yesterday…
After first hearing about WordFest, I had decided that I’d enjoy taking in an event or two, but was unsure of who would be attending, or even where any event would take place. I walked into my kitchen and grabbed the tattered copy of the White Pages that sat conveniently next to the phone in the kitchen. Thumbing to the rear of the book, I soon found the number for the WordFest offices, and dialled the number.
Talking to somebody at their switchboard, I learned from the friendly operator that the first event would be at 7:00PM that night, featuring Stuart McLean at the Bre-X Theatre for a cost of $2. I was content with the information as well as knowing I would be able to use one of the recently released $2 coins to pay for my entry.
After throwing on a slap-bracelet and some pleated slacks, I slipped into my Doc Martens and began to make my way. Naturally, I wasn’t interested in driving downtown, as so many garages were charging as much as $10 a day for the use of their lot. “No Thanks!” I thought to myself as I grabbed a loonie and two quarters for the bus. That was a lesson I had learned the previous week when I had gone to the Canadian Airlines Saddledome to see Theo Fleury and the rest of the Flames take on the Hartford Whalers.
My first stop was to secure a ticket at the Bass Ticket Outlet across the street from Woodward’s. Then I picked up a copy of the Calgary Herald to see if there were any other WordFest events I might want to see. After finding the “Around Town Events” listings, I discovered I’d be interested in several of WordFest’s over 15 events. It would be a busy few days.
Still several blocks from my destination, I began to wonder if the event was still on schedule, as start times could change without notice. I headed to the first phone booth and deposited my quarter to call the WordFest office and confirm the event was still a go. Thankfully I did, as I learned the event would be pushed back fifteen minutes. After hanging up, I wondered if other people were interested in discussing the event’s late start, or talking about how they’d be getting there, or event just keen to let others know they too were excited for WordFest. I began dialling phone numbers at random to ask others if they wanted to discuss WordFest ’96. After several minutes of on-the-phone-line chat, I began approaching strangers on the street to tell them I was heading to WordFest and that it would be starting 15 minutes late.
I continued to make my way to the theatre with my Discman playing. While I enjoyed listening to a CD by recently deceased rapper Tupac Shakur, I couldn’t get my mind over the fact that David Lee Roth had been kicked out of Van Halen only a few days earlier. The times were-a-changing.
As I neared the theatre, it occurred to me that I didn’t know what Stuart McLean looked like. Fortunately, I was only a block away from the downtown branch of the Calgary Public Library, so headed in to find one of the dozens and dozens of micro-fiche machines. After only ten or fifteen minutes, I was looking at a publicity shot of McLean I found in the Calgary Herald, taken only seven years earlier.
After what was a thoroughly enjoyable event where McLean read from his recently released, When We Were Young: A Collection of Canadian Stories, I headed home, tired from the busy day.
Opening the front door, I headed immediately to the answering machine to check for messages. The light flashed red, so I pressed the “Listen to Messages” button which initiated the rewinding of the tape. While I had been travelling home, it seems a couple of friends had called to discuss Stuart McLean, and one friend even mentioned that a bunch of people were getting together at The Palace nightclub for drinks and a little literary discussion.
But it was impossible to say in the loop on everything going on with WordFest and I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be discussing Stuart McLean until the next morning when I could call my friends to chat or I could pick up the Herald from my doorstep, where I might be able to find a small re-cap of the first event, and maybe even see a grainy black and white photo of Stuart McLean. It was quite a time.
But today, I don’t need to suffer any of these pitfalls! Staying on top of WordFest is now easier than ever:
– Need event info, author info or venue info? Check out www.wordfest.com
– Looking to stay updated on all things WordFest? Follow @wordfesttweets on twitter.
– Want to discuss the proceedings and share your thoughts, or merely pass information, photos, or tidbits on to your friends and other WordFest fans? Use the official WordFest hashtag #wordfest2012 on twitter!
– Want to see what attending authors are talking about? Follow the official WordFest twitter list!
– Want to see photos of what’s happening at WordFest both at events and behind the scenes? Check out the WordFest Facebook page, this very blog, or follow me on twitter at @TheRevBW