Despite the snow and ice that graced us this morning (and last night for those of us leaving the Late Night Artist’s Lounge a little late), I was able to make my way down to the John Dutton Theatre this morning to take in an event that’s part of the First Calgary Financial Book Rapport, the award-winning education component of WordFest.
This morning’s event featured Kyo Maclear, author of Virginia Wolf and Spork, and Melanie Watt, creator of Scaredy Squirrel and Chester. Each author read for a little bit, accompanied with slides and video, then took questions from the floor.
Firstly I have to admit I haven’t attended many children’s events as part of WordFest. In fact I don’t think I’ve attended any. I blame this on the fact that there are so many WordFest events, and I can’t possibly go to all of them. And a lot of the Book Rapport events take place in the morning, which don’t exactly work with some of my other pursuits.
Well, suffice to say, the dynamic of a children’s event is quite a bit different than that of most “grown up” events. To begin, the audience is, for lack of a better word, more enthusiastic. I guess that’s probably not true, but they display their enthusiasm a lot more. When Kyo or Melanie would ask a question of the audience, there wouldn’t be a couple of responses as you might see at a grown up event, but rather a hundred responses all yelled out in unison.
Melanie: Do we have any Scaredy fans here today?
The Crowd: Hands waving in the air, YEAH!!!!
When it was time for questions from the audience, basically every single child put their hand up in the air, struggling to get the host’s attention, hoping they’d be picked to ask a question. Of course only one child can be picked.
Host: Who is your question for?
Child: My mom.
Host: Umm…do you have a question for Kyo or Melanie?
As soon as each question was answered, the hands would return to their full, upright position, waving back and forth, left and right, trying to get somebody’s attention. So many hands and likely so many questions I thought to myself. But I soon realized that despite so many kids having their hands up in the air, they really only had a couple of questions, as nearly every question was repeated for the author who wasn’t already asked. If Melanie was asked how old she was when she started writing, the next child would ask the same question of Kyo. If Kyo was asked where she gets her ideas from, so was Melanie. I was starting to think that maybe they just put their hands up in the air because, well, it’s fun to put your hands in the air, and you might get to talk into a microphone.
Of course unlike teenagers, or even adults, these children aren’t embarrassed or worried about anything. They have yet to reach the age where they wonder if others will think their question stupid and became hesitant to ask it. They ask whatever it is they want to know. Such honesty is refreshing.
That honesty isn’t limited to question time either. As I sat at the back of the room, and waited for the children to file out, I was privy to their comments leaving the theatre.
“When do we get a snack?” I’m sooooo hungreeee.
“It was unfair that they didn’t let OUR school ask more questions.” That WAS unfair.
“I have 100 Scaredy books at home.” Yeah, well I have 200.
I never hear these sorts of questions or comments when a grown up event is letting out, but I have no doubt people are thinking similar things, wondering when they get to eat, or have a drink, or go to sleep. And of course there’s always some braggart in the crowd, claiming he’s read basically every book every written.
My next event will be The Price of Oil at The Auburn, to hear Arno Kopecky and Andrew Nikiforuk in conversation with Chris Turner about the social cost of oil. And if I get there a little early, I’ll have time to figure out when I can get to another Book Rapport event; it was a lot of fun!