Category Archives: 2011 Festival Blog

Festival Blogger Bryan Wright’s take on everything happening at WordFest in 2011

WordFest Numerology

Now that WordFest is, for the most part, over, I thought it was time I formally wrap up the blog for 2011.  Of course, it was a great experience; not only did I get to meet so many people in the book world, including authors, artists and publishers, but I also got to have a lot of fun doing so.
 
Often the problem with working an event such as WordFest, is that one doesn’t get the chance to see the result of all their hard work because there’s too much going on behind the scenes to actually attend any events.  As the Festival Blogger, I was able to get the best of both worlds.  Not only was I behind the scenes, but I was also able to attend a lot of events. I truly got to enjoy the entire WordFest experience.
 
It was this experience I tried to expose in the blog this year, by letting people in on my time attending WordFest, instead of merely giving a summary of the events, as if I was writing a newspaper article.  I suppose my mind set was to make this more of a diary, and less of a report.
 
Having said that, I also want to make sure I do leave my loyal readers with some kind of summary of my experience, some sort of conclusion.  My first thought was to merely detail the events I attended, list the high and low points, and so on.  But really, there isn’t any point to that, as the previous blog posts do the same thing.  My conclusion shouldn’t just be a condensed version of the previous posts.  Instead, I thought I might take a look at the numbers of WordFest, as a way to quantify my experience. 
 
Here’s my WordFest, by the numbers:

 
6 – Days of WordFest
2 – Days inBanff
20 – Events I attended over the six days of WordFest
18 – Events I was on time for
7 – Different venues I attended a performance
 
38 – Artists and authors I saw perform
19 – Artists and authors I had a drink with
1 – Artists or authors I saw scam free drinks at WordFeast
 
25 – Sandwiches eaten in the volunteer lounge
1 – Times I misspelled sandwich in a blog post
7 – Amount of cheese eaten, in pounds
2 – Times I took the last piece of food from a tray, while looking around to make sure nobody would notice

 
5 – Nights that ended with a visit to the Artist’s Lounge
5 – Night the Artist’s Lounge ran out of beer
2 – Times I was told ‘…and you’re the only one drinking beer’

 
6 – Trips on the bus
3 – Cab rides
0 – Number of blocks portaged with a canoe; I guess I really…’missed the boat’ on this one!

 
29 – Blog posts
4 – Blog posts mentioning pizza
1 – Events throughout WordFest with pizza
4 – Times I’ve gone out for pizza since WordFest, to make up for the times I missed pizza during WordFest

 4 – Remaining WordFest events this year (check the website for more info!)

 349 – Days until WordFest 2012!!

 

 -Bryan

www.wordfest.com
@wordfesttweets
@TheRevBW
WordFest on Facebook

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Volunteers

Now that WordFest has wrapped up for another year, I wanted to talk about Volunteers.  I’ll just throw this out there, but it’s one of my favorite Tom Hanks movies.  And John Candy is great as well, playing Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington.  And now I want to talk about volunteers, at WordFest.  Without them, there wouldn’t be a WordFest.  Or if there was, it’d be really poorly run, and generally a mess, and nobody would enjoy it all. 

I have sort of a soft spot in my heart for the volunteers, as I used to be one.  It’s true. You can even check the guide, I’m listed as staff and as a volunteer. I’m in pretty lofty company being listed twice you know.  But seriously, my association with WordFest did begin through volunteering, manning a booth at last summer’s Sun & Salsa Fest, preaching the good word about…WordFest.  Just think, if I hadn’t taken that volunteer position, I might never have been asked to write this blog, and you might never have been treated to such entertainment.  The horrors.

Of course, my work volunteering was nothing compared to the work put in by an army of people who do so not only during the six days of WordFest, both in Calgary and in Banff, but also throughout the year.  If you’re unsure of who the volunteers are, or rather were, they were the ones wearing the black t-shirts all week. They were the ones who sold you your ticket to Alberta (Un)Bound, or perhaps they showed you to your seat at Poetry Bash. Maybe they were Darlene and Colleen, taking tickets at ‘Persuasion’ who somehow convinced me to

This tray was overflowing before I arrived

mention their names in this blog. You might have bought a 50/50 ticket from a volunteer, working tirelessly to ensure WordFest is funded, while asking for nothing in return.  Some of my favorite volunteers were the ladies who looked after the volunteer lounge at the Vertigo.  They kept me fed with sandwiches, veggie platters, soups, desserts, and of course, cheese.  Lots and lots of cheese.  Michelle and Lauren, working the hospitality suite at Le Germain, also made sure I was getting a steady intake of cheese, and washing it down with an ice-cold bottle of beer.  These are the true heroes.

But volunteers aren’t just working the events, they’re also working behind the scenes, making sure everything goes off without a hitch. They’re the ones who serve as artist liaisons and the transportation staff, who work tirelessly to make sure each artist and author is not only looked after, but also on time for their event.  There are also the people who help out around the WordFest office throughout the year, manning telephones, stuffing envelopes and occasionally eating cake for Angela’s…27th birthday I believe it was.

All kidding aside, the volunteers are as important to the success of WordFest as the artists and authors themselves, and without them, there would not be a festival for us to enjoy.  Three cheers for the WordFest volunteers!

 

Don’t forget to follow the Official WordFest hashtag on twitter, #wordfest2011

-Bryan

www.wordfest.com
@wordfesttweets
@TheRevBW
WordFest on Facebook

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The Curtain Call

For WordFest’s final day, for its’ final event actually, it was back to the Kinnear building yesterday afternoon, for “Curtain Call,” an event featuring David Bezmozgis, Helen Humphreys, Stuart MacBride, Thomas Pletzinger, and Madeleine Thien.  For the second time on Sunday, we were in a room with a spectacular view.  But I suppose there aren’t many places on the side of a mountain in Banff, that don’t have a spectacular one.

My seat for the event was next to the window, and naturally, my head would turn to the West, as I stared down the valley, almost hypnotized by the scenery.  It was actually perfect for listening to a reading, because when watching the scenery instead of the author, I found myself fully immersed in the passage they read.  It was like listening to a book on CD, while sitting in a dark room.  Talking later in the day to someone about this, they mentioned how they were listening to Guy Vanderhaeghe the night before, with their eyes closed, as a way of creating that same effect.  I’ll have to try that sometime.  Or just ensure there is a hypnotic view available to send me into a trance.  But I’ll have to be sure I don’t cross the line and fall asleep.  And it’s a very fine line at that.

I was particularly interested to hear Thomas Pletzinger speak at this event.  His novel, Funeral for a Dog, was my most recent WordFest read, and since it is still quite fresh in my mind, I was curious to see how knowing the book would change my appreciation of a reading.  It does make for a little bit of a different experience.  When an author is reading a book I’ve read, I am already familiar with the characters and the story and so forth.  Unlike most of the readings I’ve heard this week, I wasn’t being parachuted into the middle of a story.  I also knew what was going to happen, so most of my concentration was focused on how the author read the passage, listening to their emotion and inflections.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Herr Pletzinger later last night, at the wrap-up party.  When I read his book, as is the case with any translated work, I wonder how much of the author’s work is actually in the translation.  At the end of the day, I’m not exactly reading what they wrote.  I was curious as to what role the author played in the translation and it turns out, at least in Thomas Pletzinger’s case, to be quite a substantial one.  Thomas said when he last checked his inbox for emails from the translator, regarding the book, there were 714 messages, each with “around 50 or so questions,” each pertaining to his thoughts on a specific word or sentence.  So, I guess that could be filed under, ‘quite involved!’

Following ‘Curtain Call,’ there was a bit of an empty feeling, which I always find with multi-day events, because you know that everything is almost over for another year.  I always find that happens each year at the Stampede when the crowd is a little more subdued on the final Sunday, as everybody realizes everything’s almost over.  It was still a great event of course, hearing from five great authors, with the majestic Rockies in the background.  Quite a nice afternoon really.

Technically, I suppose it wasn’t really the final event, as there was a wrap up party at The Banff Centre’s maclab bistro last night.  It was an opportunity for staff, volunteers, and artists to get together, have a drink and nibble on some food.  And may I point out that there was pizza.  Lots of pizza.  I did get a little anxious on my first trip through the buffet line, where there were only a couple of pieces left.  I was left with a dilemma; do I pile all four pieces onto my plate, and deal with the shame of my gluttony?  Or do I only take two pieces, and risk the chance of there not being any more pizza delivered, and thus passing up on potential pie?  I decided to only take two pieces, thinking that there was a good chance there would be more pizza, and if not I could indulge my senses with cheese and nachos.  The move paid off, as there was plenty of pizza to go around at the end of the night, even enough for a certain crime writer to take some back to her room to enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures; eating pizza on a hotel room bed.

The wrap up party was more than just pizza bliss though; it was also a great chance to talk to the people I’d been working with all week, including other WordFest staff, volunteers, and the authors and artists.  It also ensured I’d only be awake for two or three minutes after my head hit the pillow.

Don’t forget to follow the Official WordFest hashtag on twitter, #wordfest2011

-Bryan

www.wordfest.com
@wordfesttweets
@TheRevBW
WordFest on Facebook

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Crime Scenes

Following the latest night at WordFest so far, it was time to get up, a little too early, to head over to the Kinnear Centre to hear three crime writers discuss their craft at Crime Scenes.  It would be the first event of WordFest’s last day.  Present were Ian Hamilton, Stuart MacBride and Robin Spano.  The talk was taking place on the 3rd floor, in a room whose view looks West down the valley toward the mountains.  In one word, it’s spectacular.

I was quite curious to hear Scottish author Stuart MacBride talk.  I haven’t read any of his books, but I spent quite a bit of time talking to him in the hospitality suite, both in Calgary and here in Banff.  Both times, I was left with a pain in my side from laughing so hard.  Not only is he a genuine character with a great sense of humor, but he also has a rather thick accent, which only adds to my enjoyment of hearing him speak.

Of course I wouldn’t expect any antics at a book reading.  This was a serious discussion about gritty crime novels that feature murder and intrigue.  Speaking third, MacBride took to the stage, and immediately had the audience laughing out loud.  When I attended my first WordFest event this week, ‘Lunch with Will Ferguson,’ I remember thinking that it would probably receive more laughs than any other event.  I guess I was wrong.  And I certainly wouldn’t have predicted it be the session on crime novels that would generate so many laughs.

The event began with an intro by host and author Trevor Ferguson/John Farrow, followed by a reading from each featured author.  First off was Ian Hamilton reading from his new book, The Disciple of Las Vegas.  Then it was Robin Spano read her book, Death Plays Poker, and then finished up with Stuart MacBride reading from a yet to be released book.

Following the readings there was a great discussion about the authors, their books, and the genre.  Audience participation usually works well, assuming you have a good set of questions being asked.  This event featured some particularly good questions, some of the best I’ve heard all week, and as a result the audience was also treated to some great answers.

The final day continues with ‘The Satirists’ this afternoon, and then the last event, Curtain Call.  But first, it’s time to go to The Banff Centre’s restaurant, Vistas, perched on the side of Tunnel Mountain, which is supposed to offer yet another spectacular view.

 
Don’t forget to follow the Official WordFest hashtag on twitter, #wordfest2011

-Bryan

www.wordfest.com
@wordfesttweets
@TheRevBW
WordFest on Facebook

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Poetry, the Artist’s Lounge, and Pizza

Following last night’s Distinguished Author Series, there was a brief break from action, before it was time to head back into the theatre for the Poetry Cabaret.  Of course I needed to make my usual stop at the hospitality room first. When I had stopped in there before Guy Vanderhaeghe’s show, there were a few nibblies to snack on, but also an empty serving board, under a hot lamp.  Obviously something was going to be taking that space on the buffet table.  It wasn’t until I had to leave, to see the show, that pizza was delivered.

Pizza.  Food of the gods.  I love pizza.  It doesn’t matter where the pizza is from, what’s on the pizza, or what temperature the pizza is.  There is no such thing as bad pizza.  Well there is, I did have one bad pizza, in Romania, where they used ketchup instead of pizza sauce, but that was the lone exception in my time on this mortal coil.  unfortunately, in this situation, I was forced to choose between the show and pizza.  Obviously I had to choose the show as my duties to WordFest had to take priority.  And naturally, I had assumed there would be pizza afterward.

Back to the break between Guy Vanderhaeghe and the Poetry Cabaret, and I am back in the Artist’s Lounge.  To my surprise and delight, three pizza boxes still sit on the table.  My pizza needs would be fulfilled.  But as I open the first box, I realized there wasn’t any pizza left, only three empty boxes, taunting me with tiny bits of cheese and crust, left over from the bounty that once called them home.  I was indeed going to be denied the pie of my dreams.  The lights began to flicker in the hallway, signifying the show was about to begin and that it was time to make my way to the theatre.  Out I went, slightly dejected.  Of course what do I pass on my way to the theatre?  Three more pizzas being delivered!  Pizza is my Ladyhawke.  I can’t be in the room when there is pizza, and pizza can’t be in the room when I am there.

The Poetry Cabaret was great though, even though I wasn’t able to feast on some ‘za.  Performing last night were Ian Williams, Rosemary Griebel, Ann Scowcroft, Anne Simpson, and Jeramy Dodds.  As at the Thursday Showcase, the authors were accompanied by the WordFest House Band.  I really enjoy the dynamic and find the music really adds to the poetry.  I also had added admiration for the music after talking to the band in the Green Room earlier in the evening.  While a few notes are taken, most of the music is improvised, feeding off the emotion of the poetry being read.

After the show, it was back to the Artist’s Lounge for some hob nobbing, eating, and a drink.  The hospitality room at Le Germain in Calgary was great, with a nice atmosphere, good food, and wonderful hostesses.  But last night the hospitality room here in Banff was really rocking.  I suppose a lot of that has to do with the room being quite a bit larger, allowing a lot of people to mingle quite comfortably.  And what was on the table, sitting like a beacon of hope and cheese?  There was still pizza.  And not just pizza boxes, but real, live pizza.  The night was now complete.

The party in the suite went well into the night, with pizza, beer, wine, cheese, and crackers, all of which were accompanied by the musical stylings of DJ Rutledge, who manned the ipod well into Sunday morning, much to the delight of the many people dancing.

 
Don’t forget to follow the Official WordFest hashtag on twitter, #wordfest2011

-Bryan

www.wordfest.com
@wordfesttweets
@TheRevBW
WordFest on Facebook

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Distinguished Author

Like Chuckwagons races are to the Stampede, or the Best Picture award is to the Oscars, last night’s main event, the Banff Distinguished Author Series, is to WordFest.  It’s the premier event and this year featured Saskatchewan author Guy Vanderhaeghe and Toronto musician Justin Rutledge.

Now obviously this event was going to be a hard ticket to get, being the premiere event. While I have a pass, which allows me access to every event, it becomes a little more difficult when there are not tickets left.  It seems John Law has determined that only a set amount of people are allowed in the theatre at any one time.  I understand this, and am happy to wait until the very end to take my place inside to watch the show once it is known there are a couple of open seats.

But last night, there weren’t any last-minute no-shows, there weren’t any extra tickets, and as a result, it was looking like there would not be any…me.  Then just as my fate seemed sealed, someone came up with the idea of having me watch in the green room.  Down into the bowels of the Banff Centre I went, to take my place on a couch.  From there I was able to watch the proceedings on a TV.  Naturally this isn’t the same as sitting in the theatre, but it does have a lot to offer.

To begin with, there is wine in the green room.  Secondly, there is cheese.  So while I was not watching the performance live, I was re-fuelling and rehydrating.  Life is full of trade offs, and that was mine for the day.  I also had the pleasure of hanging out with some of the artists who were participating in the Poetry Cabaret event that followed, as well as the WordFest House Band.

I’ve always been curious about green rooms.  I wonder things like, why are they called green rooms?  Then I wonder why they so often aren’t green.  I know at CBC radio in Calgary, the green room is actually just a couple of couches off to the side of the studio.  It’s really more of a green alcove.  Except the walls are off-white.  I suppose it’s really an off-white alcove.  Of course everybody still calls it the green room.

Here at the Banff Centre, there is an actual room for artists ro relax in before a performance.  And, it has green walls to boot!  It is truly a green room.  And because of my access to wine and cheese, it made some who were not fortunate enough to visit the green room, green with envy.  If you have the chance to watch a show from a green room, I suggest you do it.  Also, if you are looking for a great place to host a St. Paddy’s Day party, green rooms would probably be a nice fit. 

Basically, it was a great event, which I enjoyed from the next room, while drinking wine, eating cheese and getting to know a great group of artists.

 

Don’t forget to follow the Official WordFest hashtag on twitter, #wordfest2011

-Bryan

www.wordfest.com
@wordfesttweets
@TheRevBW
WordFest on Facebook

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Franklin Family Fun

I write this as I gaze out my window at the Banff Centre amongst the majestic Rocky Mountains.  While I’ve been to Banff dozens, nay, hundreds of times, it never does get old.  Regardless of the time of year, regardless of the weather, Banff always seems to be beautiful.  Today is no different, as the fall colours paint the Bow Valley along the highway as well as this tiny hamlet.

Before driving out to Banff this afternoon, and after I took the opportunity to sleep in a little this morning, I stopped at the Signal Hill Library to partake in Franklin Family Fun Day.  I’ve attended around a dozen WordFest events these past few days, but today’s had quite a different feel, no doubt because of the 200 children running around the library.  The noise and exictement far exceeds anything I’ve see at the grown-up events.

Brenda Clark and Paulette Bourgeois

The biggest attraction, without a doubt, was the main turrtle himself, Franklin.  Parading around the library, Franklin was administering hugs for anybody who wanted one, as well as posing for photo after photo.  Also present were Franklin’s creators, Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark, who signed books from a seemingly endless line of parents and children.  There was also face painting and games to keep everybody busy.

While the line was a lengthy one, meeting and greeting Franklin was still the highlight of the event, and I’m proud to say that I was the only person there, taller than Franklin!

Franklin and Friend

 
Don’t forget to follow the Official WordFest hashtag on twitter, #wordfest2011

-Bryan

www.wordfest.com
@wordfesttweets
@TheRevBW
WordFest on Facebook

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