Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Jo Steffens shares some “Shelfies”

Shelfie

Shelfie – from Jo Steffens’ bookshelf. Click to enlarge.

The Oxford English Dictionary named the “Selfie” the word of the year for 2013 — a bit of news some readers may have missed while browsing their bookshelves full of old favourites and new discoveries over the Holidays.

Anyone familiar with social media is bound to have stumbled across the “Selfie” on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These self-portraits are often taken in front of a bathroom mirror or with arms outstretched to fill the tiny frame of a smartphone’s front-facing camera.

Since the “selfie” was reportedly first coined in 2002 by an inebriated Australian documenting injuries to his face, these minor indulgences in a bit of vanity seem to be everywhere, and everyone appears to be doing it.

But staff at Wordfest are much more excited about the “Selfie’s” bookish cousin — the emerging trend of the “Shelfie,” which didn’t quite make the top of the Oxford Dictionary’s list, but deserves special mention nonetheless.

#Shelfie — the self-portrait’s bookish cousin

Shelfie

Shelfie – from Jo Steffens’ bookshelf. Click to enlarge.

Yes, we’re talking about the practice of flaunting snapshots of one’s home library and book collections for the envy of millions of literary voyeurs. Search for the #shelfie hashtag on Twitter or your favourite social media site, and witness the full breadth of this curious trend. Or read more about it in this article in The Guardian.

Bookshelves displayed online are not just the new eye candy for a subculture of admirers. They are another way of sharing and performing a public identity — another way to “prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet,” as T.S. Eliot wrote almost a century ago. Only this time the bookshelf — the “shelfie” — stands in as the new avatar, giving viewers perhaps a much deeper glimpse into the personal interests of web denizens than is possible with a simple self-portrait.

Wordfest Executive Director Jo Steffens captured some #shelfies over the winter break. As editor of Unpacking My Library, she found this online phenomenon especially fascinating for what it reveals about the lives of book lovers and their books.

Since moving to Calgary my library shelves are still out of order I’m embarrassed to admit. That’s why you see titles on book making next to the Femmes Fatales series from The Feminist Press at Cuny or Climate Refugees on a shelf with Paul K. Miller’s (aka D.J. Spooky) Sound Unbound. This disorder throws into relief my wide-ranging taste in reading — but my interest in graphic novels really stands out. I’ve been collecting various authors work for 25 years; when they were first publishing single comics!

Join in the fun! Post pictures of your bookshelves to the #shelfie hastag on Twitter, and don’t forget to mention @WordfestTweets so we can find your Tweets and Retweet them to our audience.

Shelfie

Shelfie – from Jo Steffens’ bookshelf. Click to enlarge.

Shelfie

Shelfie – from Jo Steffens’ bookshelf. Click to enlarge.

Shelfie

Shelfie – from Jo Steffens’ bookshelf. Click to enlarge.

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642 Things to Write About

Back in November of last year, I stumbled across the perfect journal for anyone hoping to cure writers-block or find inspiration from which to string together a sentence or two. Whether you see yourself as a writer, a diarist, a humorist or maybe even a doodler, you’re bound to find something in this thick volume to whet your creative appetite.

The journal is called 642 Things to Write About,  and it’s the brainchild of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Collected from the minds and notebooks of the Grotto’s “inhabitants,” the prompts range from personal confessions to quirky character suggestions, all the way to outrageous list starters and everything in between and beyond. What’s also unique about the book is how the editor managed to compile the final manuscript and send it to the publisher in under a day. After distributing a call-out for writing prompts, enthusiastic members of the Grotto filled his inbox within hours, and soon enough…well…the Grotto had 642 suggestions to draw from.

Filling out an entry in 642 Things to Write About is part of my morning routine before coming to the WordFest office. The challenge of drumming up a response to a daily writing prompt is a nice way to kick off the day, much like those stretching exercises some of us like to do. Below is a sample of some of my entries. It’s clear I don’t always take the process too seriously, which makes filling out the book all the more fun!

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A New Year’s Resolution from Arts Administrator Everett Wilson

Portrait of EverettWhat I like most about the New Year is the chance for everyone to make a fresh start—hence a certain sense of anticipation and energy in the air. When our office reopened on January 7, someone remarked how coming back to work in the New Year can feel like starting a new semester of grade school…in a good way. People dress up and put an extra effort into looking their best. And the first few days are almost entirely devoted to “catching up” in myriad ways, whether it’s sharing stories from the break while nibbling on tasty treats, or scrolling through emails from an overstuffed inbox.

With two back-to-back special events coming up next month, a special appearance from Cory Mack on February 26 for Freedom to Read Week, and The ECO Tour with David Suzuki and Jeff Rubin on February 27, we have good reasons to be excited. So, if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to be more organized in 2013, now is the perfect time to check out the links above and mark down these two WordFest Special Events in your day planner.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to invade some of Anne’s online space, and join her as a regular blogger on the Official WordFest Blog. I’ve already introduced myself in an earlier blog post, so I’ll try not to repeat anything I’ve said there. Suffice it to say that I’ll be hanging around on this site more often.

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Logan’s 2012 Lit List!

I gain great pleasure from recounting the books I’ve read in the past year. Not only am I surprised at the amount I’ve been able to get through, but seeing this list reminds me of where I was when I read each of these books, for example, I read Dark Diversions one chapter at a time during  the most recent Festival week. One evening in particular, I just finished speaking with Mr. Saul in the hotel hallway before I made my way back to my room to dive back into his book; it’s memories like these that begin to surface when reading back over this list.

There’s a bit of a pattern and timeline to my book choices throughout the year. I begin in January by reading books that are left over from my “I’m done the Festival and the 2013 books aren’t out yet so I’m going to finally read what I want” phase. Usually that stage lasts only a book or two, as we begin receiving advance copies of Spring and Fall titles soon after the calendar year begins.

My second phase occurs around mid-January to February-ish. This is the “Oh jeez there are so many 2013 books that I need to read and they are all 400 pages for some strange reason; I better cancel all my library holds until next October” stage that typically lasts until July.

Once that time has mercifully passed and the majority of the program has been completed, I find myself in the “the Festival is getting closer and I need to read as many books as I can so I can discuss how much I liked their book when I meet the author” point of the year, which is really fun, although important to note that not all Festival books are ready for me to read before the author arrives, which leads me to the last phase. This is the “the Festival has just finished but I really liked this author so I’m going to read their book even though I don’t technically have to” phase, which is probably the most pleasurable of all the book phases, to be quite honest. Some of my favourite books are discovered at this time, and this is how I came upon a newfound fascination with Frida Kahlo, thanks to F.G. Haghenbeck’s colourful (in writing and cover art) The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo.

A Hidden Gem of 2012

A Hidden Gem of 2012

Now this isn’t written in stone, I can and will read books out of this order when I’m feeling rebellious, so the above ramblings can only be seen as a general outline of my reading schedule. With that in mind, I give you the 2012 Logan Lit List.

  1.  Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
  2. Web of Angels by Lilian Nattel
  3. The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood
  4. I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
  5. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
  6. Midnight Sweatlodge by Waubgeshig Rice
  7. 419 by Will Ferguson
  8. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  9. Magnified World by Grace O’Connell
  10. One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston
  11. The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam
  12. People Who Disappear by Alex Leslie
  13. Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif
  14. Mad Hope by Heather Birrell
  15. The Blondes by Emily Schultz
  16. Dr. Brinkley’s Tower by Robert Hough
  17. Thirst by Shree Ghatage
  18. Confined Space by Deryn Collier
  19. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  20. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
  21. Y by Marjorie Celona
  22. The Nun by Simonetta Agnello Hornby
  23. Life is About Losing Everything by Lynn Crosbie
  24. People Park by Pasha Malla
  25. Radio Belly by Buffy Cram
  26. Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger
  27. White Horse by Alex Adams
  28. In the Orchard, the Swallows by Peter Hobbs
  29. Five Bells by Gail Jones
  30. Why Men Lie by Linden MacIntyre
  31. The Placebo Effect by David Rotenberg
  32. Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky
  33. Tom is Dead by Marie Darrieussecq
  34. Suspicion by Rachel Wyatt
  35. Inside by Alix Ohlin
  36. Stray Love by Kyo Maclear
  37. More in Anger by J. Jill Robinson
  38. The Age of Hope by David Bergen
  39. That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott
  40. Office Girl by Joe Meno
  41. Cures for Hunger by Deni Y. Béchard
  42. Bitter Drink by F.G. Haghenbeck
  43. The Western Light by Susan Swan
  44. The Dead are More Visible by Steven Heighton
  45. The Way we Fall by Megan Crewe
  46. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  47. Signs and Wonders by Alix Ohlin
  48. The World by Bill Gaston
  49. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
  50. Missed Her by Ivan E. Coyote
  51. The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks
  52. The Milk Chicken Bomb by Andrew Wedderburn
  53. Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou
  54. A Sunless Sea by Anne Perry
  55. Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis
  56. In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
  57. Up and Down by Terry Fallis
  58. The Deception of Livvy Higgs by Donna Morrissey
  59. The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon
  60. Becoming Holmes by Shane Peacock
  61. Dark Diversions by John Ralston Saul
  62. The Selector of Souls by Shauna Singh Baldwin
  63. Bull Head by John Vigna
  64. The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck
  65. Canada by Richard Ford
  66. Who Could that Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket
  67. Without Honour by Rob Tripp
  68. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
  69. The Purchase by Linda Spalding
  70. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  71. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
  72. Gold by Chris Cleave
  73. The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson
  74. I Feel Bad About my Neck by Nora Ephron
  75. The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  76. I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
  77. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
  78. Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith
  79. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  80. Runaway by Alice Munro

 

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Ho Ho Holy Cow these are Great Books!

‘Tis the season for holiday book lists, staff favourites, and end of year summaries. This blog post will be no different, so if you’re looking for something off the beaten path, just close your browser window now. I should also mention, if you haven’t filled out our WordFest Survey, now’s the time to do it.

Everett’s post from a few days ago  has inspired our staff. We’ve created a special holiday e-card that will include some WordFest book recommendations for those who are interested in doing a little reading during those statutory holidays we’re all looking forward to. Personally, I hope to do a ton of reading in the next few weeks, so I can hit my 80 books/year goal that I reached in 2011. You’ll have my book list of what I read in 2012 to look forward to upon my return in January (which I know everyone’s just dying to see).

For the e-card project, I recommended a Gail Bowen book titled The Nesting Dolls. Those die-hard WordFest fans will recognize this as the book she presented at the Festival on our 15th anniversary. I read it during the Fall season, but I wish I had read it in December because it is a perfect story for this time of year. It’s set against a warm, family Christmas, but a grisly murder is what gets the plot going. I also love the main protagonist and crime-solver  Joanne Kilbourn. Those who know me well understand I have a great fascination with the Murder She Wrote Television Series, and like Joanne, Jessica Fletcher really gives the series its legs, and keeps the loyal fans coming back.

Nesting Dolls

Something else we had to include in the special greeting was a book on our ‘wishlist’, a title we hope to read in the future. I chose Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie, which is his memoir chronicling a perilous time in his life when a fatwa (an Islamic religious decree issued by the spiritual leader in Iran in 1989 which called for Salman’s execution) had been placed on him.

Joseph Anton

I should mention I want to read this book for naughty rather than nice reasons. I’m sure it’s a literary masterpiece and all, but I’m more interested in hearing the salacious details: his failed relationships and marriages, what it was like to live with armed policeman on a regular basis, etc. There is nothing I love more than literary gossip (well, maybe except for Murder She Wrote) so this book will be a fun, yet potentially sobering read.

So while Everett is trying to expand his mind and political horizons through his book picks, I’m reading about fictional crimes with a holiday twist and prying into people’s personal lives. So, business as usual at the WordFest office.

 

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Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

Well, that’s it. WordFest 2012 is over. Kaput. Never to be seen again. There are no more WordFest 2012 events coming, it’s time to lay the 2012 Festival season to rest. However-as Bryan mentioned in his last post, we finished with a bang (the Giller Prize Winner of 2012, none other than our local literary celebrity and WordFest alumnus Will Ferguson). To see a volunteer reader review of this book, please click here.

Before his event on Nov. 13, Will Ferguson and I were sitting in the salmon coloured John Dutton greenroom together, and he spoke fondly of his previous book tours with a colleague we had in common. He then shyly asked if I had read his book Canadian Pie, which referenced a story he thought I would enjoy, as it generally makes fun of the plight of the book publicist (a role I can sympathize with, as I frequently act as handler to our Festival authors). Shame-faced, I admitted I hadn’t read it yet, but promised to borrow it from the library. What struck me about this interaction was that Will rarely quizzed people about reading his books, but the ONE time he decides to, I haven’t read it. I truly did feel badly that I hadn’t read it, because I most likely would have read it beforehand had I known it included a story that I could so easily relate to.

Shortly after the end of the event, while people were lining up to get their book signed, I snuck up to the Pages table and purchased the second last copy of Canadian Pie they had. Then I waited until all the other books had been signed and the patrons had left to ask Will to sign my book. He wrote me a kind message and it filled me with a warm glow as I left the venue that night, relieved that our Festival season had ended, but a little sad that I didn’t have anymore of these author interactions to look forward to until 2013.

So, you’re probably still wondering what the title of this post is referencing. Essentially, now that our Festival season is over, this is your last chance to give us (timely) feedback on our 2012 season. What did you enjoy? What did you want to see more of? We’re already starting to plan the 2013 season, so you need to let your opinion be known now. Otherwise, I’ll forget it, you’ll forget it, or it will simply be too late to work your constructive criticism into our 2013 season. We’ve created a handy dandy online survey form for you to fill out, so please click here to make your opinion known!

 

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The WVAP – Flummoxed by Sandwiches

Every year, I am lucky enough to be invited to a variety of parties, socials, events, and functions, where I meet a variety of people and have new and unique experiences.  This past Friday, the WordFest Volunteer Appreciation Party, or the WVAP as it is known colloquially, was one of those events.  Held each year to celebrate the hard work volunteers put in to make WordFest possible, it’s an event I wouldn’t miss for anything.

This year the event, as Anne mentioned, was held at the swanky Motion Art Gallery, Eau Claire Market, in beautiful downtown Calgary. The venue offered a dynamic space for volunteers and staff to get together and trade stories, share their experiences from WordFest 2012, and have an all around good time.

When I arrived at the Gallery I surveyed the room, trying to pick where to set up shop for the evening.  One table in particular caught my eye, where Michelle (the Artist’s Lounge host during WordFest) was sitting.  It’s always wise to have the volunteer in charge of food and booze for authors all week, at your table.  The fact it was situated next to the food didn’t hurt either.

Contrary to what Anne may think however, I was not focused on the chicken tray, as there were so many other things to grab my attention this wonderful evening.  First off there was also a Signature Focaccia Sandwich Tray, featuring turkey, roast beef, cheese and vegetable, and Italian classics, all on delicious focaccia bread.  There was also the “All Rolled Up” or  “Lavosh” tray; a selection of mixed wraps including roast beef, turkey, ham, cream cheese, and tuna salad.

For those not interested in sandwiches, (yes, those crazies do exist), there was also the aforementioned chicken tray, a fruit tray, a vegetable tray, a sushi tray and a spinach dip spread with sourdough bread.  Basically, there was something to tempt even the most discriminating tastes.  And let’s not forget the desserts, where an array of brownies and assorted squares helped silence everybody’s sweet tooth.

This night was so much more than just food however, and I don’t want to devote too much time to that topic.  There was also an open bar, offering a selection of beer and wine.  From my experience, beer and wine go quite well with a selection of appetizers and sandwiches.  The only problem we faced, as far as food and drink were concerned, was that there was too much.  Even with my robust appetite in attendance, left-overs were inevitable.

But besides the food, the evening was an excellent opportunity to share stories from the week that was WordFest 2012.  Who could forget one volunteer asking Noah Richler what his father did for a living, and upon finding out he was a writer, asking what his name was? And the setting was definitely I step up from the community halls of years past.  Which isn’t anything against community halls, but when I can be enjoying lovely pieces of art, instead of blank walls last painted in 1974, I’ll take the Gallery.

For entertainment, volunteers were treated to music from Ethan Collister and Caleb Roddick, as well as a special performance by a promising new group, the MacIntyre Sisters.  We were also afforded the opportunity to play an interesting game (and fitting given this was a WordFest party), where each person was given a sheet to write down a noun. The paper would then be passed to somebody else who would write down a verb, and then to another who would add a complement.  People were then asked to share their creations with others.  It is amazing how long I would agonize over a verb, in an attempt to be funny.  I quickly learned that no verb is really funny on its own; it needs to be combined with a noun.

“Flummox.”

See, it isn’t funny on its own.  But when used in a sentence, can be kind of funny.

“The tray flummoxed Bryan with its vast selection of sandwiches.”

 

Like all good things, the party eventually came to and end, coincidently at the same time as the bar ran out of booze.  WordFest was over for another year, as I put my coat on and prepared for the exit. It was then I became rather emotional, watching the trays of excess food being packaged up, unable to think of a way to get them home, and unable to continue eating.

 

-Bryan

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