September 7th, 2010

Lit events

Guys, today is back to school and I am rife with envy! Where’s my fresh start, cartoon-printed lunchpail, adorable first-day outfit? Where are my new mountains to climb and new textbooks to deface? I am stuck here with the same old mountains and although I did receive a kind offer of a packed lunch, no one has taught me anything yet today, let alone bought me 500 crisp new sheets of Hilroy. Boo. September for a reformed schoolaholic is very tough.

At least the Toronto lit scene offers me some fun in September, and without the social lottery of locker assignment. I am referring of course to the beginning of fall book season, where new titles seem to come out every few days and there’s always a launch/reading/party to attend. The excitement over the new books and the fun of all the events helps to fill the void of knowing my beloved chem lab partner now lives in England and teaches grade 1, and we are all stupid grownups and no one ever passes me notes while trying not to giggle or make eye contact.

Ahem. At the end of this post, there will be a list of cool events that I am looking forward to in September. But first, because why not, a primer on Toronto litsy evenings, in case you are entering this heady world for the first time.

1. Find out what’s going on. You can a weekly digest of events through the Patchy Squirrel litserv, or read about them on Open Book Toronto. You can also follow individual writers or publishers you like on Facebook or Twitter or on their blogs–but I recommend also at least giving a glance at the general listings, as there might be stuff you want to see that you never thought to go looking for.

2. Don’t worry too much about the timing. I have rarely been to a book-related event that started when it said it would. Book folk never seem to write on the invite, “Doors 7:30, reading 8:00,” seeming to assume that everyone knows if it just says, “Reading 7:30” that’s 1/2 hour ahead. But theeven if the the event is actually scheduled to start at 8 (in some people’s minds, anyway) it will probably slide a bitfor mike issues, the reader running late, nerves, or because everyone doesn’t have their drink from the bar yet. If you come early, bring  a book–and don’t count on buying the thing being launched and reading that. The folks doing the merch table can run late, too.

3. Worry a little about the timing if you’d like to sit down. The thing that often surprises people about Toronto book events is that so many people show up and they get crowded, especially given that often the most genial (and affordable) venues are a little on the wee side. I think it’s super to see such a crush for books, but if it’s been a long day, sometimes I wish that things were a little less popular so that I could have a chair. That’s when I show up at the time actually listed on the invite.

4. Chat. I sometimes hear rumours, largely among people who have never been to one, that Toronto readings are somehow…not friendly? Which is nearly 100% contrary to my experience (there is an extremely short list of snarky things people have said to me at readings; unfortunately I have memorized said list). It’s scary to talk to strangers wherever you are, and it’s not like bookish people are automatically so incredibly nice, but most of them can manage a few lines of credible dialogue at the bar (“I love this poet/author. Have you read her stuff yet?” is a great place to start). And many bookish people *are* incredibly nice! If someone is a jerk to you, keep moving–it’s just that one dude. I also find readings pretty easy to attend alone–it’s not at all awkward to be by yourself at these things if that’s what you prefer. (For heaven’s sake, don’t chat during the reading!)

5. Pay what you can (and bring cash). Some readings and especially snazzier series have cover charges, which should be advertised clearly and pretty much (in my mind) get you off the moral hook for other purchases in the course of the evening. Many more cas readings just are Pay What You Can/pass the hat, and they do mean it. Put in what you can afford ($5 is awesome, but a loonie is still nice) and if you can’t afford anything, don’t sweat it. Believe me, writers and organizers are still glad you came to fill a spot with your friendly face and contribute to the energy and excitement of the event.

Hat-pass cash usually goes to the writers, so you might decide to just buy a book instead. At launches, there probably won’t be a hat or cover, so book-buying is your primary way to pay, if you so desire. Again, you should really feel zero pressure to purchase, but if you *do* want a book, try to remember to bring cash (though some launches are book-tabled by bookstores, and then they *might* have credit/debit machines). It’s silly to waste a chance to get a signature and a smile from the author and then go buy the book later and give Indigo or Amazon a cut.

Finally, buy beer/wine/jello shooters. No, this money doesn’t go to the writer, it goes to the venue, but that’s the venue’s incentive to host and keep hosting: a roomful of bookish drinkers on a Tuesday night. So if you are thirsty and able to afford it, drink up!

6. Compliment. I’m perhaps more needy than others, but I’m pretty sure there’s no one who *doesn’t* like to hear, “Hey, great reading,” even if they’re totally famous. And it might open the door to a conversation with an author you admire–I have certainly had some good ones that started there.

7. Stay late. I never do this, because I always need to get up early and save the world (note: sarcasm), but apparently some of these book parties rage long into the night. Go, stay late, and then tell me what I am missing.

Feel free to add to the list above with more advice and/or contradictions to what I’ve said. Also feel free to add to the list below if you know of more awesome upcomings we should be aware of.

Thursday September 9–Coachhouse Books Wayzgoose: A wayzgoose is a party given by the printer for the workers in the print shop, but Coachhouse extends it to all friends of the house. I’ve gone to this evening a few times and it’s always a delight: no readings, but an occasional speech, food and drink and tonnes of people. Pretty much the best party given in what is essentially an alleyway.

Sunday September 19–Eden Mills Writers Festival Six hours of reading, writers, sunshine and fun in a pretty little village outside of Guelph. This is not a TO event at all, it’s about an hour’s drive, but I know many of us city folks make the trek for the joy of listening to literature while sitting in the grass beside a little river.

Tuesday September 21–Launch for *Light Lifting* by Alexander MacLeod. I’ve been eager for this book since I heard Biblioasis was doing it–one of the stories, “The Miracle Mile” was in the Journey Prize collection that I helped adjudicate. I love that story. And I hear the launch will have music, too!

Saturday September 25–A reading with the Vagabond Trust, not yet posted on the interwebs, but reliably promised to actually occur. Featuring, among others, me!

Tuesday September 28–Launch of *Combat Camera* by AJ Somerset, 5th winner of the annual Metcalf-Rooke Award (a proud lineage). The event will be a staged interview with Russell Smith. I’m very excited about the whole affair.

And don’t even get me started on October!

Hope to see you guys at some of these. I’ll be the one eating a well-balanced snack out of a Ziploc.

5 Responses to “Lit events”

  • Nathalie says:

    Here is something a 7-year-old taught me on the subway: if the tunnel is rectangular (as opposed to circular) is was made from above ground by a method called “cut and cover.” If the tunnel is circular, it was made with a boring machine. Hopefully this is new to you, too, and you have been taught something today.


  • Rebecca says:

    Oh, thank you, Nathalie–that’s perfect! A lesson on the first day of school, and on my favourite subject of public transit! I’ll remember this!


  • AMT says:

    i am in the thick of back to school, as you know. and after reading this post i want to TRADE.


  • Vernell Cicero says:

    cool wow! he11o good website I enjoyed it very much Saved it to best articles ! !!! thank you


  • Kerry Clare says:

    Don’t forget the Victoria College Booksale, the weekend of the 25th (Thursday-Half Price Monday). It is my favourite event of the year!


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