Thursday, 30 July 2015

What a Great Event!

I’ve been trying to get this particular post written for a couple of days now and somehow real life just kept getting in the way of sitting down to get my thoughts into the keyboard and onto the screen.  And, I had to finish reading a library book that I could not renew, that was due back (ahem … yesterday).  Sorry to whoever is next on the waiting list.

So here we go …

On July 25th I was fortunate enough to attend the 4th Annual Ontario Book Bloggers Meet.  It was held at The Ballroom in Toronto and let me just start off by saying it was a wonderful venue.

I only started my little blog in April of this year, and while I am no stranger to blogging it’s a step out of my comfort zone – putting my book reviews and bookish thoughts out there for everyone to see.  So, of course when I came across first, the Ontario Book Bloggers website and second, the fact that they have a meet-up every year, I decided that I really wanted to attend.

Downtown Toronto is about a 75-minute drive for me, so I left early enough in the morning to allow for heavy traffic as it was also the final weekend of the PanAm Games being held in Toronto and everyone had been warning me about the traffic.  Well – I don’t know if I just hit a little pocket of traffic-free highway between the traffic jams (not the way my luck usually runs, let me tell you) or if I am just an awesome driver (which, of course, would be my take on the situation) but I had my car parked about an hour before the event was scheduled to start.  Hmmm … as I saw it … that meant time for a little (non book) shopping.  With the only Marshall’s store anywhere near where I live sitting right there across the street from where I parked my car – I mean how could I not?

But I digress …

The Ontario Book Blog Ladies - Wendy, Angel, Liz, Michele and Christa

The five ladies pictured above did a phenomenal job, banding together and getting everything done to organize the event.  As far as I know (and I have been known to be wrong in the past) this event is strictly a private function not sponsored by any publishers or book related organizations.  They just decided to offer book bloggers in Ontario a chance to get together to meet each other and network.  It’s my understanding that it originally started off quite small, meeting in a pub, and has grown into the event that I attended on Saturday.  I don’t know what the attendance numbers were exactly, but the room was full!
The swag table
When I first entered the room I was greeted by a lovely smile and big welcoming “Hello” while promptly being handed a REALLY HEAVY bag that was (gasp) full of books.  I mean FULL to overflowing with books.  What a great grab bag for book lovers --> books!

Inside the "Welcome Grab Bag"
Cue happy dance!

But wait … there was more.

As I walked a little further into the room another very nice young woman handed me a door prize ticket and wished my luck in the upcoming draw.  A few more steps and there was a table absolutely covered in “swag”.  I helped myself to some bookmarks, ‘cause you can never have too many of those; some really cute buttons, a charming little bottle filled with green tea leaves and various and sundry other items as reminders of the event.

Some of the "swag" I picked up

How to use a bookmark ... Priceless!

But wait … there was still more.

Following the “swag” table there was a table laid out with books by the authors who were in attendance that afternoon.  I was told I could choose any two books I wanted.  I was quite prepared to reach for my wallet to pay for them when I was informed that they were also free.  Well – WOW!  

Books by the authors in attendance

I entered the room and found that it was full of happy looking people congregating around the munchies that were placed on each table.  Now I’m not an overly shy person but neither am I a world champion at mingling so I just grabbed a spot and observed for a little while.  Before I knew it people were coming up to me and introducing themselves, asking me about my blog and telling me about their blogs … talk about making someone feel welcome!

Everyone arriving
The event was simply a “meet up” so there was no specific time set up for the author meet and greets.  The authors in attendance were simply mingling with the rest of the crowd and one could seek them out to have a conversation, get a book signed and a picture taken.  Naturally I wanted to get my books signed as well so began digging in my purse for the pen I KNEW I had put in there before leaving home.  Guess I wasn’t as organized as I thought because there was no pen to be found in the Bermuda Triangle of my purse.  I went looking for a pen I could scrounge and sure enough there was a pile of pens on the front table … thank you Random House.

The authors at the event

There was not the minutest detail that the organizers did not think off to make it a pleasurable experience for everyone attending.

So off I went, trying to be unobtrusive as possible, to get my books signed. Each and every one of the authors in attendance was generous with their time, more than happy to sign their books and answer any questions.  It could just be my impression but they seemed quite pleased to be there interacting with their readers.

Special thanks to the following authors who generously gave of their time to indulge me ...

Sally Christie - "The Sisters of Versailles"

Erin Bow - "The Scorpion Rules"
Kevin Sands - "The Blackthorn Key"

K.A. Tucker - "Chasing River"

Sadie Munroe - "All It Takes"

Much to my regret I somehow missed meeting Leah Bobet - "An Inheritance of Ashes" and Danielle Young-Ullman.

While all this mingling, talking, ooohing, aaaahing and signing was taking place there was a constant stream of (very handsome!) waiters strolling around with trays of hot, snack-sized portions of delicious food.  They offered Mac and Cheese, Bruschetta, Rice Balls, Chicken skewers and a number of other things that I was simply too full to sample.  Soft drinks, juices and such were free and a cash bar was available.

It did occur to me to wonder what the wait staff thought of all these people in the room going ga-ga over books.  But then, who cares?  They were probably jealous!

At three-thirty, as promised, they held the draw for the door prizes.
As I, along with everyone else anxiously gazed at the numbers on our tickets, I couldn’t have been more surprised when my number was called.  It took a second to for that “oh, that’s me” to register and then went up to claim my prize.  It was like icing on an already perfect cake, so thank you again to the organizers.

The books in my door prize bag
As things wound down, even more goodies and books were put out … overflow items that had not been picked up as people were coming in at the start.  The sheer volume of books available to people was overwhelming.  Everyone left with a treasure trove of new books to enjoy.

I said my thank-you’s and goodbyes and left to meet my daughter as we had planned.  I texted her as I was leaving to meet me at the nearby Starbucks, but she was about 15 minutes away from where I was ... what was I going to do while I was waiting for her to get there? Oh yeah ... LOL ... I had a few books to look at.
My Book "haul" - such an ugly word but how else to describe this bounty

When she arrived we had a coffee, had a close look at the books while she appropriately ooohed and aahhed as well, quickly requesting some for borrowing.  We did some more shopping – her this time not me – and then went to enjoy a great Mexican dinner.

All in all, a wonderful day.

I have to close with even more kudos to the ladies who put together this event.  I have organized corporate events and know the amount of planning and work that goes into successfully pulling off this kind of meeting.  These ladies outdid themselves and I truly feel privileged to have been able to attend.

I’m looking forward to next year!

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