Friday, April 20, 2012

Arthur Ellis Shortlist Event / Shrier Family Reunion

I started planning this event back in March - an almost last minute thing, in the way that AE shortlist events go.  It was the first time I went completely solo, too, at least during the planning and organizational phases.

The goal of the night:  to read the shortlisted nominees for the Arthur Ellis Awards, and to host Howard Shrier as he read from three of his current books.

In terms of turnout, it didn't have quite the penetration rate I was hoping for - but the family of one Mr. Howard Shrier is a dedicated bunch, and they turned out in force.  In fact, not only did Howard's mother and father come out to the event, but even his grandmother braved four flights of stairs, and she's turning 101 years old in a couple of days!

We had a lot of food there, too, and all sorts of drink.  I managed to pick up a couple of boxes of coffee before the event too, and my half-exhausted, half-delirious smile managed to charm a free cup of coffee and a 15% discount out of the manager.  Of course, drinking a medium java from Second Cup in under three minutes, not so good for the already-frazzled nerves, but I'm not one to turn down free coffee. 

In fact, there was so much food that I had to tackle those same four flights of stairs, what, five times?  Stairs:  those are good for the nerves.  Jogging up and down all those stairs, especially loaded down with boxes and bags, they're great for burning off nervous energy.

And yeah, I went a little overboard with the goodies.  Listen, when somebody declines an invitation to an event in Toronto - and flies in that day from Boston by way of Toronto - you go all out.

In terms of how the event went:  there was the original plan, there was plan B (cooked up about four hours before the event), and then, five minutes into the event, the plan went completely out the window.  We did a better job off the cuff anyhow.  And funny enough, I had a lot of people approach me after the event, complimenting me on how well organized it was!  I laughed a lot on the inside.

But there's one thing I will say:  I saw Howard Shrier in Toronto as he read from his latest book, Boston Cream, and I was impressed by his composure.  But this time, watching him read from all three of his books, I was really impressed by his ability to read so fluidly, rarely referring to his own books or notes, as if he had memorized whole pages and rehearsed night after night in front of a mirror.  And when he spoke of the research he had done in the past, and the research he's doing this weekend while he's home in Montreal, he spoke with an enthusiasm and passion that was contagious.

He wasn't on the list this year, but that's only because of a matter of timing.  Boston Cream came out this year, not in 2011, so he didn't qualify for this year.

Nancy Kilpatrick was there.  That darling sweetheart of an angel asked me yesterday morning if she could help in anyway, and boy, did she.  She helped me arrange all the food and drink, and she acted as a semi-co-hostess and everything!  I showed her my shaking hand, and she laughed at me, which, ironically, helped to settle me down.  Considering she's been a past guest of Nine Day Wonder and of Fusion Fiction (a mixed-genre event from a couple of years ago), I'm really indebted to her.

Michael Lorenson was there, too - and he played the part of Vanna White when I introduced the raffle.  He won a copy of Boston Cream - and three or four more of his tickets were drawn after that, but we only let him win once. 

Christopher Huang - a former NaNoWriMo participant and a current FB friend - was also there, and he helped me "fix" the microphone by actually reading the instructions taped to the top of the speaker and clicking the "ON" button for me.  I have no brain when I'm under duress.  I've got to fix that.

Michael Blair was in the audience. - he's been a previous guest of mine in events past, and we've had a few chats here or there too.  During my initial spiel, he corrected me about the origins of Arthur Ellis - it was the pseudonym of the last hangman in Canada, not the first.  And that was a ridiculous error to make on my part, considering I'm the one who wrote the Wikipedia article on the Crime Writers of Canada!

Speaking of which, that went over better than expected!  We raised about $135 for the YMCA literacy programs - so all those funds are going directly into the donations I'll bring up to Muskoka in July.

Through the raffle, we gave away sold several copies of Howard's books.  Howard also "donated" a character in his next book, Miss Montreal.  Unfortunately, I missed the winner's full name, but I believe his first name is Hendry.  So congratulations to him.  Howard also "donated" a five page critique - the lucky winner submits the first 5 pages of a work in progress, and he critiques it.  And funny enough, it was Howard's father who won!

Judith Warne from Libraire Clio and her husband (who I've met at least twice before and still I can't remember his name) - they were there, and they sold a full box of books, so they declared the event a success.  Considering how many members of the audience already had a copy (or two), that's really saying something.

After the event, Michael Blair approached me and said, "You did a great job, but if I could offer you one piece of advice..."

I laughed and asked, "Introduce myself?"  It was about half way through the event when I'd realized I had introduced the Crime Writers of Canada, the Arthur Ellis Awards, the raffle, the agenda and my guest star, but that no one in the office except my Facebook friends knew who I was!

Michael Blair laughed and said, "Well, that, and next time, print off the Arthur Ellis shortlist."

Before I'd left home, I'd written a two page list of things I had to bring, up to and including a change of clothes "just in case" (ask Tracey Webster or Mady Virgona about my recurring wardrobe failures).  I'd printed off the agenda, all the stuff I had to say about AE and the CWC, everything except for the Arthur Ellis awards.  Gah.  The one thing I had to print and actually read off, and I'd forgotten to print it.

Fortunately, a netbook and a handy USB modem saved the day, but it's really tricky to read a list of names from a screen that's only six inches tall.

Otherwise, no lights went out in the middle of our wrap-up, no fire alarms went off, and no one choked on the cookies.  I still wish more people had come out, but at least there were more people than raffle prizes.  I think there were about forty people, maybe?  I went home with fewer bags and boxes of food than I'd arrived with, and people seemed to enjoy themselves throughout.

So, all in all, I think it was a success. 

But I'm telling you: next year, I'm getting someone else to help me with the planning and organization. Doing it single-handedly, especially in a month like this one, especially when I'm working full-time, it's bloody exhausting!  Fun, but exhausting.


  1. It's true, introduce yourself next time. All evening long I was wondering who the heck you were!