By Rhona Whitty
Okay, I admit it – I did not want to get up early and go to the festival. I’m not a morning person at the best of time, but for pity’s sake, Sunday morning is for crawling back into bed with the newspapers, a nice cup of tea and a plate of warm apple turnovers! In fact, I think there’s a law about it.
Anyway, I was guilted into it by my dear friend and colleague, and our fearless leader for the day, Linda Epstein. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to be there by 9am to help set up our booth. So by 7:30, I was on my way to Brooklyn, my sunglasses glued to my face in case my brain should suddenly wake up and realize what was happening to it.
It was a bit nippy for mid-September; gusts of wind whipping around our corner booth making the day feel crisp, and almost Halloweeny. And it was very, very quiet. Like just before Hurricane Irene was due to hit and you couldn’t buy a bottle of water in the entire tri-state area, quiet. Hardly a car passed by on the main thoroughfare, and not only were people not speaking to the those who were manning adjacent booths, they weren’t even talking to one another! Cue the scary Twilight Zone music. I wasn’t surprised though. All the sane people were back home tucking into their second breakfasts.
More WNBA volunteers soon showed up, and before I knew what was happening, I was having a great time! Some were entirely new to me; others belonged to names I’d come across compiling the Member News section of our newsletter over the past couple of years. All were interesting, funny, enthusiastic, and refreshingly individual. (In some cases, downright crazy. But in a really good way.) And suddenly, as if they’d arranged it beforehand, the general public arrived en masse! Not only were they mildly curious about the Women’s National Book Association, they were picking our brains about the history of the organization, about National Reading Group Month, about our upcoming events. They were filling out membership forms, and RSVP-ing for programs they’d just heard of minutes before!
Yes, there were those passers-by who were only interested in our big bowl of candy, but most, nay, 97% (+/- 3%) were there because they really wanted more information. Self-published authors, editors, journalists, bloggers, publishers – every branch and twig of publishing came to say hello. They’d left behind their Sunday morning newspapers, coffee, bagels and pastries, because they love books. And we were delighted to talk to them, because we’ve been loving books since 1917!
There were many exciting readings and events that took place at the festival, but I didn’t go to any of them. I had a ramble around some of the stalls, and met the people behind some wonderful organizations, like those of Poets and Writers Magazine, and the not-so-mysterious, Mystery Writers of America! But honestly, I wanted to get back to our booth. It was early afternoon and I was already a full-blown addict.
It just goes to show you, doesn’t it? I set out that brisk Sunday morning, seeing myself as something of a martyr to friendship, but I ended the day thanking Linda for talking me into it! Am I a morning person now? Of course not. Will I be at our booth bright and early for next year’s book festival? You bet!
A big shout-out to the wonderful WNBA-ers who volunteered at our booth: Diedra Barker, Caroline Curran, Dina DiMaio, Karen Hildebrand, Lucine Kasbarian, Linda Mahkovec, and Annemarie Sutton.
Special thanks to two of Pace University’s brightest, for their stellar work that day: Hannah Bennett and Erica Misoshnik.
A few handy tips for your next outdoor event:
- Bring a bag of small rocks to put on top of anything that might blow away. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to find them in an emergency. Even in a park.
- Print triple the number of flyers/forms/hand-outs you think you might need, because you’re guaranteed to underestimate. You can’t begin to imagine how hard it is to find an open Kinko’s on a Sunday morning.
- Bring candy, and plenty of it! We lived on the stuff for most of the day which might account for some of the party atmosphere around our booth. (For quantity guidelines, see #2.)
- Pack a big lunch. (And throw in thermoses of tea and coffee if you want to make friends and influence people.)
- Plan a three-hour workout for the following day. (See #3.)