Book Camp Toronto 2011 Recap
I’m home and exhausted from my latest work trip to South Carolina. Last Sunday I drove up to North Carolina to meet with Lauren and we went to Biltmore, and again on Tuesday I went up and we had dinner together. On Wednesday I got to hang out in Spartanburg (my base when I’m in SC) with Kathy of BermudaOnion and Erin from Hub City Books, where I know I will spend too much money on future trips to the area! They both also convinced me that I need to register for the SIBA Tradeshow in Charleston, as I will be in the area for work that week… so I did! If you will be attending do let me know. Oh, and I also worked about 65 hours in 5 days.
Needless to say I’m a bit over-tired, but that didn’t stop me from attending BookCampTO yesterday! (Though I do admit to being a few minutes late, unfortunately.) While I seriously considered staying in bed and catching up on sleep I am very glad that I went. There is nothing better, as a book lover, than spending time with others who share your passion and enthusiasm and talking about books. I may have not made sense any time I participated (sorry if I rambled!), dropped things constantly all day, put an open water bottle in my bag, etc, but overall I stayed awake and enjoyed myself so I call that a success!
The website reads:
BookCamp is a unconference – a conversation instead of a keynote. That means all attendees are potential presenters and expected participants at the event. All points of view, backgrounds, and levels of experience are welcome. That also means all participants are responsible for themselves. While there is a certain amount of mob rule at a BookCamp, attendees are encouraged to vote with their feet, clean up after themselves, and speak-up when they encounter something they don’t like — in other words attendees are generally encouraged to act like adults.
The event definitely followed the description above! During each time slot there were four to five session options with a number of panelists on each session. The panelists were more like moderators starting the discussion and leading the conversations. And oh, the conversations! I am writing this recap after only partially catching up on sleep so again, my apologies for the fact that I may ramble and may not make sense
I started off with the session on Genre. I missed the beginning as I was a bit late but the agenda online lists the presenters as Blake Sproule, Sandra Kasturi, Jack David, Monica Kuebler, and Melissa Anthony – I would note that one great improvement for following years would be to link to presenters websites or twitter feeds? During the session there was a lot of discussion of CanLit, of genre in Canada vs the US, hardcore fans, and more. It was interesting to listen to.
Next up, after running into Trish from Anansi and meeting Steph, I went to the session on Booksellers. This session was led by Stephanie Van der Meulen and Mark Lefebvre and the room was full of publishers and booksellers. The discussion centered a lot around helping customers, what publishers can do to help, and more. I found it interesting listening to the discussion even though it’s not so related to me – other than how often I buy books either directly from publishers or from bookstores!
The third session I attended was on the topic of Social Media and was led by Ron Nurwisah and Ben Dugas. This session started more panel-like with Ben discussing social media and how he sees it being used… until he made a comment about social media bringing news TO him rather than going to find it, at which point the room erupted. It was a really interesting discussion about the benefits of social media and the various ways in which it is used.
On Ben’s point I, of course, have a lot to say! I think the danger of the internet is that we can create increasingly small bubbles where we live and where we are subjected to information loops of the same or very similar information and we lose out on what is happening in the rest of the world. I think the message that this is an acceptable way to use the internet is a dangerous one, and the actual practice is also dangerous.
That being said, if you cultivate your circles to be large and diverse and search out mediums to find diverse offerings, then this practice for finding things is great. For example, I find out about great African lit from African book bloggers. I follow news sites from various African countries, as well as blogs that dissect the news from those sites. In this way I am not searching for news, it is coming to me, but I am being careful to keep my circles wide enough to get this news. So I agree with what Ben says, I just think that we have to be very (VERY) careful that we keep the range wide and varied.
The next session was on Bloggers which is, of course, quite related to the topic of social media and was the session I was most looking forward to. Leading the session were Steven Beattie, August Bourre, George Murray, Bronwyn Kienapple. The session started with the predictable talk about the demise of literary blogging (because you know, only reviewers who also review for trade publication seem to ‘count’ in these discussions often – not that I’m necessarily a literary blogger, but I definitely think there is a huge demographic that is always discounted who are literary). The discussion also covered how genre blogging is bigger now than literary blogging (partially true, I think it depends where you look) and how people don’t read blogs as much (tell that to my Google Reader please!).
Luckily this session turned from the usual and actually included the rest of us ‘regular’ bloggers. There was discussion of author blog tours, the importance of consistency, the importance of voice, the importance of quality, and more. I, of course, spoke up probably a bit too much but really enjoyed the discussion and debate. And I can’t help but plug, again, the Toronto Area Book Bloggers facebook group – join us if you want to connect!!
The last session I attended was on Women in Publishing which was led by Crissy Boylan, Julia Horel O’Brien and Margie Wolfe. This was really interesting and the discussion focused a lot on the pyramid and why men end up with the higher paying top jobs. A few people talked about if it is women’s fault and there was a discussion of culture and its impacts and how women shouldn’t blame themselves for cultural things. There was also discussion about business degrees and how publishing is not the industry to get into if you want to make money.
Definitely had a great time and met some fantastic people. I love living in a city that has such a great literary scene! I do have some thoughts on diversity and equity in publishing but this is getting a tad long so I will save those for tomorrow. If you went, what did you enjoy most?