I've spent most of the last week at home with a sore throat, a bad cough and a stuffy head, but I have been looking forward to Reading Matters for months - and paid $$$, as I was never sure that my school would pay. I was going. My doctor said on Tuesday that every conference has at least one irritating person who is spreading their germs and I shouldn't be that person. I understood, but I was going. I took great care to sit on the end of the row and turn my head to cough into my tissues. I didn't touch anyone and I was careful not to touch the food on the tables except with a fork. That's all I could do.
So, on to the conference itself. We arrived on Friday morning, picked up our badges and a goody bag with actual goodies in it! The last couple of times the goody bags were mostly filled with advertising materials, which I dumped. We even got a USB stick which was filled with advertising and I don't think you could delete the files. Useless! We got a USB stick this time too, but I believe that among whatever advertising stuff is in it(haven't checked it yet)is our certificate for VIT to say we did the 16 hours of PD time.
But this time there were five books - five! One was the newest Vikki Wakefield novel, which I had better read, as it's likely to turn up on next year's CBCA shortlist. There was a Volume 2 fantasy novel, a verse novel and - oh, yes, one by one of the GoHs, I do hope they get royałties on it. I mean, that's about five hundred copies. Mind you, Will Kostakis's book The First Third, was handed out in uncorrected proof form, at another RM and he's done fine since then, and the novel has had some shortlistihgs.
There was a book of sample chapters, but I left that behind. I prefer to read the whole thing. And five full length books had been provided, more than enough to keep me happy.
Now, before I talk about the con itself I will just make a few suggestions for next time, for the con committee.
1. Consider videoing the panels and projecting them on to the screen which, this time, was used only for showing the book covers of the panellists except for a couple of GoH speeches when the speakers showed slides that went with their talks. The auditorium was long and the dais was in the middle. If you were sitting at the side or the back, you didn't have much chance of seeing the speakers. I chose to sit on the side, for reasons mentioned above and so that I could slip out if I had to. I couldn't see much beyond the occasional nose or head of hair. So I just listened.
2. Take an example from SF conventions and give a wind-up signal. The first day was going way over time, though they did manage to get the over-time down by the end of the day. The second day there was timing, which didn't stop the final presenter before the closing ceremony from going fifteen minutes over her allocated time - did they allow it or did she just ignore the windup signal? And the closing ceremony included a wonderful presentation by the convention artist, who had been taking "notes" in the form of colourful cartoons for two days. I would have hated to miss that, and some people might have had to, with transport issues or waiting family.
3. This is probably just personal, but think about it anyway. Reading Matters is basically a writers' festival, though admittedly the attendees are mainly librarians. If I want advice on how to run my library I can go to a SLAV conference. That's what they're for. SLAV used to have a book-based conference at the end of each year, but no more. So I really look forward to Reading Matters, which is only once every two years. I would really like it if next time they could scrap those presentations and slip in a couple more book panels - OR - preferably - see below...
4. Leave room in each panel or presentation for about ten minutes of Q and A. That was missing from this year's event, I'm not sure why. If strict timing is observed next time, then they will have room. Obviously, this time, that first day was already running late. But when you've come a long way and spent a lot of money to hear favourite authors, you do want the chance to ask a question or two!
Here are a few things that worked well for me. The catering was good, the catering staff pleasant. The tea was help-yourself while there were two coffee carts making lattes, cappuccinos, etc. That's a good way to do it. There were cold water urns in the auditorium, as well as the foyer, and proper glasses rather than paper cups. Nice!
The autograph sessions were well organised, over two rooms. Mind you, I only got one book signed, and that was because I had donated my copy to the school library, from which it was borrowed and not returned. I owed myself a signed copy!
The book stall was there for most of the con, which meant that after the first session, when you couldn't get near the books let alone the booksellers, there was plenty of time to have a browse.
I will continue with the actual panels in my next post, hopefully tomorrow. There were some good speakers, and IMO the best panels were those on speculative fiction. Of course, I'm biased, but others said the same. There are reasons for that, which I'll discuss in my next post.
By the way, one of the quirkier bits of the con was Adele Walsh, the head honcho, asking the audience who had written fan fiction. When many hands shot up, she invited us to tweet links to our stories. I thought all of mine were in print, not on line, but suddenly recalled that two of my old Trek stories were up on a web site called 1001 Trek Tales. So I did put up a link, but if anyone else did I have no idea. And I don't really want to wade through all those #YAmatters tweets to find out! Let me know if you're interested and I'll put up my link on this site. There are only two, because the lady published what she already had in her old zine collection. I did give my permission, of course. But you're welcome to read them.
Anyway, good night till my next post!