There is nothing quite like losing your phone on the cusp of a busy weekend. I went into gritLIT: Hamilton’s Readers and Writers Festival as a phone-less member of the marketing committee – go figure.
Admittedly, I was not quite without a phone; I managed to borrow one for the festival. I don’t think I would have been able to contribute to the social media marketing or connect with the authors I met in quite the same way without one.
I’m happy it happened. Being disoriented about my phone made me a little fearless and also gave me an excuse to unplug from my other responsibilities (my emails, for instance, were at 200+ by the time I logged onto my poor desktop computer that Sunday evening).
And so, I headed to the festival, borrowed phone in hand, ready to fully commit to my role as a marketing committee member and #HamOnt book nerd. The festival did not disappoint. Here were some of my highlights, disappointments, and laughs in between.
- So many quotes
What happens when you get a room full of writers? Countless quotable moments. My top five favourites from the festival:
- “Write the book that you want to read,” Rebecca Rosenblu
- “I’m not a writer by choice, but by necessity,” Bev Sellers
- “A book is not finished until a reader opens it,” Kerry Clare
- “Reading makes the work real,” Merilyn Simonds
- “I always had a respect for writers, but now I am in awe of them,” Denise Donlon
- So many regrets
I had to miss opening night, which meant I missed out on Iain Reid’s panel and post-panel chats. Now what am I supposed to do about the ending to that novel? (It’s a “you had to read it” thing, so if you haven’t read I’m Thinking of Ending Things, read it now. Really. It’s great.)
- Wine and Cheese Chats
The best part about volunteering as a committee member was hanging out in the hospitality suite, a haven we put together for authors to relax and recharge. As someone who worked the hospitality suite almost every evening, I got to speak one-on-one with this year’s authors and learn more about their writing process over wine and cheese. Learning from the pros is a pretty big perk of the gritLIT gig and I’m happy I got the chance to do so this year. A big thank you to Merilyn Simonds and Wayne Grady in particular for being especially insightful and kind – your advice meant a great deal.
- The Amazing Ann Y. K. Choi
I know we’re not supposed to pick favourites, but anyone who met Ann Y. K. Choi will understand why I’ve singled her out here: she is the most joyful, humble, kindest, best kind of human out there, which just made me want to pick up my own copy of her novel. I mean, she took notes about the other author during her own panel and was just so happy to be part of the festival – it doesn’t get better than that.
- gritLIT regulars
We had a lot of regulars attend, including our authors. (Jamie, if you’re reading this, it was a real pleasure!) Seeing regulars come out to the festival and actually commit to the full day just affirms why we do what we do.
- Cheesecake with Denise Donlon
In addition to author chats in the hospitality suite, I got the chance to join the authors for dinner on the Saturday, which included wine and cheesecake with Denise Donlon. Yes, she was as cool as you’d imagine and I was as uncool as ever. I don’t care. The woman is a legend and I’m happy I got the chance to meet her!
- Power Naps at the Art Gallery
You need to understand, we were on our feet and running around all weekend, past midnight and some nights even past 2:00 a.m. Crashing was inevitable. Let’s just say one or two of us took turns napping in the concealed corner of the Art Gallery. Trust me, power napping was the best decision I made that weekend.
- Drafts and Drafts
We introduced a new event at the festival this year called Drafts and Drafts, an event where authors read drafts of their work over drafts at the bar. Drafts and Drafts was held at Mills Hardware and featured many talented writers, including my graduate school friend and local poet, Shane Neilson. What made this event so great was that it was more informal and intimate than the others – the space was smaller, the work was less polished, and everyone was there to just motivate and learn from one another. We got to see a different side of the authors and I was really happy to be part of it.
- gritLIT Team Tacos and Feels
After a year of planning, it felt great to celebrate the work of the gritLIT team. I have so much respect for everyone who helped put the festival together. You guys are the best.
- The slow and steady decline
Even though I lost my phone, I managed to borrow one for the weekend, partly because I didn’t want to forget a single moment. As you can see from my Instagram stories, my energy level went through a slow and steady decline.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for this year’s festival. It was a great year. Can’t wait for the next one!