So this year I bought my ticket to the INSPIRE Toronto International Book Fair (TIBF) and honestly had no idea what to expect. I knew there were going to be authors doing a panel. I knew which authors were going to be there. And I knew there was going to be an entire room in a convention centre full of books. That was enough to sell me.
I went the first two days with my best friends, and ended up meeting some cool bloggers throughout the weekend. The first day, my friends and I spent most of the afternoon browsing through all of the booths and enjoying the books. Eventually we made our way over to the “I Don’t Give a Damsel” panel, hosted by Elaine Lui who interviewed YA authors Gayle Forman, E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski and Meg Wolitzer about how to write strong female characters. That was a pretty great panel; I loved listening to them talk about feminism and how to make readable characters. Afterwards we made our way to the signing, where we all got an E. Lockhart book and got to meet her, which was exciting!
Day two was a little more hectic. Less looking at booths and more waiting in lines to meet people I really look up to. It was stressful, actually, standing in line and trying to figure out what to say to these authors who have heavily influenced me as a writer, or even me as a person. The first person I got to meet was astronaut and all-around badass, Chris Hadfield, who is such an inspiration to me just in his intelligence and the way he looks at life with such wonder.
(That’s not me, by the way. I just snapped a shot of Hadfield and another fan after I got my autograph!)
Afterwards, my friends headed out, and I went to the Margaret Atwood panel, which was a huge deal for me. I’ve been a fan ever since I read Handmaid’s Tale in my first year of university and realized just how far the genre of dystopia can go. I just knew I wanted to write like her, and talk about the things she talked about. Her panel was really interesting, and listening to her discuss some of her newer works made me wish I had picked up her new collection of tales as well. She is so witty, and hearing her mention that she was a fan of Edgar Allan Poe had me sold. When I finally got to meet her, I didn’t know what to say, but it was definitely a great moment.
Besides the fact that I got to meet some excellent authors and book bloggers (or vloggers), I mostly enjoyed my overall experience at the TIBF. There are just some things I specifically wanted to point out about the event, both on good and bad notes, for anyone who wants to go to the event next year, or if anyone who planned the event happens to be reading this blog.
People who were doing it right:
- Entangled Publishers. Their booth gave away like, 6 free books a day. I grabbed a handful both days and will be reviewing them throughout this blog as they get read. I paid money to get into this fair and it was really nice to see a booth that was willing to give away free (personally signed!) books. Thank you for that, Entangled!
- Random House of Canada: I’m pretty sure by now you guys know I review for Random House, so I’m pretty biased in saying this but their booth set up was not only gorgeous, but well organized and had four checkouts for quick purchase. They also organized the lineups for signings (I’m specifically talking about Chris Hadfield’s) really well. Way to keep things from getting too crazy!
Things that could have been better:
- Food. There were two or three food options, all fairly quirky and all very expensive. Not everyone wants to eat sushi or spend $10 on a salad. Or $20 on a crepe. It was pretty crazy. I starved myself most of the day to avoid the prices. And there were a LOT of children at this event who, I’m sure, did not want sushi. The event would have benefited from a pizza place or hot dogs. Something more generic and inexpensive.
- Photos at the Chris Hadfield signing. I have a bone to pick with whoever was standing at the front of the line, offering to take photos of you and Hadfield while he was signing your book. I can live with no posed photography; I understand it’s busy. But if you take my camera and say you’ll take a photo while he’s signing my book… take the photo. I got my camera back with no new photos on it. I could have taken a photo myself, or had a friend snap a quick one from the other side of the lineup. I was VERY angry when my turn was over and the guy who handed me back my camera did NOTHING with it. Everything was on auto and set to take pictures. I don’t know what the problem was. So that was really annoying.
Overall, I really liked being at the TIBF, and I will definitely go again next year. It offered wonderful deals and great experiences that I’ll never forget, and I’d be excited to see how they take the criticism from this year’s event and improve upon it for next year!
Were you at the TIBF? Which authors or panels did you see? What drew you there? How much free swag did you come home with?