From August 21 to 25, I was plunged into the midst of Brantford's 3rd annual children's Book Camp and also our first annual adult Book Camp. By Friday, I was exhausted -- in a good way. The week was an outstanding success. Our best Book Camp yet.
Instead of resting after such a busy week, on August 26th, I signed at the Bloor West Festival. I was honoured that the Festival featured Kobzar's Children. It seemed that every 15 minutes or, the announcers broadcast the fact that Kobzar's Children had a booth and that I was there as well as Natalia Buchok, one of the anthology contributors.
Natalia and I decided to get there together. We wanted to arrive at about noon, so I drove to Natalia's Oakville apartment, arriving at 11am and from there we drove to the Kipling subway station. We figured there was no point in driving into Toronto, seeing as the parade was from 11am til noon and roads would be closed. Natalia brought some books with her -- 35 to be exact -- because the organizers only had about 100 copies and we were afraid of running out. Natalia fit her 35 copies into a rolling suitcase.
When you travel with a rolling suitcase, you find out all sorts of things about the public transit system. Like where the elevators are (and that there are elevators) and that it's impossible to roll a suitcase through the subway turnstiles.
So we got there. Our booth was supposed to be at the corner of Bloor and Glendowynne Streets. We got there just before noon. We saw a booth, but it was abandoned. We also noticed that the Festival stopped at Kennedy -- a full block east of where we were supposed to be.
So, with rolling suitcase in hand, we fought our way through the crowds, looking for someone (anyone!) identified as a Festival volunteer. We got to almost what we thought was the end of the festival before finally landing upon the Festival volunteer booth. There we met Natalia Wilson, volunteer extraordinaire. She explained to us that she was not happy with the placement of our booth and was waiting for a new booth location. No sooner had I used the portapotty and Natalia had purchased a plate of perogies than Natalia W and another volunteer led us down the street to the new location. I felt sorry for the other volunteer. He had a cart filled with boxes of books (and also Natalia B's rolling luggage) and he had to maneuvre it through dense crowds and heaving sidewalks. He valiantly pushed forward until Natalia Wilson found the ideal spot -- at Durie and Bloor, immediately to the east of the children's midway and close to the centre of the whole festival!
I stood there with the boxes and Natalia B's suitcase (Natalia was still struggling down the street, perogies in hand) while Natalia W went to find a table and accoutrements for our booth. In the meantime, I stood there with the boxes, feeling like a street hawker. I did get some interesting stares, so I took out one copy of Kobzar's Children and held it in front of me, smiling like an idiot.
Once the table arrived, in a flash, Natalia W got the tablecloth on, the display up and books spread. Within moments, clusters of people arrived. We had a steady cluster til after 4. In fact, neither Natalia B nor I even got a chance to sit down for the whole four hours because it was so busy!
In the midst of our signings, Melanie Melnyk fetched us to be interviewed at the CFRB booth with Ted Woloshyn. What a lovely man! Natalia B had never done live radio before and he put her immediately at ease. He asked intelligent and perceptive questions about the anthology and commented on the fact that such a collection was needed. And then Natalia had an opportunity to talk about her story contribution, based on her father's experience in a DP camp after World War II.
Natalia's story is fabulous. It's called A Bar Of Chocolate and is about a Ukrainian teen in a DP camp who dresses as a girl and goes on a date with an American soldier in order to get some chocolate. Not only is the story true, but it's hilarious.
Many people came to our booth and many had already read Kobzar's Children. Those people had lots of enthusiastic good things to say about the collection. This was Natalia's first signing experience, so I was glad that it was such a positive one. We also sold every book in Natalia's suitcase and almost all of the others on hand.
One problem we had was that both Natalia and I wanted to sign our names plus "Enjoy!" so we had a bit of a contest to see who could grab the book and sign first. Whoever got it second signed "best wishes".
On the Sunday, Connie Bilinsky and Sonja Dunn signed. I heard that their signing was also very well received.