Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Top 10 memorable moments, Festival of Trees 2012

Aryan's lovely painting, delivered by hand

Awesome fan-made pin handed to me by
security guard as I left the stage
Ahh. My fifteen minutes are over. The Festival of Trees 2012 (May 16-17) was a fantastic experience for me. Thank you once again, Ontario Library Association, I loved every minute. Here are my top 10 favourite moments from the two days in which I was a Silver Birch Express rock star, in chronological order:
1. The Party Before the Storm: meeting Natalie Hyde, Rebecca Upjohn, Ian Wallace, Cary Fagan, Susan Hughes,
Jan Andrews, Jill Maclean, Patrick Bowman, Monica Kulling, Alan Silberberg,
Anna Kerz, Don Gillmor and anyone else I've missed, the night before the Festival begins. Camaraderie ensues.
2. The First Surprise: having a FULL house at my presentation at Harbourfront on the morning of May 16. We were told we could have anywhere between 10-80 attendees, so to prepare for anything. I was signing books, because we had about 6 kids, then looked up and two busloads of excited children walked in. Eventually we had @160 kids, standing room only. Glorious!
3. The Second Surprise: getting whisked off to my autograph signing at 11:15 and finding a line up so long that I couldn't see the table. I signed books and Festival pamphlets for an hour, it was so much fun to meet so many kids. We had to turn kids away when my time ran out, but I think (hope) most of them found me later.
A special moment with a fan
4. Aryan's painting. During my autograph session, a boy named Aryan brought me his lovely painting (top) of a gargoyle in the trees. We were both so overcome, I could only say thank you Aryan, it's beautiful. It really is.
5. The Main Event: walking on stage at Harbourfront is an experience that everyone should enjoy once in life, as a writer or not. It's just phenomenal to be greeted by almost 2,000 cheering children. I will never forget it. I threw up my arms in surprise and delight. Thank you Emmett Upjohn for my favourite photo of the entire two days: the slightly crazed rock star moment, below.
Arms thrown wide in surprise and delight,
walking onstage at Harbourfront
Photo courtesy Emmett Upjohn

6. A Moment with Ian Wallace: As the little girl introducing me was finishing (thank you Paige) and it was my turn to speak, Ian Wallace, the illustrator for Gordon Lightfoot's book, leaned over and whispered encouragement in his deep baritone. I felt so elated, I just wish I could remember exactly what he said!
7. Speaking Gargoyle to the Crowd: my gargoyle puppet said a few words on stage in Gargoyle. He insisted. I'm glad he did.
8. The Pin: as we were all leaving the stage, a security guard rushed up to me and handed me a pin that a fan made: I HEART the Gargoyle Overhead by Philippa Dowding. Sweet! I wore it everywhere the rest of the day and in Ottawa.
9. The Flight to Ottawa, May 17: I'm not much on flying. But I agreed to go to Ottawa for the inaugural Festival of Trees Tour. I'm so glad I did! I will never forget bumping into Natalie Hyde and Anna Kerz at the ferry terminal at 6:30 a.m., then laughing all the way through the flight. We laughed and supported each other all day too. Meeting the other authors and making friends, was a huge part of the experience for me. Which leads me to my final point...

Gargoth sitting quietly on my lap
at Harbourfront
Photo courtesy Emmett Upjohn
10. Meeting Susin Nielsen. You know how no matter how good you get at something, there is always someone who is better at it than you? I sat beside Susin Neilsen (Word Nerd and Dear George Clooney, please marry my mom) at the Ottawa celebration, and felt so honoured to be on stage with her. I told her that Word Nerd made me cry. At the lovely reception later at Ottawa City hall, we discovered that we both like strange statues.

So there they are, my top 10 moments from the Festival of Trees, an honour and a privilege I will never forget.

There are a few other favourite moments too, like the boy who spoke gargoyle to me in Ottawa and the boy with the severe speech impediment in Toronto who told me how much he loved my book.

I also got a great question that no one has ever asked before at my presentation in Toronto: if you could be any magical creature, what would it be? (a gargoyle first, then a unicorn) And I will never forget the young girl in Ottawa who did a phenomenal 4-turn pirouette! I reassured her that it looked NOTHING like a gargoyle doing a pirouette. Listening to Simon Awa (Uumajut) speak Iqualuit to the hushed crowd in Ottawa was also a very cool moment, since I've never heard the language spoken live before.

But really, everyone I met over the two days made a huge impression on me, the children, the authors and the hardworking, dedicated OLA staff and volunteers. My heartfelt thanks to everyone for making the experience so special.

PD/May 29/2012

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