Fun at New Faces of Fiction 2007

So a few weeks ago I entered a contest. A week later I found out that I was a winner. Woohoo! Yay me! I had refrained from mentioning it here because I wasn't sure I was able to find someone to be my friend for the night and had that happened I was going to open it up to the book bloggers of Toronto and let you all engage in a Celebrity Deathmatch to see who would get to go with me. But alas (for you although certainly not for me), my friend Nikki skipped out on hockey to join me which is nice because Nikki and I always say that we will do things and well...that's as far as we get.

So tonight, courtesy of Booklounge.ca and Indigo/Chapters (I was a booklounge winner) Nikki and I found ourselves at the Gladstone Hotel drinking wine and soaking the literary atmosphere for the New Faces of Fiction 2007 (ok, "technically" the website says "new face" but there are two of them this year). Little did either of the sponsors know that they had a blogger in their midst. *insert maniacal laughter* (Perhaps a good time to mention that today was not a good work day as things exploded before my coffee finished brewing this morning (y'all know I work at home right?) and I was able to totally de-stress and have fun and drink wine at this event (not to mention being around Real! Live! People!) and as such I'm feeling positively giddy.)

Right back to the events.

I arrived early. Something you should all know in case any of you ever meet me is that I. am. always. early. I can't help it. I hate being late with a passion and if I'm running late the TTC always conspires to make me very late. So while I had planned to meet my friend at 7:15 I was there at 7. I told her I'd meet her in the lobby. I lied. She called me from the lobby and I was in the bar drinking a lovely and strong whiskey sour (in case you all were wondering my favourite men include Johnnie, Jack and Jose - tonight I had a little one-on-one time with Jack).

Right books! I'm supposed to be talking about books and bookish people.

So after Nikki arrived we wandered into the ballroom. After giving them my invitation I was given a goody bag. Yay goodie bags. I love me some swag. In it was a very lovely red journal. How did they know that red is my favourite colour? And the silver edged pages? Very snazzy. This journal will take a seat of honour on my shelf where it will mock me because I have no writing ideas that are sufficient to put on paper and unmarked journals frighten me because I have the penmanship of a sociopath and I feel like I'm desecrating a holy shrine whenever I dare take pen to paper. Seriously it's a very nice journal that I'm sure I will find a use for some day (perhaps after I take a calligraphy class). Also in the swag bag was a pen, a magnetic bookmark (I *love* those!), some bookmarks, some promotional pamphlets and holy crackers! There's a CD! I really honestly didn't look in the swag bag too much while I was there and actually added it to my coat check. I got the new Jann Arden CD. Cool! (huh! Two Canadian music references on this blog this week - how unusual!)

So I guess by now you're probably wondering about, oh I don't know...the authors. I swear I'm getting there. Didn't you read that it was a horrible day at work and I'm de-stressed and happy? Let me run with that. It doesn't happen that often. In fact, were I not writing here I'd probably be dancing around my apartment in my underwear. That's how good of a mood I'm in. (Was that TMI???)

Shortly after entering the ballroom, while I was checking the coats and the swag bag, Nikki got us some wine (white so we wouldn't have the red wine mouth thing going on). We chatted for a bit and then hit the snacks. I behaved myself and did not stand by the table and graze as I'm apt to do at house parties. After deciding we needed more hands in order to properly juggle wine, crackers and cheese we hit a table not really realizing it was right by the stage. We saw empty table. We went. About halfway through our cheese and crackers the authors showed up. Which was exciting because do you know who one of them was? I'll give you a hint...it was last year's New Face of Fiction... That's right. Ami McKay! Some of you may remember that I met Ami back in October. She was surprised to see me (understandably) but happy surprised. (I'm sneaky like that - I show up in unexpected places). So we hugged and chatted and she introduced me to Jen Sookfong Lee (check out the "Thoughts" section of her website - it's blogesque). She didn't get a chance to introduce me to Neil Smith because he was being accosted by ladies in the general crowd (just kidding, he looked as though he was talking to other people he actually knew but he is a rather good looking fellow so you know, either is believable and if he has a website I cannot locate it which is fair as there are a number of Neil Smiths out there).

Right so the event starts with someone from Random House (or where they specifically Knopf?) drawing for some prizes (which I didn't win but hey, I was there, that was good enough for me). And then Ami was introduced and after thanking everyone for her year as the New Face of Fiction she introduced Jen Sookfong Lee.

Jen Sookfong Lee reminded me very much of a friend of a friend. Except the friend of a friend doesn't write...at least not to my knowledge. But anyway, there was something familiar about her. Her book is The End of East. I haven't read it (yet) but I think I plan to like it. She was describing her character and was talking about young women and how we relate to our bodies and how some of us (*cough*) have a tendency to date that guy at the back of the class. You know the one I mean - the one that is "bad", smokes, and "will speak in monosyllables but only after you poke him". I had to physically restrain myself from raising my hand as she was talking because if there was an encyclopedia on me that would be every boyfriend in my late teens early twenties. And since I had inadvertently placed myself in the front row it would have been rather conspicuous if I had raised my hand. I showed great restraint don't ya think? I also had a private chuckle because somewhere in the midst of introducing her book she mentioned that Vancouver had been the burlesque capital of Canada in like the 50s or something. This is amusing because almost a year ago I was at the Gladstone in that very ballroom watching the Shameless Dames save the world with doobies and boobies on that very stage. On a more serious note, the selection she chose to read was very enticing I do believe that I will like her novel and I am looking forward to reading it (although at this rate it may not be until summer).

Then Ami was back on stage introducing Neil Smith. He wrote one of those things I struggle with - a collection of short stories. His collection is Bang, Crunch. In case some of you have seen the Montreal Mirror article which states that Smith wished he had signed with a smaller press instead of Knopf he was joking and didn't mean it in that context. As a new writer it's intimidating to get a lot of attention suddenly (or so I've been told, wouldn't know myself never having written a novel or collection of short stories) and he was joking that had he gone with a smaller press he wouldn't have to deal with it. It was meant at a tongue-in-cheek remark and it wasn't at all serious. Smith said tonight that Knopf is very knice. Ami described Bang, Crunch (and I believe I'm getting this right as I'm going off memory) as visceral and masculine but also whimsical and humorous. I think the selection he chose to write was very indicative of that. It was about Larry. Larry is a the severed foot of an astronaut who finds himself (itself?) in a backyard in Florida. It was read with a proper American accent and was quite amusing.

Following the reading there was the standard rush to the book tables. Seeing as I already have bought, oh I don't know, at last four copies of Ami's book for various people I did not buy hers but picked up copies of both Lee's and Smith's. Nikki however picked up a copy of The Birth House. As we were stealing a different table so that I could plunk stuff into my bag we got into a conversation with an unnamed woman (because I suck and forgot to ask her for her name) about the books. She's started Bang Crunch and said it's really good. And then there was the waiting in line to get books signed thing. First Lee. Then Ami. After chatting with Ami for a minute she pointed out her husband and then said I had to go introduce myself as "sassymonkey". Which I did. He is very nice. If I remember correctly (although this is from way back in October so I could be wrong) but I believe that he has quite a bit to do with Ami's website design so everyone wave at him and tell him what a great job he did with Ami's websites. *waves at Ian* Then after that he went off to find out from Ami the name at a Chicago restaurant that I must eat at (it turns out I need an email from her with directions...apparently there are rules about how to eat there) and I got in line for Neil Smith. After a few minutes I had my book signed and I was quite amused. For the record Neil I did fall in love with Larry tonight - every girl need a good foot in her life. It goes back to that shoe thing that women have.

Then after a mini photo shoot and making a bet with Ami (should be settled within a week - I bet her someone she's going to meet this week wouldn't know who I was if she mentioned me - I'll let you know who wins) it was time to go wait for my chariot streetcar to take me home. Which it promptly did.

All in all an excellent night. Thanks again Booklounge.ca!

Technorati tags: New Faces of Fiction, Booklounge.ca, Chapters, Random House, Ami McKay, The Birth House, Jen Sookfong Lee, The End of East, Neil Smith, Bang Crunch