The Random House Blogger Fest: February 11, 2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

I’m a writer. I’m an editor. I’m a book-crazy person. I have mine in every room of my house. I have them on bookshelves and on my floor. Even in my kitchen. I’m also a very opinionated person. I like my opinions. I agree with them. They are mine. They belong to me. And I read a lot. As often as I can. And I’m not afraid to type, nor am I afraid of technology or the super-boom of social media, which led me to begin my own blog.

Blogs are everywhere (okay, not everywhere, but spread out enough on the Web to get some hits of curiosity and sometimes some applause.) A comment or two might even make you smile. I don’t know. I don’t have a large “following.” I’m no Blog Leader in the Blogging World. But I love to read, to share my very opinionated opinions, and to type exceptionally fast on my computer. It feels a lot more productive than talking to myself or trying to evangelize non-readers to join a book club.

My blogging adventure began in December 2011 when I was still asking the question, “What the heck is a widget?” And what’s this about “picking up buttons?” Huh? Okay, so I’m not a professional. But I was willing to start from scratch, which is how I suspect most bloggers do it. Or did it. And are continuing to do it.

And then I became an online contest junkie. I won my first giveaway book. When it arrived in the mail and my book was beautifully wrapped in a Jiffy envelope with its publisher’s mailing address on the left-hand corner, I was smitten. Yes, smitten!

I read. I reviewed. I followed other bloggers to see “what was out there,” what the literary community might be buzzing about, and also to figure out blogging etiquette, and if I could finally find the answer to what a widget was. I didn’t even know what an “ARC” was. I had to Google that to find out:

 ARC: Advance reader copy.

Oh my Great-God-of-Books-and-All-Things-Writing! My insatiable need to read was further enticed by the idea that I could get my hands on books before they hit the shelves at the bookstores. This is a special privilege and not just a financial one. It’s an honour really. It says, “I can see you’re an avid reader. What do you think about this book?”

Authors are the word scribes that commit themselves to writing from a place that compels them and provides for the rest of us with the stories, poems, and fictions (sometimes non-fictions) that we love.

The publishers work hard in editing, packaging, and distributing these beauties to our bookstores, schools, libraries, and the reading public.

Book bloggers, (and I speak for myself here) are the fanatical readers who are willing to stand in the rain in a two-hour lineup to meet a beloved author during a book signing because they love the printed word.

Justin Bieber? Who’s that?

You want inner-frenzy? Loud, excited chatter about new titles, cover design, and book launch dates? You want to know who rules The RaffleCopter in giveaways? Or who’s part of the Book Depository? Or do you want to know who owns the most “swag?” Ask a book blogger. That’s me—who is part of a very large “Us.”

Two months later, I “officially” christened myself as a book blogger when I received a special invitation from Random House of Canada to attend their Random House Blogger Fest Party.

That’s right. The Random House of Canada. The Big House. One of Canada’s leading publishing houses. The Publishing Honcho.

So, what did I do? I RSVP’d with a resounding yes (cartwheels not included in the email). And you thought the reading types weren’t a wild bunch. Pshh-shaw! It was a fest alright. I was so excited to attend, one of my morning tweets said,

“Being especially invited by @RandomHouseCA to attend The Blog Fest Party feels like being asked to the prom.”

But, it was better. It was not only held in downtown Toronto at the Random House of Canada head office, but the room was filled with book bloggers like myself, and the thing that we’re all mad about: books! It was like going to SWAG (Stuff We All Get) Heaven. (Believe me, I didn’t know what that meant either at one point in time!)

Look at Random House’s beautiful book and mug display.

(I was extremely self-controlled in not taking more than one mug! Those beauties are colossal. They are perfect for the caffeine-drinking-writer/editor type or for those who choose to eat clam chowder soup.)

Okay, okay. So, it wasn’t just the books. Aside from the Random House staff being so open and hospitable (let’s remember, they did come into “work” on a Saturday) and the chance to meet and greet people who share my same interests (who I might add, were an intelligent, kind, and enthusiastic bunch)—literary stars took time out of their busy, Saturday schedule to meet us, talk to us, and sign their books.

And when I say literary stars, I mean:

Ami McKay, author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure

Ami spoke to us about her beginnings as a blogger, which was a great surprise to me personally, as well as an inspiration.

What do you say, book bloggers? It just might be you up there one day.

(Or me. I hope it’s me. It better be me. Okay, let’s stop talking about me…)

Ami was so personable, I actually didn’t faint when I sat down and talked to her. Ami, I appreciate both your books and now I can cross, “Meet Ami McKay in person!” off my Bucket List.

Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

Erin is as wonderful as her creative book. I apologize profusely, Erin, for antagonizing you with questions, gleeful outbursts, and fan worship.

This photo is also quite blurry due to my quivering hands and Erin’s animated introduction.

Giddiness is not good for taking photographs of famous authors.

Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife 

Paula was graceful and composed (unlike myself) as she spoke to us about her writing process.

Thank you for sharing a little about The Book Lover’s Ball, Paula. I’m so jealous I wasn’t there!

 These authors were exceptionally lovely and patient especially with me considering I spoke loudly, gushed, blushed, and coerced them into taking photographs. Often.

From left to right: Paula McLain, Erin Morgenstern, and Ami McKay

(Okay, it’s official. I just fainted. Again.)

And I made a fool out of myself, too. I’m usually articulate, intelligent—even composed. I’ve been called, “the mature one.” Oh, but not so today. My usual “cool demeanor” was quickly removed as soon as I saw them sitting only a few chairs away from me. I’m glad I didn’t faint, cry, or sweat profusely. (Okay, so I sweated a little. And cried inside. It was more like a surprised, hidden shriek!) I had just finished reviewing The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern! This was my kind of party and definitely an early Valentine’s Day gift.

(This is what I did as soon as I met my husband after the Random House Blog Fest. Oh, yes, I did. Simply imagine SWAG, too, in the background.)

And then after the introductory speeches were made, who walks into the room? I don’t know, I was trying to pay attention to the slideshow. But then my neighbour-and-new-found-blogger-friend, Lindsay of Turning the Pages whispers to me, “That’s Erica Ehm!”

Oh. My. God.

Or in blogging language: OMG!!!!!!!!

Erica Ehm is much more than the Much Music queen.

She’s the CEO of  The Yummy Mummy Club.

I’m a YummyMummy member! Join if you haven’t already done so. It’s a great online community of intelligent, passionate, and independent women who also happen to be yummy mummies, too. I’ve got two little ones: a seven-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter, so this was a special treat for me.

Aside from hoarding books (this is A Bibliotaphe’s Closet, after all), I’m also a frequent Twitter bird. Through the Yummy Mummy Club, I’ve been following its book section: Bookalicious, by freelance writer and bloggette, Wanda Lynne Young. (I actually stalk her. Her page has great giveaways. No, on second thought, don’t go there. I want to win!!!) And all this time, she was sitting a few chairs beside me. I was beside myself, thank you very much, when I learned this. I also dragged her into a photo opportunity (as well as Jaclyn—because I was so excited, I interrupted their conversation. It’s obvious now, I have no manners).

Me, Wendy, Jaclyn

Need I say more? Well, yes, but then we’d be here until tomorrow. And I have some Random House books to read and review.

A special thank you to the hospitality of Lindsey, Cass, and Kat (I really regret not being able to take pictures with you!) at Random House for opening their doors to little-‘ol-me. It was honour enough to step inside the Random House building (ahh…*sigh*). Really. It was. And I didn’t even have to go to the washroom!

Q: What do you get when you put 25+ passionate book bloggers into a room with three famous authors, one famous T.V. personality/CEO, hosted by one of the leading Canadian publishers?

A: A whole-lotta-book-loving-crazy.

(I kept saying, “Writers are introverts.” I didn’t see any introverts?!)

 And for the patient graciousness of Ami, Erin, and Paula who have been working hard on their book tours and also just attended The Book Lover’s Ball, two nights before, it was exceptionally wonderful to connect, and to find that all of them were so personable even given their literary success. So, in that, I’m even more humbled.

And to my fellow bloggettes: If I didn’t get to chat it up with you, it’s because I was overcome with the SWAG in the room, the literary stars by my side, and the mere realization that, yes, today, I really feel like an “official” blogger. I even got my own name tag:

          For those I did get to meet, I hope you have my “homemade” (chuckle) business card. I was glad to be able to match a face to a blog especially when it’s one that I follow. (Yes, you know who you are!) And for those I haven’t been following, you may now consider me your newest fan. I also hope to join the ever-growing fun of the Ontario Blog Squad sometime soon, but if uniforms are required, I must tell you, I will only agree to wear jeans. And the only weapon I’ll bring to the table is my sharp, red lipstick and a good book.

I met some great women today who love reading, reviewing, and blogging as much as I do. And everyone was so nice. I don’t usually like using that word since there are many other descriptive ones to use, but I can’t help myself. They were. I was truly impressed by everyone’s willingness to mingle, chat, and shriek in unison.

I was amused to meet the Mocha Latte Queen that I blurted out, “It’s me! It’s Cupcake! Cupcake Zara!” I’ve been following her blog and often look forward to her “Morning Cupcakes!” greeting on  Twitter as part of my daily regime. And I always identify myself as “Cupcake” when I comment on her blog. It only felt natural to introduce myself as such, though I’m not much of a cupcake. I’m more of the cheesecake variety.

Me and Wendy, Miss Mocha Latte Queen

And meeting Just a Lil’ Lost was a delight! She put up with my shenaningans even when I personally accused her of “Rafflecopter not working” because I have never won any of her giveaways! And she struck back with, “I don’t use Rafflecopter.” Uh-oh. My bad. Needless to say, I begged to be chosen sometime in the next millennium! Here’s to crossing my fingers and toes all over again. (But,  now that she’s met me in person, how can she say no?) :P

Me and Michele, of Just a Lil’ Lost.

She’s obviously not lost. I, on the other hand, did not smile as widely as I hoped and my hands were all a flutter.

Here’s a better picture of my fellow bloggettes:

Wendy, Christa (Hooked on Books), and Michele

And to the ladies from Brampton: Who would have thought we would be brought together in such a way? I happily discovered Lindsay of Turning the Pages used to attend the public school my son goes to now. The one I only live five minutes away from. We grew up in the same area, most likely reading books! Lindsay, please be my BFFFB (Best-Friend-Forever-from-Brampton)!

Lindsay and me

As kids, Lindsay and I were most likely neighbours since we attended schools right beside each other.

We were also wondering whether or not to pick up the “dropped winter glove” that was picked up and put on the table in front of us. We highly suspected it might belong to another Random House famous author!

(I was tempted to put the glove in my purse. But didn’t.)

I also  found myself a new book-shopping-partner: Giselle, of BookNerd. Yup, we’re gonna hit the bookstores together. In Brampton! (You know which one! The one on Bovaird and Main!)

Giselle and Jaclyn (Literary Treats)

Yes, only book bloggers will tweet like mad during an event.

I didn’t tweet. I was busy taking photos and swooning.

          It was a great day for marketing, book-loving, and for connecting with the book blogging community. How many times did I say “book” in this post? I don’t know. A lot.

Thanks to all for giving my Valentine’s weekend a great start.

Which book will you be reading this weekend? I’ve got to go through my new, beautiful pile from Random House and choose.

(Ah…*blissful sigh*)

 

My goody bag.

Until the next Blog Fest, happy reading!

Zara Alexis

You can follow me on Twitter: @ZaraAlexis

Email: zgarcia(dot)alvarez(at)gmail(dot)com

 

7 thoughts on “The Random House Blogger Fest: February 11, 2012”

  1. OMG, I love you Zara!! It was such a fun afternoon and your energy was infectious! Thank you much for your kind comments and I am so going to make a trip into B-Town for some book shopping with my new friends!!

    Happy Reading!!

    Lindsay @ Tirning the Pages

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