The NessBookFest Saturday is the biggest challenge, logistics-wise. 16 events, 8 locations, LOTS of potential for disaster. This is what the chairperson’s day looked like:
6.30 Up and about, realising that, aside from Tesco-donated loaves for NBF-participants, we have no bread left . Not great when you have a (literary or otherwise) house-guest, so I nip out to get croissants from The Bakery which stays open all the way through the baking shift – still warm! Good call!
7.00 Dog walk and thinking time – bit of a lifeline for me in the NessBookFest bustle. Drag screaming and protesting son out of bed for football tournament.
8.00 Son’s friend arrives and they head out together in search of footballing glory. Mel, NBF treasurer, arrives to turn the Tesco-sponsored raw material in my fridge into sandwiches for authors. We have the crust versus no crust debate and decide to compromise.
9.00 On the road towards the library with bags containing edibles, books to sell, goodie bag content etc. At library we assemble final thank you gift bags for authors. I sneak into the children’s section to hide the ones for the Gaelic Book bug ahead of the event, only to notice one of the authors is already there, watching me tiptoe around. Two lovely new volunteers arrive.
10.15 Lovely to see a crowd of kids for the Gaelic book bug event. Would love to hang around, but I need to head off – Michelle Sloan is arriving from Dundee by train, and since I’m the only one on committee who has met her before, I’d better be there to greet her 🙂
10.40 Arrive back at the library. Another volunteer has arrived. None of them have badges. We did get a bag of thirty badges made up – where is it? We raid the library staff room, the boxes of Tesco provisions, piles of jackets, but no, definitely not there. A horrible possibility strikes me: did I take them home yesterday? I had a huge backpack full of everything for my own event. It’s bound to be there. A wave of guilt hits me, but it’s the only explanation – I must have forgotten them, though I don’t event recall seeing a badge in the passing.
11.00 By this time, simultaneous events are happening in the library, the Victorian market, Leakey’s and the museum. Susan, my house-guest and faithful social media secretary, heads to Leakey’s to cover poetry and the walking tour. She texts soon after – she has managed to get media coverage for the crime panel in the P&J and is heading out to buy a copy!
11.30 I am the committee member in charge of Michelle Sloan’s excellent event for her picture book The Fourth Bonniest baby in Dundee. The audience have come straight from the library’s own book bug and are noisy until they settle into the story. Michelle works the young crowd like a magician, mesmerising them with messy felt cut-outs, music and more. I check briefly on the rare books event next door – also fully booked. Good, good!
12.30 Event done, Michelle keeps me company as I sprint up the hill to my house: the badge-hunt is on! No success though. It would appear it wasnae me! Who could have them? As we run along to Waterstones, I keep my fingers crossed for the local poetry showcase about to start in Leakeys.
12.45 Arrive in Waterstones just in time to say hi to Denzil Meyrick and Rachel Kennedy, appearing here for NessBookFest. Good news: the venue is all sorted. Bad news, the authors aren’t here yet. Michelle browses and signs copies of her book The Revenge of Tirpitz while I position myself at the door. The manager Toby joins me soon after. But the more we pretend we’re not worried, the longer the minutes stretch.
12.55 Rachel’s event is due to start in five minutes! Not here yet! Toby and I discuss bathroom renovations while staring intimidatingly at every sort-of plausible group of passers-by, just in case it’s them.
13.03 Denzil and Rachel arrive. I say a friendly, if slightly manic ‘I’m so glad to see you’-hello and sprint back to the library. I have a little trouble persuading Michelle to leave such a beautiful bookshop, but she joins me- we’re doing a library event at two.
13.45 We arrange a library room for the creative writing for women workshop and welcome orla, the tutor for that event. We eat sandwiches – someone has to – before heading to the library children’s section for an hour of informal historical fiction chat.
15.10 Michelle packs her bag and we run back to Waterstones where I introduce the extremely lovely and very funny Denzil Meyrick, alongside Rachel Kennedy who will interview him..
By now I have discovered that our beautiful flowchart, designed to send our 4 collection buckets from venue to venue in logistics that would make NASA proud, has erm, failed. No idea which volunteer has which bucket, where and when. I give up worrying since there is nothing I can do anyway, and dance around at the back of Denzil’s event in search of WiFi hotspots for tweeting instead.
16.00 Even though Denzil is not finished yet, I run to the library to catch and tweet the Migrant Stories event – another engaged audience and a wonderful couple who explain the process of collecting migrant stories in the Highlands. Robert Brian MacLeod and I swap books and I feel richer, leaving with plenty of constructive material to think about.
16.45 We tidy and collect our stuff as best as we can – we don’t want to put the library staff out when they have been so patient with us!
17.10 I run back to the house. My genius husband has made food (big thumbs up)
6.15 I drive to collect the babysitter, a 79-year-old lady who may just be my favourite human in the world. Asking my 11-year-old what he plans to do with her while we’re out, he replies ‘Disco?’ without missing a beat.
6.50 I hope for the best and leave them to it, calling in to Velocity to check Drew Hillier, our event man, is feeling better – I was seriously worried he may not be able to appear at all. He seems okay, and chairman Rich is already there, so all good! Turns out the elusive badges have been spotted in a hitherto un-thought of location. Oh well, we’ll use them next year!
7.05 I arrive at the Old High Church for the Crime Panel, the last event of the day. Text messages trickle in, talking of a great science and literature event at the Museum, and Twitter is alive with NessBookFest positivity. The authors share a swivelling microphone which makes for tiny pauses in between each contribution, but Susan chairs effortlessly, the audience is attentive, lots of people buy books and say nice things about NessBookFest. There is something hugely atmospheric about the dark, foggy graveyard where Jacobite captives where shot, and I find my mind full of the day as I walk home. I turn on the computer:
I HAVE NEVER HAD 99+ notifications before!
Now for a silent, dark room, and a comfy bed. I have certainly acquired an impressive to-be-read pile at NessBookFest! You may not hear from me for a while…