Posts Tagged ‘book festival’
Wordstock VI, October 2010
The success of every organization relies on the hard work and dedication of its staff. This is especially true for nonprofits, most of which are volunteer-run. My career began while interning for one, and I’m serving on the leadership team for another. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to talk about a very specific group of volunteers—the Black Shirt Team.
The power of volunteers
The Black Shirt Team is a group of individuals who spend countless hours and infinite email threads planning, coordinating, launching, and managing the massive book festival that is known as Wordstock. They are professionals looking to stay involved in their community, they are graduate students gaining experience to launch their career, and they are passionate individuals looking to support a cause they believe in.
On Sunday night after the festival closed the doors on its sixth season, the Black Shirts went out to celebrate. I looked around the bar at people who I have known in various ways throughout my involvement with Wordstock—the event manager who has been with the festival from the start, the executive director who has shaped what the festival has matured into, core volunteers who I worked with during year one, and new faces who I deeply respect for the fresh ideas they bring. (more…)
If you know me, you know the story of Wordstock and how I wrangled way-too-many authors during the first two years of the festival (2005 & 2006). If you mention my name to the founder, he’ll tell you how Norman Mailer was impressed by how well I dealt with authors, even though I was 18. If you talk to any of the four author coordinators now, they may tell you the story of how their job was once performed by one single person (oh, hi there!). I was the first intern and as such I was given an enormous opportunity to shape author-relations and process as it stands today and also set the foundation for the type of work that drives and fulfills me in everything that I do.
Wordstock V, October 2009
Last year, 2009, I was asked by my dear friend to come back to Wordstock and help her run event management for the festival. This was my first time working the book fair and so many things were different since 2006: there’s a new executive director, new core volunteer staff, book fair structure, etc. I was nervous, as anyone would be, walking into something familiar yet still unknown. Plus since I lived in Seattle and would only be in Portland for the week of festival, I was essentially “arriving and driving” instead of being a part of the months and months of planning leading up to the event.
At the launch party, a fancy dinner hosted at a private home overlooking the Columbia Gorge, I meekly held a glass of wine and admired the A-list authors in attendance. The authors I invited. The authors whose agents and publicists I spent months talking to and negotiating as to why it would be an awesome idea to send their talent to this brand spanking new festival. This festival that was filled with promise and about to be revealed.
I was eavesdropping on stories of these great literary minds and I was afraid to put my hand out and say, “Hi, we’ve spoken before.”
When you’re afraid, usually someone will step in. That someone was the founder of the festival, a man saw how hard I worked. He pulled me into a conversation he was having with some of his fellow authors, sang my praises, made me blush, and ended by saying, “Can you believe she’s only 18?”
That’s when when all of the strength inside of me shriveled up and died.