While you're waiting in line for your next IFOA event, keep a look out for another celebrity of sorts, anointed last evening at the Walrus after-party as the James Bond Girl of IFOA. She's stylish, well-read and well-connected. And British. Oh, her! Yes, her. She's Becky Toyne.
If possible, Becky has attended more events this year than there are events to attend, seemingly everywhere, in person and online.
I asked Becky how she's finding the festival this year.
Globe and Mail: As past Communications Coordinator for IFOA, how are you enjoying the festival from your seat in the audience?
Becky Toyne: I'm having an absolute ball. Working for the festival is a unique experience - a wealth of unique experiences - and the adrenaline that pumps when you're in the thick of it has no equivalent on "the other side." But the down side of being on staff is that it's very difficult to be really present in an event and to follow the developing arc of a discussion. And of course you often don't have control over which authors you get to meet or listen to and when - you're there to run the festival, not to hang out.
So this year I'm being a bit of a festival glutton. I've been to 11 events in the first nie days, and have made pages and pages of notes - quotes, ideas, sound bites. Writers become experts in all kinds of random things when they're researching a book - I love tapping in to some of that knowledge.
Doing the "fan" thing is a big part of the festival for me too. I like standing in line to get my book signed, and to get to talk to other members of the audience to find out who they are and what they're excited to see.
G&M: You aren't quite off the hook for work. You're the publicist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. How has the response been to this year's finalists?
BT: Terrific! The list is brilliant, and the authors blew me away with their readings at a packed event on Wednesday night. So powerful and moving. I even got a bit teary at one point.
The Globe and Mail is running an online poll for people to guess the winner, so the public is paying attention. As I write, Michael Helm is winning the people's choice with nearly 50% of the vote.
G&M: You're also a bookseller at Type Books. With all the titles that run in and out of the store, are there any authors you've seen at the festival who you might not otherwise have been as familiar with?
BT: I went to the graphic novels event on Saturday, with Seth, Charles Burns and Dylan Horrocks. I've not read more than a handful of graphic novels, so it was an event I chose specifically to learn something, as opposed to just trying to see my favourite authors. They said a lot of really interesting things about the progression of the genre in relation to creative writing schools and the use of plot which were easily accessible to me as predominantly a reader of literary fiction. I feel more at home in the graphic novel section of the store now.
This week I've handsold books by Trevor Cole, Kathleen Winter, Andrew O'Hagan and Eleanor Catton, all of whom I've met at the festival this week.
G&M: Lastly, what are your festival highlights thus far?
BT: There are so many! But I think the top one has to be Jonathan Franzen. I bought my ticket to his reading pretty much the day that IFOA went on sale. After last night's event, I queued for about 40 minutes to get my books signed, and when I got to the front and passed my dog-eared copy of The Corrections to its author, I said to him: "I bought this book in New Zealand, read it on a beach in Samoa, then took it home to England, which is where I'm from. But now I live here, so I asked my mum to mail it to me so I could ask you to sign it tonight."
He stopped writing the dedication to look up, give me a big smile, and reach across the table to shake my hand. Then he signed my book and it was the next person in line's turn. But I walked away all warm and smiley.