A Creative Book Launch
It all starts with SLICE (Sussex Literary Initiatives and Cultural Events). We are a group of about 30 people in Sussex, New Brunswick, a small town surrounded by hills and rivers, not far from the Bay of Fundy. We’ve done lots of events: brought in authors, held a day dedicated to honeybees, created a symposium to celebrate nature. We have no executive, no dues, no regular meetings. We charge nothing for our events. All we have is a name. And creative minds.
We have one initial meeting at which we brainstorm the shape of the event.
For my new novel, A Measure of Light, we began with a vision of darkness becoming light. We would create a 17th century atmosphere, with the evening beginning in hushed obscurity and moving towards movement, animation, colour, and vibrancy.
We decided to have 17th century music; to ask people to come dressed in black so that we could give them costumes; to have a “village” of people in full costume, demonstrating handwork of the era; to make food of the period and ask a local brewery to make a special ale. Of course, I would read! And there would be a bookstore present.
At the first meeting, someone offered to be in charge of each idea. Cathy volunteered to make a spreadsheet. Patricia said she would be the publicist. I would find and secure the animators. Younger members volunteered to set up facebook and twitter accounts. Others chose to research and prepare food, find a venue, secure musicians.
This was October. The event would take place on March 13. We set up an group email and, until the very final days, corresponded entirely on-line, letting each other know what had fallen into place, or what was needed. Ideas came flooding in, and soon we had added a painting (to be made by the audience), a photo booth (with a tickle trunk), a stuffed wolf, a giant carrot cake and several tables for charities. Not to mention the room’s decorations: quilts, lanterns, candles, brooms, snowshoes…..
I visited Plimouth Plantation, in Massachusetts, and borrowed a costume.
Then we knew what to make. We held sewing bees to make costume pieces for the audience – collars, cuffs, aprons, caps. We raided the high school theatre department for costumes to outfit the animators.
Many of us made gallons of succotash and dozens of loaves of bread.
The Frye Festival (an International Writers Festival) became a partner. They signed up a bus-load of people to come from nearby Moncton. People began cutting trees and hauling them out of the snow-bound woods on snowshoes. We prayed that we would not have yet another blizzard! We spent two days decorating the Royal Canadian Legion (capacity 500.)
And the evening arrived. Everyone wore black. Everyone put on cuffs or ruffed collars The room smelled of spruce boughs and freshly baked bread. The ale was gnarly.
Hundreds of cups of succotash were served. The carrot cake was devoured. In the Legion kitchen, many hands chopped, sliced, washed and dried.
Everyone asked questions of the skilled animators.
And bought books.
We had wanted everyone to feel as if they were IN the world of the novel. And they did!
It wasn’t a book launch, really. It was a community event and a celebration of friendship and creativity that will be talked about for years to come.
We’ll do another one in four years. Promise!