SLF at OmniCircusThe morning started out smoothly, with cooking food for the event (catering was a bit beyond our budget), but then we had some chaos -- David's front doorknob broke, leaving us trapped within his apartment. Eep! Not actually trapped; we could've climbed out through a window. But still, freaky. Eventually we got a hold of the landlord, and he sent out a locksmith and all was made right, but there were a few stressful hours in there, and poor David got blisters on his hands trying to fix it himself. (Hmm...I wonder if this is a guy/girl thing? I too felt a compulsive urge to attempt to fix it, but gave up after about five minutes, when I decided it was beyond my skill and/or strength. Leaving me with non-blistered hands. :-) David, to give due credit, did actually manage to get the door to open on his own eventually, but of course, that wasn't the same as fixing it sufficiently for us to be able to come and go freely. But would have been convenient in the case of a fire...
Then there was running around, issues at Kinko's (eventually mostly-resolved and due to my own absent-mindedness in uploading program flyer files into the wrong folder, though we never did figure out why Kinko's got error messages every time they tried to print the PDF's from the SLF site), and much cheapness at Party Warehouse (in downtown Oakland), where I scored six silvery serving trays for $1.50 each (about a quarter what they cost at the Piedmont store we checked out on Thursday). I am greatly pleased, and they stack and take up little space, so I will be bringing them to SH and SLF events in the future, I suspect. No more running around trying to beg serving trays from the ConSuite or the hotel people.
When we got to the OmniCircus space, I was a bit concerned, because there was very little table space available for putting out food and drinks. But there turned out to be sufficient, and the space was so cool that I was glad they didn't waste any more of it on practical things like tables. :-) I don't know how I can describe it, other than a sort of post-apocalyptic Mad Max space mixed with "Something Wicked This Way Comes." Which is a good description of the OmniCircus performance later that evening too, actually.
We ended up with about 40-50 people in the space; very unclear on how many were performers and how many were paying attendees, but it felt like a nice big crowd (and about as much as the space could hold -- we could have squeezed maybe five more people in, but not much more than that). Lots of friends showed up, of course, like Susan L. and Dan and Susan G. and Kam and Jed and Matt -- but also quite a few new people came, mostly from the Borderlands Bookstore mailing list. So thanks, Borderlands!
The space and OmniCircus performance were fairly expensive (for us, at any rate), so we didn't make a huge profit, but we did make a little over $200 towards the Fountain Award, which is great! That's about enough to cover the shipping costs for mailing manuscripts out to the jurors. :-) And more importantly, we got to meet a lot of new people, and tell them (and some old friends) about the Fountain Award and the SLF, and I think we created some good buzz. It was a lot of fun -- this is really the first public event we've done for the SLF, and it made it all seem more real to me, somehow. We've been entirely electronic up to this point, and while we've gotten a lot done, it's nice to actually talk to people in person about it. Feels a little like the early days of SH too, when nobody understood what we thought we were doing, and we had to explain it, slowly and patiently, over and over.
And hey -- for once, I made pretty much exactly the right amont of food (though I did buy too many crackers). We have maybe a half-cup of potato curry left (just enough for a yummy snack), and all the sushi and cheese and fruit got devoured. For future notice: people loved the sundried tomato garlic cheese spread, a few stalwarts stuck by the pork pate (and ate it all), the brie went fast (as always), and while only a few people ate the blue cheese, they were deeply appreciative of it. Pretty much the last thing left was about half of the port wine cheese ball. Maybe it was scary. The crab sushi went much faster than the veggie, but it all got eaten in the end, and I'm sure the vegetarians appreciated having a veggie option there. Even though I toned down the potatoes, they were still too spicy for some. But that was expected, and others really enjoyed having something spicy. And god, it's cheap. Potato curry and pita to serve twenty only costs about $5, and that's mostly the pita. Whereas the sushi was closer to $30 total. Ditto cheeses. Fruit $5, so $70 total on food -- for feeding close to 50, I think that's a good deal.
Of course, we couldn't have afforded the wine as well -- we went through about twelve bottles (plus three bottles of juice) so big thanks to our sponsors again for bringing the liquor. That's Strange Horizons, other magazine, NFG, and Borderlands. Yay! (Small Beer offered subscriptions to LCRW as door prizes, but Kaolin and I never quite got that coordinated.)
The evening also was heavily dependent on our great volunteers. David kindly came and worked the door; Kaolin (one of the SLF webmasters, and also with NFG) played bartender. Charlie Anders (who hosts the monthly Bay Area Writers with Drinks) was a terrific MC, giving funny personalized intros to each reader. The readers gave generously of their time and talent: Pat Murphy, Rudy Rucker, Ken Wharton and Terry Bisson all read without compensation, out of the goodness of their hearts. (Buy their books!) And behind the scenes was Jeremy Smith, another of our SLF volunteers who has been teaching me all sorts of things about fund-raising (in his day job, he does this kind of thing for small press publishers, since he works for the Independent Press Association) -- he's the one who put this whole thing together. I just showed up for the fun part.
Thanks to everyone who helped and everyone who came. Great event, great fun. I wish I could be in the Bay Area for the upcoming second event, the May 20th reading with Michael Chabon (co-sponsored by McSweeney's, Zoetrope, and other fine people, more details soon). But I'm really glad I made it to this one!