June’s Chicago Now Blogapalooza assignment: “Write about a period or moment in your life when you were at your best”
Confidently write about when you were at the top of your game as a human being, student, friend, parent, spouse, athlete, blogger, etc. Not looking for the single greatest period/moment of your life, just one of the many there have been. Search your memory, choose one and tell your story.
This past weekend I spent my 5th or 6th year volunteering at the 32nd Annual Printers Row Lit Fest sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. This is the Midwest’s summer scene for all things literary. Spending a full weekend in the company of crowds of people who love to read and to write just charges my batteries and reconnects me with a world of possibilities.
I know you might have heard me mention several other regular events I look forward to each year and compare them to waiting for Christmas. Well this one is another one. I live a fun life and Christmas comes for me several times a year. So sue me. No wait. I forgot we live in such a litigious society. You might take me up on that. I was only joking.
My assignment was Stage Coordinator (or host) for the Center Stage tent. My job was to introduce authors, illustrators, bloggers and other panelists. It was up to me to make sure they were comfortable (hydrated) and to ensure that each program started and ended on time. I shared information with the audience to promote the events of the Fest and gave directions on where they would go to get their books signed. I worked on set-up and breakdown for each event and assisted the nice A/V guy with the best sound and lighting effects. I was expected to be engaging and funny and charming and to make the authors and the audience glad that they chose to spend an hour or two inside the space. Nailed it. Fun!
I was required to wear a two-way radio and, much like my days as an airline customer service agent in another life, having a radio clipped to the back of my belt did indeed result in a certain amount of involuntary swagger. I’ll just be up front with you and tell you keeping things going in this little section of the world had me feeling like A Boss.
Being assigned Center Stage was particularly exciting for me because it was the first year I got to work the main tent. It also meant that this was the first year that I got a chance to work with the celebrities—the headliners. Terry McMillan (“Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”), R.L. Stine (“Goosebumps” young adult book series), Ethan Hawke (author of graphic novel “Indeh” and actor, Training Day and Dead Poet’s Society) , Sara Paretsky (the V. I. Warshawsky series) were just a few. We also had “singing” columnists Eric Zorn and Mary Schmich and Emmy Award-winning arts critic Howard Reich all of the Tribune.
I’m usually not a celebrity gawker but this past weekend I had to admit that I can become just as star struck as the next guy. What I admired about these folks is not just the fact that they’re famous. We see how easy it is to have that particular adjective attached to your name these days (sneeze, The Kardashians, oh bless me!). What connected with me is that they are talented and creative. And they figured out how feed themselves with their skills.
First they believed that they had enough talent to make a living at their craft and then they set about making a name for themselves. They put in the hard work to get noticed among a field of stiff competition. And they continue to put in the work to sustain their careers and their lifestyles.
I loved hearing them talk about how much they love what they do and their creative processes. You can’t help but be affected by the enthusiasm of creative people who make a living doing what they love. Not only did these artists talk about their own loves and challenges practicing their craft, the best part was that they also offered encouragement and motivation to fledgling artists in the audience. I was absorbing this positive and creative energy through osmosis and it was waking up that sleepy part of my brain that reminds me that there really is life beyond the boundaries of a 9 to 5. And who knows, one day soon I might not just be introducing authors. Maybe I’ll be one of the people on the stage.
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