Fall is Volunteer Time

While I typically using my weekends to explore Boston, pleasure read, and work on personal creative projects, I broke from that trend the last couple of weekends by spending my time volunteering and attending events in Boston.

On October 11th and 12th, I both volunteered at and attended Leaky Con and on October 19th and 20th I volunteered at and attended the Boston Book Festival. Being able to be a part of the behind the scenes at these two events was a really incredible experience and though I didn’t expect it, it affirmed my commitment to a sense of community. At both of these events I felt an invaluable sense of community (be it fandom or the literary community or both), and I was glad to interact with these larger communities in various ways.

Leaky Con

Leaky Con is a Harry Potter themed convention, and I saw their call for volunteers on Twitter months before I even moved to Boston. Since I knew I’d be in Boston in October, I jumped on the chance to submit my name as a volunteer. A couple of weeks before the event, I got a followup to signup for volunteer shifts, and since I don’t have class on Friday, I was able to commit to spending Friday volunteering. This was the 10th Leaky Con, so that added an extra layer of fun to the event.

One of the many programing rooms

I ventured out to the Seaport early in the morning for volunteer orientation where I got the lowdown (and my volunteer t-shirt) and then embarked on my shifts. Over the course of the day I worked three different shifts, doing three different tasks.

I started the day by serving as a programming volunteer, so I made sure the room I was in was prepared, help answer attendee questions before the panel started, took notes on the audience and dynamics of the panel, and held up time cards so the moderator and panelists. The panel that I watched from the back of the room featured published authors discussing antagonists, their role in pop culture, and their approach to writing antagonists. Things went smoothly and it was a fun panel to be able to watch

My next shift of the day was working at the official Leaky Con merch both. This shift was a lot like working at the camp store only way less hectic (because con attendees have more patience and manners than campers), and it was an easy shift to work.

I ventured out in the rain for lunch, and then my last stop of the day was at the main stage doors. While I was on this shift, a podcasting panel was taking place inside, so other volunteers and I handed out postcards with information about different podcasts produced by Mischief Media.

Attending the Con

One of the perks of working six hours worth of volunteer shifts was that I got a free day pass to attend the convention. I chose a day pass for Saturday and found myself back in the Seaport on Saturday morning to see Leaky Con from the point of view of an attendee.

The Leaky Con program took the form of a newspaper

High School Macy would have been losing her shit at the opportunity that I had to attend this convention. I eagerly watched Leaky Con proceedings on twitter when I was in high school and wore Hot Topic Harry Potter tees and wrists fulls of chunky, black rubber bracelets. Leaky Con was incredible because it was reinvigorated me creatively and reinforced my love for fandom and the important spaces it provides people.

I started my day by attending an author AMA and listening to authors talk about their works. Then I learned all about the Snitchwich at a live infomercial. My next two panels were in the same room (so I didn’t have to leave!) and they were about the Wizards in Space literary magazine and then a panel featuring writers talking about how Harry Potter had influenced them as writers and creators. My final session of the day was a reading of a Harry Potter musical called “The Other Chosen One” that follows Neville during The Deathly Hallows when he’s at Hogwarts with Ginny and Luna while Harry, Ron, and Hermione are of searching for the horcruxes.

You’ll notice that the sessions I chose to attend (for the most part) focused on writing and creating that is done in and borne out of fan spaces. I loved to write long before I read Harry Potter for the first time, but it’s definitely a creative influence in my life, so it was incredible to see other people acknowledge that in their work. Additionally, all of these panels were so encouraging and they made me want to get home and troll through my notebooks and get back to writing!

I couldn’t complete my day without getting a little bit of Harry Potter merch for myself. While I was tempted by the LeakyCon10! shirt, phenomenal fanart created by insanely talented artists, more t-shirts than I can count, and one incredibly expensive but beautiful coffee mug, I ended up with an awesome library themed long sleeve shirt from the Harry Potter Alliance (long sleeve because I didn’t bring enough long sleeve tees to Boston), and some incredibly perfect candles from Waxspurts Candle Co. that I am living for.

Overall, my first Leaky Con experience was incredible, and I hope it won’t be my last Leaky Con.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture with the Leaky Con backdrop

The Boston Book Festival

The Boston Book Festival program guide

The Boston Book Festival was held over two days, the first in Copley Square with events radiating out from the Boston Public Library’s central branch. The second day of programming and events took place in Dudley Square in Roxbury. I was able to both attend events and volunteer on both days of the festival and I had a great time in my new literary city.

Perks of volunteering for Simmons included the cool hat!

I volunteered in two ways, each of which brought its own enjoyments and challenges. The first day of the festival, I volunteered through Simmons by handing out Simmons children’s literature pencils at events that were being sponsored by Simmons. I stationed myself by the doors, and handed pencils to those wandering in to watch the sessions.

Marie Lu’s keynote was in the gorgeous Old South Church

I passed out pencils for the YA Keynote presentation by Marie Lu and a Love in YA panel moderated by Amy Pattee, my children’s literature criticism professor. After handing out pencils, I was able to sit and watch these events as well which was so much fun. I loved listening to Marie Lu talk about her process (and it was a reminder that I should reread the Legend trilogy since Lu’s newest book Rebel revisits that world).

I also took the chance to see a panel about poetry and wander the vendors and organizations set up in the square on Saturday as well. I resisted buying any books, but walked away with a few free tote bags and all sorts of information about the literary goings-on in Boston.

Erin Entrada Kelly in conversation with Kim Parker.

On day two of the BBF, I hopped on the bus and went out to Roxbury for the first time. Before my official volunteer shift with the BBF started, I had a moment to catch a little bit of the children’s keynote presentation, featuring Erin Entrada Kelly, winner of the 2018 Newberry Award winning Hello Universe. It was amazing to hear her talk about her work, and I can’t wait to read her newest book Lalani of the Distant Sea.

Ready for Volunteering: Day Two!

I had to sneak out early to check in for my volunteer shift as an usher at the Frugal Bookstore. During my four hour shift, there were two events held, both about writing and the writing process. The volunteer position itself wasn’t difficult, I helped set up the room and welcomed authors and attendees. It was fun to help support what were two very popular events and to pick up a little bit of writing advice and inspiration along the way.

A little hiccup occurred when I was the only usher left working the last event that got incredibly full, but even then thanks to the help of others, we were able to keep things rolling smoothly and help be part of a great event. This is only the second year that the BBF has had a second day in Roxbury, and I can see that this portion of the festival will only continue to get better in the future!

The Joy of Volunteering

The first time I ever volunteered at a large-scale public event was in 2017 when I flew back to Washington D.C. over Labor Day weekend to volunteer at the National Book Festival as one last hurrah from my internship at the Library of Congress Young Readers Center. It was a crazy fun experience, as I got to interact with kids and their parents (and snag a photo with Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress).

I never would have guess when I attended that event, that I would get hooked on volunteering at events like this (and I’ve been volunteering at smaller-scale events basically for as long as I can remember thanks to 4-H). There’s something satisfying about seeing the behind-the-scenes efforts that it takes for such a large event to go off without a hitch.

As I mentioned briefly at the beginning of this post, these volunteer experience also worked as affirmations of my commitment to community, be it book or fandom, people come together to put on events and to attend events around mutual shared interests. Volunteers and attendees alike strike up conversations about the shared interests they hold, even though they’re likely complete strangers. Every community is a valid one and an important one.

If you get a chance, find some volunteer opportunities near you. Observe as people in different communities come together and celebrate the things that make them unique. Lend a hand to offer experiences for others. Sometimes, you get to take advantage of those experiences, other times you just watch and smile and help out. Regardless, there are almost always people working hard behind the things you love, become one of those people if you have the chance.

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