Monday, 16 April 2018

The Event Was a Success – Nobody Died (although some might die laughing)

Perils of a professional Event Planner

By Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

How do marketing and public relations professionals rate their events?
"It was a success.  Nobody died."
You think I’m kidding.  Hah!

I’ve been a professional event and conference planner since 1980, when I was part of the Bell Canada Golf Tournament committee.  That’s a lot of years.  In that time, I’ve arranged corporate promotional gigs, entire conferences, and classy fundraising dos.   

The key to event planning is the second word:  PLANNING.  We try to anticipate everything that could possibly go wrong, and plan for it.  Probably, we are the most anal, list-making people you would ever come across.  Even so, and even with a ton of experience, I’ve found you can’t plan for everything.  What can go wrong, you say?

Just wait.

1.  You can have water…and well, water.

Note to self: never trust your new staff with critical functions, like – for instance – the bar at a reception for 500.  She took care of the liquor license.  The cocktail food.  The entertainment.  The security.  The insurance.  Everything, in fact, except actually hiring the bars plus bartenders plus spirits.  One hour before the event-start, we were frantically on the phone with a nearby hotel, working a deal to borrow all the staff and spirits they could muster.  They came through, bless their extremely expensive hearts.  As conference-goers waited in the two interminable bar lineups, senior management sashayed up and down the line with lavish finger food to stall the riots.  “It’s so nice to see all the executives get involved like this,” said happy munchers, blissfully unaware of their near-dry event.

Said senior managers took turns on the bottle behind the stage.

Lesson learned: ALWAYS put booze and the serving of which at the top of your checklist.  People will forgive most everything.  But not that.

2.  But I thought Moose Factory was in the Prairies…

In Newfoundland, they have a nifty way to make a little extra money.  Moose insurance.  No, really.  I used to work for a really big health care association that had conferences across Canada.  The national conference was in St. John’s one year.  It took a lot of organizing to get the main sponsor’s huge demonstration truck across to the island of Newfoundland.  This was a million dollar vehicle filled with the latest scientific and medical equipment, for demonstrating to the lab manager attendees.  Not a shabby enterprise, and the highlight of our nerdy conference, seeing all those state of the art goodies.  That truck rocked.

Until it was totalled by a Moose on the highway. 

Lesson learned:  ALWAYS get moose insurance.  Yes, this is a thing.

3.  Bus 54, where ARE you?

Wine tour.  Yes, those words should never be allowed together.  People who go on wine tours invariably like to drink.  As you might expect, so do their bus drivers. 

It takes 45 minutes to get from Hamilton to Niagara Falls.  A convoy of six buses started out.  Three hours later, five buses made it for the dinner theatre.  The sixth made a slight detour to a winery and never got out of the tasting room.  Nobody there minded.  They had a kick-ass time in the attached resto.  I’m told everyone forgot about the dinner theatre in Niagara Falls.  We tried to reach them.  But ribald singing made it hard for people to hear their phones. 

Lesson learned:  Never *start* your event at a winery.

4.  Dogs and dragons…it will never work.

Twenty years ago, I joined the PR staff of a major urban teaching hospital.  Anxious to show our commitment to multiculturalism, we scheduled several ethnic lunch days in the cafeteria, complete with food and entertainment.  You can imagine our excitement when the local Chinese community agreed to bring costumed dancers with elaborate twelve foot dragon into our facility.

So it was with great pride and a certain amount of smugness that we had news media standing by.  Not only that, the local television station agreed to film the event.  All good.  Hundreds of people crowded in.  The music started up.  The dancers came on stage. The twelve foot long colourful paper undulating dragon was magnificent.  Cameras rolled.

Cut scene to our blind physiotherapist on staff, who came into the cafeteria with his seeing eye dog Mack.  Mack took one look at the huge dragon and took off, knocking over his master and a table full of authentic multicultural food.  Dog went crashing into dragon:  Rips, screams, people running, tables falling, and all this thoughtfully caught on camera for the six o’clock news.  “Hamilton Hospital celebrates Multiculturalism”

We called in every favour banked from every media person in town, to keep this off the news.

Lesson learned:  Okay, maybe not a success.  But only the dragon died.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A whole bunch of events...

First:  Until April 15!  ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL on sale for .99!, and all Imajin books ON SALE!  
click here


Friday, 16 March 2018

I am not an Alien aka Why I will Never be Slim

Recently, I was talking to an annoying perky slim person.  It was four in the afternoon.  Here’s what she said:

“I’m really hungry because I forgot to have lunch today.”

Eh, what?  Are you kidding me?  Is this person human? Who forgets to have lunch?

No, really.  Have you ever worked in an office?  It goes something like this:

Any sane person I know who works for a living starts clock-watching at 11:30, at the latest.  Only half an hour…only twenty minutes…I’ll go to the bathroom.  Talk to Rachel in accounting.  Is it noon yet?  WILL THAT CLOCK EVER MOVE?

Things aren’t much different if you are an author writing from home.  It is currently 11:06 am.  I have decided to write this humour column to distract myself from the lure of the last-night leftovers.  Because I know from experience that if I eat lunch at 11, then dinner somehow gets downed by 3:30.  And even the Hobbits don’t indulge in second dinner.

To set the record straight, I have never missed a meal in my life.  Okay, I’ve been toilet-bowl-sick and passed on solid food, but only because I knew it wouldn’t stay down in its current form.  I didn’t *forget* to eat.

The 3 o-clock meeting has some of the same attributes.  I’m willing to bet that the annoyingly slim person above hasn’t even thought about the fact that the main virtue of morning or afternoon meetings is the plate of muffins in the table center.  Lose your muffins, lose your allies. And wait for the grumbling.  Not just stomachs.

Speaking of stomachs, more annoyingly slim person dialogue I have been witness to:

 “Ooh.  I ate a whole egg.  I bet you can see the bulge in my stomach now.”

“I’m starving.  Do you feel like soup?  I could really down a whole cup of fat-free chicken broth with nothing in it.  Yum.”

“Salad.  Let’s have a salad.  We can use lemon juice instead of salad dressing, if you’re worried about the calories.”  <eyes drop to my waist>

Okay, the clock is getting closer to 12:00, so I'll wrap this up quickly by circling back to the post title:

What kind of planet are these people from, who forget to eat?

My take on people who forget to eat is that they are probably from some place like Mars or Jupiter where they don’t have carbs growing conveniently out of the ground.  Which makes them aliens. 

I always knew slim people were aliens.

Final joke I sold to a standup comedian back in the day:

“I had the flu once.  It was awful.  I couldn’t eat a thing for three hours.”

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

4/4 stars - Industry review of The B-Team! CM magazine, University of Manitoba

CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 26. . . . March 9, 2018
The B-Team: The Case of the Angry First Wife. (Rapid Reads).
Melodie Campbell.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2018.
130 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1807-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1808-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1809-5 (epub).
Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Of course, those infamous burglaries were all long before. Kitty retired a few years ago after breaking an ankle in a bad fall while leaving a second story window. Now she divides her time between her little house in the forest and the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home, visiting my elderly relatives who reside there. Many of them are dotty. Not Kitty. Her brain cells are in for the long haul.

The B-Team is about scamming, but not the usual type so common in today’s society where people are scammed for their money on the Internet. It is about outright theft where the victim loses a diamond necklace worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those trying to find the jewellery are the ones who are scammed.
     The B-Team, a modern version of the A Team so popular on 1980’s TV, try to solve the crime. The team members are young Canadian Italian adults, well-versed in crime, who should have no trouble doing so. Instead, they are completely fooled.
     The necklace belongs to a recently divorced woman who believes that it was stolen by her former husband and is now being worn by his new wife. In a surprise twist, it turns out that the woman is not the divorced wife. The B-Team has no reason to doubt her and plan to get the necklace back. Instead, they are totally fooled by the woman, but, with the help of other members of the Italian community, they retrieve the necklace and return it to its rightful owner. The B-Team is well written, attention grabbing and fun. Once started, most readers will be hooked and have a hard time putting the book down.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher and author, lives in North Bay, ON.

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Friday, 9 March 2018

First photos from The B-TEAM launch!

Feeling very under-made-up at the moment...with winners of the BEST COSTUME PRIZE!

Many thanks to all who turned out to the Launch of THE B-TEAM last night!  $500 was raised for the Hamilton Literacy Council.

Monday, 26 February 2018

In Defense of Comedy (in which our Bad Girl talks the serious side of comedy)

Everyone likes comedy, right?


I’ve written comedy professionally since 1992.  I got my start writing stand-up. In the 1990s, I had a regular humour column in the Toronto region, and I now write for The Sage (a Canadian satire magazine.) 

Any seasoned humour writer will tell you that consistently writing comedy is difficult.  What looks easy doesn’t write easy.  The old actor saying, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard,” stands for writers too.  In books, not only do you have to pay attention to plot, characterization, dialogue, viewpoint, motivation, etc. like every other author, but you also have to add an additional element, comedy.  It’s like there is an additional test for you that others don’t have to pass.  And you don’t get paid any more for doing it.

And it gets worse: Comedy writers take risks that other writers don’t.

For here’s the thing:  comedy is by nature dangerous.  It often makes fun of things that other people take seriously.  In fact, it’s almost impossible to write comedy and not offend someone, somewhere.

The Rowena Through the Wall series is a spoof of bodice rippers. (Oddly enough, some people haven't caught on yet.  That's okay.  As long as they enjoy it, I'm good.)  Thing is, I'm doing a spoof of bodice rippers.  If you care deeply about bodice rippers (oh, the puns I could make right now) then you might be annoyed that I am appearing to make fun of them.

Even the most seemingly inoffensive broad comedy (the sort of thing I write) will attract criticism.  The Goddaughter is the first in a series of six comic capers from Orca books.  These are meant to be humorous entertainment. Nothing blatantly didactic.  No preaching.  I am hoping for smirks and laughter to lift your mood.

It’s satire.  A loony mob family is chronically inept.  A reluctant mob goddaughter wants to escape the business, but is always pulled back in to bail them out.  What results is a series of wacky capers and heists-gone-bad.

What could be offensive about that?

But ah.  The heroine of the story is a mob goddaughter, even if she doesn’t want to be one.  “You don’t get to choose your relatives,” she says.  I’m writing stories about the mob, in which we are actually compelled to want certain members to succeed in their crazy plans. 

I’ve found that even writing about the mob can invite outrage.  Operating outside the law is bad, even evil, a reader wrote recently. How dare I make light of serious crime? 

Which brings me to the point of this post (get to the point, Mel).  Comedy, done well, has a secondary purpose to making us laugh.  Some would say primary purpose.  It has the ability to threaten power.  Throughout history, writers have used comedy to satire and ridicule the people who have power over us.

If we were to limit the ability of authors to write about certain subjects or groups of people in light and humorous ways, we would lose the ability to ‘bring them down to size.’  To show their 

My satire is gentle.  But it is there, all the same.  In my humour columns and books, I poke fun at people and organizations that want to have power over us.  To maintain that power, they must be taken seriously.

And boy, do they hate comedy writers like me.