Recap: INSPIRE Toronto International Book Fair

Inspire TIBF

There’s a new book fair in town and it’s name is INSPIRE. This four day fair celebrating the world of books kicked on it’s inaugural year Thursday night with a gala, with the fair proper taking place Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

I attended the fair on Friday, spending a large portion at an all-day workshop (one of many hosted at the fair) called Publishing 2.0: Tips and Traps. The workshop was sponsored by the Writers’ Union of Canada with authors Caroline Adderson and Mary W. Walters hosting. The workshop covered the publishing process from the perspective of traditional publishing and self-publishing. For me, it was a good refresher course and I did pick up some good tips, but I think it would be most helpful for people who haven’t yet started to research the publishing process. The handouts were fantastic, though, and are definitely material I will be referring to in the future.

After the workshop I headed up to the fair grounds. Book vendors and publishers of every variety filled the upper level of the centre. And of course books, books and more books. It really was a visually pleasing fair—very beautiful. Simon & Schuster even staged a house complete with dining room table, sofas and plush carpeting!

It reminded me quite a bit of Book Expo Canada (when it still existed) but with more discussion panels. It wasn’t nearly as crowded as I thought it would be, though perhaps that’s because all of the school events had ended by that time. I was disappointed that, with the exception of the discussion panel signings, most booths stopped doing author signings by 5:00 p.m. even though the fair continued for another couple hours.

Hugh Brewster, Ken Setterington & Deborah Ellis

Hugh Brewster, Gillian O’Reilly, Ken Setterington & Deborah Ellis

I caught a bit of a panel with Deborah Ellis, Hugh Brewster and Ken Setterington about war in kidslit at the TD Children’s Stage that was quite interesting. Then I took some time to admire CANSCAIP’s lovely wall display of original artwork by Canadian illustrators.

CANSCAIP illustrators artwork display

CANSCAIP illustrators artwork display

When I went in search of something to eat, I was disappointed by the lack of selection, especially since I was there at dinner time. My choices were muffins, sushi or crepes…none of which appealed to me. I suppose I could have left the fair but was worried about time.

So I decided to feed my soul instead and bought books. Several publishers were selling their books at a discount, which was fantastic! And there were a lot of signed copies for those like me who missed the authors themselves. I picked up I’m Bored! and Naked! by Michael Ian Black, both signed by illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and Jim Gaffigan’s Food: A Love Story.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan was being interviewed on the Inspire Main Stage. He was worth every penny—hilarious! The interviewer was a bit stiff; he didn’t deviate from his questions at all. But Jim is so quick and witty—definitely worth sticking around for.

Overall, I found the actual fair a bit underwhelming and, even though there were other panels over the weekend that I wanted to see, I felt like there wasn’t enough to keep me engaged between panels for another couple of days. But the books…well you can’t go wrong there.

Jim Gaffigan signing Food: A Love Story

Jim Gaffigan signing Food: A Love Story


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