Six Questions for Lorna Lutz

Lorna Lutz, Kingston WritersFest, volunteerLorna Lutz is a semi-retired professional who, as they say has “fire in her bones.” She is a longstanding volunteer for Kingston WritersFest, who loves meeting and socializing with new people, and engaging in good political debate. Lorna is a consummate artist; texture, colour and fabrication excite her. She enjoys her six children and 5 grandchildren who provide her with many stories, life adventures and hugs.

1. Tell us about yourself, and your background with respect to literature. How long have you been involved as a volunteer with Kingston WritersFest?

Well, as a woman of an indiscriminate age, I have had lots of life experiences that qualify me for this volunteer job. I wish that I could say I have a degree in literature, but I don’t. I studied interior design in Chicago, so I guess I fell into this. We discovered two of our children have dyslexia, so right away, I needed to advocate for them, and for good literature. Currently, I read voraciously, anything from “Secret Garden” and “The Railway Children” from my youth, to historical fiction and mystery. Currently I’m reading “The Ballad of Jacob Peck”, a true crime story featured 2 years ago at WritersFest. To be truthful, I get many of my reading selections from WritersFest.

2. What sorts of jobs and key tasks are you responsible for during the festival? Do you have any special WritersFest moments that stick out in your mind from past years?

I originally was a greeter and ticket taker, which suited me fine, since I love to meet new people. The next year, I applied for the stewardship committee. I found my niche! We match authors to patrons or sponsors, and then we encourage along the way. We’re a charitable organization, so WritersFest runs on volunteerism, as well as private and corporate donations.

I actually got into this by accident. A friend, who owns a business on Princess Street, had asked me to critique the WritersFest display in her store window. While we were out on the sidewalk talking about the books in the window, along came a little sprite of a woman. She called out “There’s my book!” It was a local writer Laurie Lewis. We chatted and giggled and got on. By the end of the conversation Laurie informed me I was to offer my name up as a volunteer, or she would. The rest is history.

3. Aside from the joy you get from being involved as a volunteer, are there any fringe benefits do you enjoy as a result of your involvement in the festival? What keeps you coming back as a volunteer?

I am so very much in my element at WritersFest. I am surrounded by excellent writers, interested people and like-minded individuals. What’s not to like? It’s like a big family reunion. None of it feels like work, which is what keeps me coming back. Perks? Obviously, meeting people. Not just the writers. But the WritersFest participants who come back year after year. You know their names, and what they like. In no time, it feels like you are at a big reunion! Writers, of course, are interesting. They often are not quite what you expect! The constrasts in their personalities compared to what they write? Wow The first year, I had just read Will Schwabe’s Book (“The End of Your Life Bookclub”) and lo and behold here he was. I loved the book about the books he and his mother read together as his mom was dying. I got to talk with him and then he signed my book. Certainly a treasured memory.

4. What advice would you offer up to individuals who are potentially interested in becoming a volunteer at Kingston WritersFest? What can first time volunteers expect to get out of the experience?

The WritersFest survives and flourishes on its volunteers. Usually, the ideal volunteer has people skills and energy. Often, Queen’s students who are looking to get experience and/or pad a resume come to us. But they’re great! We get them to come to us early evening and late afternoon. The enthusiasm of the group carries them onward. Retired people usually have the skills we are looking for – they are the backbone of the organization. They drive authors around; they sometimes travel to other sities with them. The volunteers get to be out among like-minded people meeting new people, seeing their “author idols” in person.

For people who would like to volunteer, apply through the WritersFest website. It’s a simple process, but with a wonderful payoff.

5. Part of the challenge of putting on a good show is not letting the audience see to much of the behind the scenes chaos. What’s the most challenging, last minute obstacle you’ve had to address to ensure that the show could go on?

Biggest challenge is time – keeping to the schedule.

At the end of each event, the authors have a meet ‘n’ greet and sign books. Getting the guests moving, herding them to the next event, cleaning and prepping the room – all crazy time.

Sound checks, setting up the stage.

6. Which events are you looking forward to the most at this year’s WritersFest? If you had to pick only a handful of events to take part in, which ones would you recommend?

I would choose, first on the list – Mystery Maven – it’s a mystery, it’s Gail Bowen, and a group of my friends are meeting me there. And that’s the essence of WritersFest.

Second is International Marquee – Annie Proulx and Emma Donoghue – This is where the prixes for writing are given out. It’s at the Grand, we dress up – It’s like the Oscars come to WritersFest.

Third, The Big Idea: A Good Death – It’s not a venue for a political protest, but it is a valued representation of facts in social media. It will open your eyes.

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