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So I was at the Packaging Your Imagination conference in Toronto yesterday -- me and a couple of hundred other writers for children.  And you know what I remember most vividly about the day?  Lunch.  It's not that I didn't have a great time hanging out with old friends and making new ones;  it's not that I didn't learn stuff at the master classes, and get a kick out of prancing around on stage (yes, sadly, that is me in the photo) and making myself and others laugh.  But lunch marked a real change for me.  Not the meal itself, which was sandwichy salady straightforward.  It was the venue. The conference took place at a college on the University of Toronto campus.  Lunch was in the dining hall, and there was a High Table and I -- this is where my eyes widened and my breath quickened slightly -- I was instructed in no uncertain terms to sit myself there.   Are you sure?  I said. Yes, said the bossy lady with the bundle of sticks, standing in the doorway. I've never eaten at High Table before, I said.  Are there rules?  Do I have to talk to the person on my left first?  Can I swear?  Do I have to finish my meal before I can get a dessert?  She frowned, gestured, and I took my plate in my trembling hands, made my way up (yes up -- High Table is actually two steps above the level of the floor) to my place.  I sat between two people who were so at ease that they were clearly used to High Tables.  They were not a bit snobbish, and answered my questions very naturally. By the end of the meal I was able to make a small joke -- one of those zen master and a rabbi  and a necrophiliac jokes -- and the polite laughter all round the table told me I had hit the right note.  Then we dispersed to our afternoon sessions.  It took my blood pressure some time to come down. All right, maybe I am making this a bigger deal than it was.  But I was not comfy up there.  I had a moment thinking, I am not a High Table guy.  There's nothing special about the way I eat lunch -- nothing to mark me out from the other lunchers.  If I ran the Packaging conference --- well, it would be a complete failure  because I would forget to book the venue or get the date wrong or something --  there wouldn't be a High Table.  Or, better yet, there'd be High Tables for everyone.  And no fascists telling us where to sit. I ran into a very energetic forward-planning lady at the after party.  She is already thinking about next year.  She asked if  I had any suggestions.  Packaging Your Imagination is perfect, I said, except for one thing.  I turned to get my drink and when I turned back she was gone.  Oh well.  I wonder if she reads my blog?


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