Authors, Ping Pong, & Drinks for First Book Canada: It’s Pongapalooza!

Andrew Pyper
Lawrence Hill
Cathy Marie Buchanan
Nino Ricci
Miranda Hill

… and some 30 more big names in the Canadian Literary world all have something in common. They’re all going to be playing ping pong together a week from now on Tuesday, May 14th.

Yes. That’s right. Ping pong. It’s time for the second iteration of Pongapalooza.


Tom Best, Executive Director of First Book Canada, spoke with me about the history of the event and what we can look forward to this year.

Pongapalooza is a fundraiser for First Book Canada. When I asked about how the fundraiser was conceived, Tom laughed. “Wayne Cochrane, Director of Operations at First Book Canada heard about this bar, Spin, a ping pong bar, where Susan Sarandon was a part owner.” Tom says that they were looking for a different sort of fundraiser. Not your typical fancy dinner with silent auction, but something that would be more approachable for younger people who might be in junior positions and still interested in donating to FBC.

Tom’s right; this is right at my price point. At $25 for a spectator ticket, I get competitive (amateur) ping pong, opportunities to network with the literary community, and a night at a really cool bar. All to raise money for a good cause: funds raised at Pongapalooza will all be distributed locally at FBC’s upcoming book drives. CLICK HERE to buy your ticket now.


I asked Tom to tell me what we might expect this year, and he gave me a great run-down.

Doors are at 6pm, and the competitive play starts at 7pm. There will be free tables for casual play, food provided by Spin, drinks (and more drinks), and a good ol’ fashioned raffle. Music, starting with “O Canada,” of course, will be provided by your favourite non-profit DJs David Leonard and Teva Harrison. There are 32 teams that are each “mentored” by a literary leader, and you’re encouraged to bet on the outcome!

The best part? Once the formal event is over at around 9:15pm, you’re invited to stay and play and, let me tell you, it’s worth the wait: at 11pm there’s some blue light action and you can play in the dark!


Tom mentioned how the sponsors have been really fantastic, especially Scotiabank, who have this year signed on to be the title sponsor of the event. New sponsors have also come on board this year, like Hop City, who are well-known for their bright and hoppy Barking Squirrel Lager (which I suggest enjoying on the dock at your favourite Ontario lake). Also vital to the event preparation have been the Pongapalooza committee and Ryan Fisher at Spin who Tom calls “a godsend” (so if you see Ryan, thank him and maybe buy him a drink!).

To close, I asked Tom who he thinks we should watch out for on the ping pong tables. “Last year the winning team was from KPMG,” he said. “It was tough for the folks in publishing because the KPMG team didn’t drink a drop last year until after the competition! They felt like they were at a huge disadvantage.” And as for the authors? Tom assured me that we should place bets on Lawrence Hill and Dave Chilton.

So there you have it, folks. Get excited for this year’s competition! I can’t wait, and I would love it if you could join me. To enter to win a pair of spectator tickets to the event, tweet the following:

“Yes, @ayoungvoice: I want to win tickets to @Pongapalooza to raise money for @FirstBookCanada!”

Winner will be chosen at random at 3:59pm today, Tuesday, May 7th, 2013.

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