by Lorie Lewis Ham
This weekend is Bookwyrm, a 2 day gaming convention at the Woodward Park Library in Fresno. We spoke with 2 of the organizers of this year’s event-James Tyner and Tiffany Polfer.
KRL: What is Bookwyrm and what is your position with it?
James: BookWyrm is a yearly gaming convention held at the Woodward Park Library. It’s a two-day convention, totally free. We try and bring a big style gaming convention to Fresno, but have it at the library and for free. It’s the only one of its kind.
I’m an Adult Services Librarian with Fresno County Public Library. I am currently at the Betty Rodriguez and Clovis Libraries. I came up with the idea for BookWyrm and am currently one of the organizers.
Tiffany: I am the Teen Services Librarian for three branches – Woodward, Pinedale, and Politi. I am strictly here to make it easier for James and Josh to put on Bookwyrm – mainly on the library side of things. I organize publicity, room reservation and set up, and anything else that may pop up. All so Bookwyrm can go smoothly.
KRL: Who all is involved in putting Bookwyrm on?
James: It is put on by the library. It is run by Tiffany and myself. From the beginning, we’ve tried to make it a cross library event. We also have lots of help from volunteers and from local stores and community groups. The Crazy Squirrel Game store donates tons of hours and help with the event. One of the library volunteers of the year, Josh McIllwain, is a co-organizer with us. He helps with managing all the games and over sees much of the online stuff, like the WARHORN signup page and more. It takes a lot of people working together.
KRL: What all will be happening at this year’s event?
James: For this year’s event, we were allowed to close the library on Sunday. This is the first time this has ever happened. The library will be only open to those attending the event. It’s a very exciting thing for us. We also have some writers and game designers showing up to talk about their books. Gabrielle Harbowy will be discussing her latest fantasy novel.
KRL: When and how did Bookwyrm begin?
James: Back in 2005, I first had this idea to bring a gaming convention to Fresno. I had no money, but I thought it would be great if I could do it with the library. It would be a con on a smaller level, but free and open to everyone. I was running D&D games at the Clovis library at the time, and I was able to get those players and DM’s to help get it off the ground. We couldn’t do it at the Clovis library, but I was able to work with Woodward Park Library, and they allowed me to do the event there. It was an insane amount of work and coordination. It was successful. We had about 150 people over two days. We had stores from the community want to run booths, including Borders bookstore. But the majority of the work fell on me, and I was exhausted. I thought it was too much work to do it again.
Fast forward seven years and I was with some friends role playing. One of them, Josh McIllwain, mentioned that he would like to see a con here in Fresno. I mentioned what I had done in the past. He loved the idea, so we had a meeting and got the ball rolling. It was much easier this time because I had help from the beginning. We did our first BookWrym Con in 2012, and we are now on our sixth year. About the second year in, I was able to get Tiffany Polfer involved. She has been an invaluable aspect to the whole thing. So the three of us now run this: Josh, myself, and Tiffany.
KRL: For those who don’t know, what is RPG?
James: An RPG is a role-playing game (examples are Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and more). It’s basically playing as a group of people through a story. Someone leads the story (the game master) and others work together to get through it. It’s great fun, and teaches things like socialization, team work, math, reading, and more. Dungeons and Dragons has seen a resurgence in popularity lately because of the TV show Stranger Things. The kids in that show play it, and now everyone is very interested in trying it out.
KRL: What type of board games will there be?
James: On Sunday, we will have a huge selection of board games available for the public. I don’t have an exact list, but it will include board games for beginners, games for more experienced players, and newer games to be demoed. The board games will be run by a local group known as the Fresno Board Gamers.
KRL: Who are the Fresno Board Gamers?
James: The Fresno Board Gamers are a group of people who get together at various locations throughout Fresno to try out new board games and meet new people. To find out more about them, check out the Fresno Board Gamers Facebook page.
KRL: What motivated you to create this event? Why did you feel Fresno needed an event like this?
James: Not to get too deep here, but I grew up poor in some tough neighborhoods. I had several cousins that were in or involved in gangs. I was at a cousin’s house when I was around eight, and he was playing D&D. They let me play, and I was really affected by it. There’s a sense of heroism, team work, and imagination. It was great for me as a kid, and it kept me out of trouble more than once. Also, I’ve seen the effects gaming can have in the library. It brings people together and breaks down barriers. No matter who you are, when we are at the table together, you are a team. And that’s what I love about it. Bringing people together from all over California to game together.
Tiffany: James is 100% correct when he says it brings people together. At the library, I am able to see the diversity of the people who are at the tables. As a teen librarian, I am so thrilled when I see teenagers at the convention because this is a place where they can explore and grow their interests in tabletop – without being judged for their inexperience. Bookwyrm is a fantastic event because as I say to everyone, they are incredibly welcoming to newcomers. They have tables for all skill levels, and that is so important when you are talking about a culture that has this reputation of being exclusive. Anyone can walk into Bookwyrm and say that they are interested in RPGs but have never played, and the organizers will find them a table. The organizers love tabletop and to have a convention that is welcoming to everyone regardless of expertise is just phenomenal.
KRL: How has BookWyrm changed since it began?
James: It has definitely grown in size. Each year we get more people. We also add something new each year, such as author talks, different games, book signings, and this year we are getting full access to the whole library on Sunday.
KRL: What type of attendance do you normally get?
James: It grows each year. Last year we had around 325 people over the two days of gaming. We have a good feeling it’s going to surpass that this year.
KRL: When and where is BookWyrm and do you have to sign up for it?
James: It’s an all free event. Just come. Games are generally put into what we call slots. That’s a fancy way of saying that games go from 9 a.m., and then a second set of games start at 2 p.m. So if you want to make it to the beginning of game session, get there at those times. But we will also be having events all day, so there will be something for everyone to do. We have more information available on our Facebook event page at BookWyrm RPG Convention 2018, and if you want to see a full schedule of events, visit the WARHORN page at WARHORN – BookWyrm Schedule of Events 2018. You can sign up in advance for games there. You don’t have to sign up for games, but it is recommended to secure yourself a spot.
KRL: Is there anything else you would like to add?
James: If you played D&D years ago and are thinking about getting back in, this is your event. If you’ve never played an RPG, this is a perfect place to start. It’s a great, free event that continues to grow. Tiffany and I presented a panel on BookWyrm at PLA in 2016, talking about gaming and how to get it going at your branch. I was even approached by a Navy Librarian wanting to learn more and wanting to emulate our event.
Here’s the BookWyrm 2018 Warhorn Page. This is where you go to sign up for games in advance and to see the full schedule of events. The library is located at 944 E Perrin Ave. in Fresno.