It is rare that a company finds the perfect balance between business and pleasure. The ability to not only be productive, goal orientated and successful, but to energize and uplift those working there. And beyond the workplace, to be able to reach out to those they seek to serve, and no matter their success, still make them feel known, welcome, and like a part of the family.
Well, Wattpad is just that. And there was no better demonstration of this than their 10 year anniversary party on November 22 in Toronto.
When I first received an invite, I looked at it with complete confusion for a solid five minutes. Really? Me? Why in the world would they invite me? I am not an overly popular writer, nor a star. I am not published, or well known. I had only just joined the ambassador team, and felt I had yet to prove myself in that measure. But, there it was…the pretty little orange invite in my inbox. Of course, I responded with a HELL YES, and set to waiting the entire month before the actual event.
And it was beyond what any of us could have expected. Arriving with Keri and Gaby who I have been fortunate enough to talk to for some time, I felt a little more comfortable not being alone in this venture. I am the epitome of awkward and weird, especially in social events. Even more so when meeting people I admire.
So to walk into the party, turn and see Margaret Atwood within the first five minutes, I pretty much died right there. I almost knocked Keri over, sputtering something probably incoherent in my excitement. I watched the literary icon for several moments (only slightly stalkerish) before Keri had the nerve to go up and say hi. Sweet, welcoming, and so perfectly normal, Ms Atwood is truly an icon.
The room was packed with staff, partners, wattpaders and stars, all mingling, chatting, and loving every moment of the Wattpad HQ atmosphere. The office vibe was absent as the countless desks, computers and business-ery were hidden who knows where, leaving the wood floors and brick walls open for admiration. Decorating the space was pictures of Wattpaders from all over the world, strung together in endless banners. Even those who couldn’t attend, were there in spirit. Bean bags, a mini faux campfire, a smores bar and swag mini puzzles were all just the start.
The kitchen of HQ was the main hub, the screen featuring the steady and ever changing Twitter feed of #wattpad10. Those at the event, and all around the world, were streamed along the screen for everyone to see. Drinks, food (so yummy I had to force myself to not eat everything in sight), and amazing people were scattered in every corner of the room.
Some of those amazing people made me feel even more fortunate to find myself in their company. The beautiful and powerful Fallon Demornay, rocking red stilettos in support of the sisterhood…the sweet and charming Lindsey Summers, who traded me an ARC of her upcoming book Textrovert (The Cellphone Swap) for one of my measly bookmarks…Gavin ‘The Orangutan’ Wilson, who brings ambassadors together from all over the world and is the embodiment of the Wattpad brand…and finally, the incomparable Anna Todd, the woman who inspired me to write again, who after reading some of her interviews made me feel like maybe my dreams weren’t so unreachable.
Called into the main room shortly into the night, the speeches began. Hosted by Aron Levitz from Wattpad Studios, there was a little history, a little reminiscing, and even a joke about AI taking over the world (no, AI isn’t artificial intelligence according to Aron…it is actually Allen and Ivan).
Next on stage came Katherine and Amber of the ambassadors, sharing with the team and the party goers the video the ambassadors put together especially for the event. Featuring video messages, pictures, and thank you’s from Wattpaders all over the world, it was a true example of how far Wattpad has reached, and how much it has influenced us all.
Talking about the power of Wattpad, and how it can change someones life cannot be better exemplified than with Anna Todd. Deciding to write her #1 New York Times Bestseller because all of the stories she was reading had finished, she did exactly what so many of us have. Saw that others were writing, had the platform, and found their voice and decided to give it a try. Since then, she has become every Wattpaders idol, their goal, and despite her rocketing fame and crazy lifestyle, she is still the most real, down to earth, and grateful person I have ever met.
The final two taking over the platform of speeches were the hosts, and men of the hour…Allen and Ivan, co-founders of Wattpad. But theirs was more than just a thank you speech, and really for anyone who knows Wattpad and what it is, it wasn’t really surprising to find them complete with power points and old pictures. We learned of Wattpads inception, something that the two had been considering separately for some time, and by chance came together. Of its first ever prototype on the old Motorola Razor flip phone (yes, you can laugh, we all did), and images of the first website. All very nostalgic, and made for some good laughs when compared to the well oiled online machine that is now Wattpad. The office is no longer Ivan’s Vancouver apartment. There is no longer the humble but dedicated staff of 10. Now, with more than 90 employees, and a three story downtown office in the heart of Toronto, Wattpads journey was long, but worth every moment.
But after the history, came the future. Never ones to be content with idling, the masterminds behind our favorite app have clear and exciting goals for where to go next. Now, I don’t want to give away their secrets, but I will say…watch out Disney, because Wattland is coming for you! *wink*
There was cake, a toast, hugs and cheers, as the night went on well after midnight. In a room with so many like-minded individuals, with a passion for story telling, for ingenuity, and such a sense of community, my previous nervous fear faded. I spoke with Ivan, telling him of how Wattpad finally gave me back my voice and a place to write all the things I never thought I could. I connected with HQ staff, those who work so hard to make this community what it is. And I topped off the night sitting with Fallon and Anna, hiding off in a back room, talking about anything that came to our minds.
Despite the high I buzz being in that room, I started to crash some time after midnight and made my way back to my hotel. Even once in the big bed and quiet room, I still couldn’t come down from the high the night had given me.
The community of Wattpad is just that; a community that reaches all over the world, and brings together people through the love of stories. Whether classics, sci-fi, romance or fanfic, it doesn’t matter your preference. Wattpad is a place that allows us all to find a voice, and express ourselves in a safe and supportive environment. The writers we love, the readers who support us, and the staff who bring it all together are all connected in a way that only Wattpad can do.
I cannot thank the Wattpad staff and community enough for allowing me to be a part of this incredible night. You had already given me so much, and now you’ve given me a night to remember.
Happy 10 years, Wattpad! I can’t wait for a hundred more!