Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Relationships among family members, a frequent theme this year, will highlight the final session of the third year of the Idyllwild Authors Series. Series founder Eduardo Santiago will discuss his recent book, “Midnight Rumba,” this Sunday. “Midnight Rumba,” which is set in the 10 years leading to the Cuban revolution in 1959, explores the connections of three families.
“Initially I didn’t realize that the setting was a parallel between a Latin American revolution and what it’s like to grow up in a family,” he said. “There is always a revolt. If it doesn’t happen when you’re young, then when you’re older.”
Santiago’s initial draft of 840 pages took nine years to complete and a huge emotional investment. “I’d stop work and throw the manuscript across the room. Eventually, I’d get on my knees, pick it up and kiss it,” Santiago said, describing the volatile creative process. Consequently, the final product is “deeper and more mature, the themes are more complex and the characters more unique,” he said.
The effort helped him become a better writer, he believes, because he had to develop a greater level of courage. His characters demonstrate the ways grown children often disappoint their parents. Like many of us, Santiago experienced this personally and had the courage to use those feelings in this work.
While he and his father, now in his 80s and living in Florida, are on good and close terms, the book is dedicated to him. Santiago said many times while growing up he felt his father was simply bracing for enormous disappointment.
“It’s not the son who is an author, but the son who wants to be an author. That’s pretty scary,” he explained. “I had to deliver for him. I passed all his expectations because they were so low.
“Parents are the most important relationship,” he continued. “We can’t divorce our parents, but we can get remarried.”
To change and improve that relationship, Santiago visited a therapist for more than two decades. “I worked really hard to drop the judgment because I didn’t want to carry a big bag of bull—-,” he confessed.
“Midnight Rumba” is not the only book in the 2013 series about family relationships and the difficulty of separating judgment from connections. This past week’s author Duff Brenna’s book was about his mother and growing up.
At first, Santiago said this was simply a coincidence. Santiago had not consciously planned this theme, but the previous authors, such as Cheryl Crane, who opened this year’s series, wrote about her mother and her boyfriend. Several other authors, including Michael Kearns and Steven Reigns, also focused on the turmoil and tension inherent in families.
“I think trying to find a theme that works is more than I can create. Generally, availability and willingness to come are the criteria,” he said. “And I like their books.”
Santiago is very pleased with the third year of the series. The turnout has been extraordinary, in his opinion. So bibliophiles can spend the winter preparing for another author series in 2014, he promised. “I want to get Anne Rice here,” he hopes.
Santiago will discuss “Midnight Rumba” at 3 p.m., Sunday, August 4, at Café Aroma. For those who miss this opportunity, he is offering a beginning writers workshop in August in Idyllwild.
Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Great way to spend a Sunday!
Friday, August 10th, 2012
Eduardo Santiago, celebrating year two as an Idyllwild homeowner, said he enthusiastically jumped into the Idyllwild community with both feet. Part of that jump included founding a free Idyllwild Authors Series last year to try to help preserve a struggling independent bookstore.
“It’s really important to me for some romantic reason to keep an independent bookstore in Idyllwild,” said Santiago, a successful Los Angeles author and creative writing teacher. “A town without a bookstore is a town without a soul.”
Santiago has lined up 10 prominent Los Angeles writers from a variety of literary disciplines for the series’ second year. He said there is something about each of this year’s featured writers that piques his curiosity. And although the quality of their work is comparable to last year’s authors, much has changed for the series.
Last year Santiago created his series from nothing, with no funding and no guarantees of support. He launched his enterprise as a gift to the community, fueled solely by his commitment to the printed word, his infectious imagination, and his energy and belief in his purpose. Many A-list Los Angeles authors made the trek to Idyllwild just for the joy of discussing their work, promoting literature and supporting Santiago’s goal of saving the bookstore. “They were paid nothing, not even gas money,” said Santiago, amazed that so many recognized writers would respond to his invitation.
Santiago said this year builds on last year’s success. “I now have enormous and faithful support from the Idyllwild community,” he said. That support takes the form of strong attendance at each author event and donations from local businesses that help promote the series and house and feed featured authors.
Also this year, thanks to donations from Los Angeles nonprofit PEN Center USA, and unflagging enthusiasm for the series from PEN’s Executive Director Adam Somers, Santiago will have money to fund small author stipends and transportation expenses. “He [Somers] sees such growth potential [for the series],” said Santiago.
Santiago chose to make two changes this year regarding selection of authors. For the first time, a local author, Sabrina Verney, will be featured discussing her book “Xtul.” In another change, Santiago has scheduled self-published author George Snyder to discuss his book “On Wings of Affection.”
Santiago decided to include Verney because of the premise and quality of her book. With Snyder, he wanted him to discuss his experience of self-publishing his works. “Self-publishing used to mean generally lower quality, maybe some editing omissions, but the publishing industry has changed dramatically and self-publishing is on the rise, following the route of indie films, recordings and YouTube,” said Santiago. “I thought it might be interesting to get that author point of view.
“I love this series, every single moment of it. It’s been pretty much a waking dream.”
Asked if he would again close the series as an interviewed author, he demurred. “The [series] regulars conspired to make that happen [last year],” he said. “But this is not about me. It’s about the authors and the public and the bookstore.”
The Idyllwild Authors Series begins at 2 p.m. every Sunday from May 20 through July 22 directly in front of the INK Bookstore on North Circle Drive. Admission is free to the public. Oscar nominee Quinn Cummings opens the series talking about her book, “Notes From the Underwire.”
Friday, August 10th, 2012
It was standing room only for the final author in the second year of Eduardo Santiago’s Idyllwild Authors Series. “We were scrambling trying to find chairs,” said Santiago of the attendance at Amy Wallace’s Sunday, July 22 appearance at INK Book Gathering.
Wallace, daughter of Irving Wallace, and author of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda,” was the last of 12 authors in a series Santiago designed to draw attention to and promote the business of Idyllwild’s only independent bookstore. “A town without a bookstore is a town without a soul,” said Santiago, who launched the series last year with no money, just a belief that the store (formerly B’s Mountain of Books) needed support and that an author series would bring attention and attendance.
“It’s been such a moving experience to have the community reach out and support this,” said Santiago. “The seeds have been planted. It’s growing. This year has been exciting because of the turnout and the diversity of the authors.”
Santiago, at the beginning of each interview, takes time to thank key supporters that have helped fund the series (PEN Center USA), feed the authors (Café Aroma), house the authors (Strawberry Creek Inn), design ads (Pete and Betty Anderson) and provide a home for the series (Julie Johnson, INK owner). But in looking back over this year, it’s the audience to whom he is especially grateful.
“If they did not show up, it would be just me and the author talking,” he said. “The appreciation of the audience, showing up each week, that means a lot to me.”
Santiago is an author and a creative writing teacher, as are many of those who have come this season and last. Some have been his teachers, like Steve Heller, master in fine arts creative writing chair at Antioch University Los Angeles and Tod Goldberg, master in fine arts creative writing chair at University of California, Riverside’s low residency program, but said Santiago, “There are no preinterviews. When they’re in the hot seat [at the Authors Series], I get to ask whatever I want. I want it to be spontaneous.”
Santiago is an entertaining interviewer, bringing both a writer’s understanding of the creative process and a sense of humor to the events. “And everybody this year has been amazing — punctual, interesting, funny, open to whatever.”
For next year, Santiago said, “I have dreams. My dance card [authors for next year] is almost full, but it’s too early to announce. I’d like to see some improvements, like a deck at the back of the bookstore that I could build [if agreeable with the landlord and Johnson] to make patrons more comfortable; maybe scheduling the events later on Sunday so it’s not as hot; perhaps, with more financial support, bringing authors from other cities. I keep wondering how I can improve this,” he said. “If I’m able to get a little more [support] then I can provide a little more.”
While Santiago created the series for the town, the energy of the series moves in both directions. He noted that living part-time in Idyllwild and making so many friends through this series has positively impacted his career. “I’ve written the book for a musical and tomorrow [July 24] we’re having a first table read with a bunch of actors in Los Angeles,” he said. “The energy I get from Idyllwild has made me so much more courageous.”
Friday, August 10th, 2012
Amy Wallace, daughter of author Irving Wallace, met Carlos Castaneda on her father’s recommendation when she was 15. “You would love him,” he said. And eventually she did. Wallace had already established herself as a successful writer when, pursued and seduced by Castaneda’s stories, charisma and promise of marriage, she joined him in Mexico only to discover that she had become one of his many conquests and converts.
Wallace, who appears as the last of Eduardo Santiago’s authors this season, will discuss her association with Castaneda in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda” (2003, Frog Ltd., North Atlantic Press, Berkeley, California). The lesson Wallace learned in the eight years she spent bouncing in and out of Castaneda’s favored circle was, “Don’t listen to the short shaman with the mellifluous voice.” But that is in retrospect. The journey, as detailed in her memoir, is much different — intriguing, hopeful and appalling at different turns, especially for a successful author already recognized for her talent, accomplishments and intelligence. Castaneda, as Wallace recalls, was compelling and cruel, mesmerizing and manipulative and supremely seductive. And, she remembered, there was always the possibility that there was magic, real magic, that he alone knew how to unlock.
“Mexico with Castaneda!” writes Wallace in ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice.’ “I had never been to Mexico, and now I was going with the last and greatest of the brujos to his magical home. He would unIock its shamanic secrets. I pictured a Disneyland of the paranormal: Carlos and I creeping past cactuses to underground caves where we would sip strange, mind-altering brews and converse with ancient wizards. We would explore the ‘power spots’ he described in his books.
We would take the steps to precede the shamanic death we dreamed of, ‘burning from within’ together, in a rapturous ball of fire, emerging intact in another world, and nothing would ever separate us. What adventuress in her right mind could possibly say no?”
Wallace used the writing of “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” to extract herself from Castaneda’s influence and re-enter a life of her own construction. Before Castaneda, Wallace had already written the bestselling “The Book of Lists,” with brother David Wallenchinsky and “The Psychic Healing Book.”
“I don’t remember not writing,” said Wallace who was a bit of a prodigy. “Five, I think,” when asked the age when she began. “By eight, I was writing short stories.” After Castaneda, Wallace is exploring new forms: an online site, www.catsinplaces.com that she will illustrate and turn into a book, resuming fiction writing, concentrating on the short story form, with an emphasis on horror, but ultimately, more and more writing. In 2008 she coauthored with Del Howison and boyfriend Scott Bradley, “The Book of Lists: Horror” (2008, Harper Collins, New York).
“I’m driven by ideas and concepts,” she said of her writing. “And I’m drawn to dialogue, even a book with just dialogue. And now, I’m doing what I want to do, writing the books that are in me.”
As are all of the Santiago’s Idyllwild Authors Series, the event is free to the public and begins 2 p.m., Sunday, July 22 in back of INK Book Gathering on North Circle.
Friday, August 10th, 2012
Friday, August 10th, 2012
Amy Finley, author of “How to Eat a Small Country: A Family’s Pursuit of Happiness One Meal at a Time” will talk about her family’s six-month moveable feast odyssey through the French countryside as the next author in Eduardo Santiago’s Idyllwild Authors Series. Finley’s account of that journey, is not just about food, it is also about making choices to preserve family, accommodations she made to ensure her marriage’s continuation, and how food, family and relationship became deeply interwoven in the process.
Finley, a UCLA political science graduate, who worked as a science and technology policy analyst at U.C. San Diego, later moved to Paris after meeting her Franco-American husband Greg. There she enrolled at Gregoire-Ferrandi’s Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise and later worked as pastry chef at the trendsetting Rose Bakery in Paris.
In 2007, Finley was named winner of the third season of The Next Food Network Star and received a show of her own, “The Gourmet Next Door,” which taped in New York. At the time Finley, her husband and two small children were living in California. After six episodes, Finley quit the show and opted to move her family to her husband’s native France, eschewing celebrity for familial integrity.
Asked about celebrity and how it dominates American culture, Finley said in many ways it is wired into our DNA and that it comes from human nature. “There is some biological grounding,” she observed. “The drive for recognition is very old.”
Finley recounted that she didn’t anticipate what price celebrity would exact on her family and marriage. She said she sent a tape in on whim to The Food Network and that winning was a surprise. But after winning, experiencing how it felt to cook on television for strangers while not cooking at home for her family in California felt completely and totally alien. “With celebrity you become a brand and have to keep growing that brand and that was something I could not do,” she said, noting how much time would have been required taping in New York away from her family.
Finley, who has a solid background as a policy analyst, said she realized that her choice between family and a demanding career was similar to what most working women with children must contend every day. “It’s almost impossible to have a career after you have that first baby, it’s not as simple as that,” she said. “We’ve created an economy that requires two incomes. It’s a problem in general for American families, not so much in France where there is available childcare and school hours organized around a normal workday. There the child minders and teachers are qualified and available when they are most needed by working women. In the U.S. it’s tough for parenting. Our priorities are not skewed to making it easy for people to have families. Countries that make it easy for people to have families also build stable societies. And happy communities foster happy nations.”
Regarding fast food and obesity, Finley said they also are linked to the need for two incomes in working families and lack of available childcare. “People are time challenged and stressed,” she said. “And making meals at the end of long days is more difficult here than in Europe. In Europe there are specialty food purveyors who make fresh food that working mothers can use to augment meals. You keep a village alive by supporting these vendors. For the most part, we don’t have those choices here, so it takes more research to find healthy sources.”
Finley said quality food availability is inextricably tied to social justice and societal values. To promote social justice, better food access and choices, and to help address workplace challenges, Finley advises becoming actively involved in integrating food with community. “Don’t be passive, take active steps, constantly reground and realize that each person is part of something bigger. The community grows as individuals take action. Use your buying power to influence food quality and availability and make decisions to change your own buying and cooking habits. Don’t think of just your own narrow personal or family interests; think of the wider community.”
Santiago interviews Finley on Sunday, July 8 at 2 p.m. at INK Book Gathering on North Circle Drive. The event is free to the public.
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