From the award-winning author of Tomorrow They Will Kiss, a riveting new novel.

 

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

WEST HOLLYWOOD BOOK FAIR 2012

Eduardo Santiago, author and producer of the Idyllwild Authors Series, standing on top of the INK Bookstore, host to the series. Photo by Jenny Kirchner

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.”

Author Amy Wallace (right) talked to a capacity crowd at INK Book Gathering on Sunday afternoon about her memoir, “Sorcerer’s Apprentice, My Life with Carlos Castaneda.” For the second year, Eduardo Santiago (left) organized the summer series author talks. Wallace was the final author for 2012. Photo by Barbara Reese

Eduardo Santiago closes the 2012 Idyllwild Author Series. Photo by Careena Chase

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.”

Eduardo Santiago’s and Paula Priamos, at the Idyllwild Authors Series (IAS), examines whether a shyster defense attorney, disbarred for embezzlement, can also be a good father. The father in this case is hers, and her memoir “The Shyster’s Daughter”. The IAS was held at Café Aroma on Saturday afternoon. Photo by Jenny Kirchner

Amy Wallace, author of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” is next at the Idyllwild Authors Series. Photo courtesy of Amy Wallace

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.

Steve Heller (right) joins Eduardo Santiago at the INK Book Gathering for the Idyllwild Author Series on Sunday afternoon. Heller talked about his writing and teaching life and discussed his book, “Lucky Kellerman,” which he wrote in 1987. He is currently writing a follow-up to that book, called “Return of the Ghost Killer.” Photo by Barbara Reese

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.

Amy Finley, author of “How to Eat a Small Country,” is next. Photo courtesy of Amy Finley

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.

Friday, August 10th, 2012

George Snyder next at Authors Series

If you like early Truman Capote and Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City,” that particular ease, voice, style and literate sophistication, you’ll like Los Angeles author George Snyder.

George Snyder Photo courtesy of George Snyder

Snyder, who next appears for Eduardo Santiago’s Idyllwild Authors Series on Sunday, July 1, will discuss his critically praised novel, “On Wings of Affection.” Touted as a novel of “Murder, mayhem, cocktails, kept boys, rehab and redemption in the City of Fallen Angels,” “Wings” captures the “noir” in crime writing while adding titillating humor and edgy asides in a cutting first-person narrator voice. It is the first in a series that will follow the same characters through their own evolution, much as Maupin did with his “Tales of the City.”

Witty, well-read, verbally adept and a keen observer of Hollywood and West Hollywood’s varied communities and coteries, both authentic, faux and superfaux, Snyder was born in Pittsburgh, Ohio-raised, and California-evolved, by his own admission. Remarking on his Midwest birth, rearing, and undergraduate education at Methodist based Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, Snyder said, “We’re not the kind of people who go to Hollywood to write.”

But like many of this year’s series authors, Snyder has had an interesting and varied career prior to becoming a writer that he credits with informing his writing and contributing to his personal growth. “I crashed and burned in New York and then came to California for the weather,” he said.

Among many professional stops along the way to writing professionally, Snyder worked as personal assistant to writer and director Joss Whedon (“The Avengers,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Toy Story,” and “Serenity”). In that capacity he worked closely with other writers and development people, initially for the Buffy television series. “In meeting the writers for the show I learned how they work, how they approached their craft,” he said. “I think it’s all about finding the voice, your voice, for your own writing. It is for me a process of self-revelation, in writing, finding my voice, I am finding out who I am. From it I derive great joy.”

Snyder said he began to find his voice as an author when he started his blog five years ago. “1904, The Year Everything Important Happened,” www.georgesnyder.org, is built on the conceit that, at least for Snyder, much that he loves, beginning with James Joyce’s “Ulysses” that takes place on June 16, 1904, is associated with that date. The blog discusses those links and relates them to the present, referencing in the process “The Cherry Orchard” by Chekhov, James Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” Henry James’ “The Golden Bowl,” Graham Greene, Cecil Beaton and many other connections. “I thought if I do this it will be good discipline,” said Snyder. “If you seek meaning you will find it.”

Snyder recounted that the blog connected him to historical periods, language, personages and publications that helped him discover his writing style. “A lot of writing ends up being about the process of writing, moving me into deeper waters where I‘ve become more aware of where I’ve been and where I’m going. And, as we [writers] all do, at the end of the day we’re writing about richly interesting communities.”

Snyder said that he publishes his own work so that he is guaranteed to find an audience. His choice has met with success, both with critics and fans. In an advocate.com article, “How to Self-Publish and Not Perish in the Process,” Snyder discusses why he chose this avenue and how he has succeeded. He will also discuss that at the Idyllwild Authors Series. Santiago interviews Snyder at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 1 at the INK Bookgathering on North Circle.

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Tod Goldberg at Idyllwild Authors Series

Tod Goldberg, prolific author and chair of the master of fine arts in writing program at the University of California, Riverside, the Palm Desert Center, is funny, very funny and that’s the first thing you should know about him. His appearance as part of Eduardo Santiago’s Idyllwild Authors Series on Sunday, June 24, should be a very thought-provoking and entertaining ride.

“I write about undercurrents surrounding issues of identity,” said Goldberg. “Identity is a very fungible thing. We can be very different based on where we are.”

Goldberg will be talking about his collection of stories, “Other Resort Cities,” and his characters — denizens of desert communities, refugees seeking to rebuild lost lives, in communities such as Palm Springs, Las Vegas and Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I’m fascinated by the settings, the crimes people commit. They have to go there [to these resort cities] but want to be somewhere else. Their public personas are often not who they really are. They’ve come to these hot and searing places to lose or reinvent themselves,” Goldberg said.

Among his eccentrics in “Resort Cities” are a Chicago hit man hiding in Las Vegas as a respected rabbi of a money-laundering temple, a father, whose wife cheated on him, lives as a squatter in model homes with his abducted children, a sad and deserted husband who turns his luxury home in a gated community into a Starbucks, and a former sheriff and cancer survivor who returns to the toxic environs of the Salton Sea where he lost his first wife.

“As a writer, you have to find the thing you’re avoiding, that scary place in your own head,” Goldberg advised his graduate students. “That which I don’t know affects my writing. I try to find the answers to a single person’s issues. The popular adage is that writers write what they know, but I believe differently. The best writers write what they don’t know, the things that are just out of reach, the aspects of life they need clarity on. All writers try to find the things they’re obsessed about — identity. That’s where I come from. Who am I?”

Goldberg said that setting and place play an important part in his writing, especially when writing a short story. “I sometimes reverse engineer from place to person — seeing a cocktail waitress in an Indian casino, I’ll want to know why and how she got there, who a person would be in that particular place.”

Siblings who write is a common attribute among many of this year’s authors. Amy Ephron, last week’s author, has three writing siblings and is the daughter of writers. This week features a husband and wife duo, both writers. Goldberg has three sibling writers and is married to a writer. Goldberg talks about the challenges he and his siblings faced growing up in a difficult household and how those shared experiences groomed them to be writers.

“We each escaped into words from an early age,” he said. “That’s the sad truth that lives under the happy result.” He said he finds comfort and emotional support in being able to reach out to his siblings, as a writer, when he has questions or needs their points of view. “One of the great things in my life, wonderful and horrifying too, is that we’re all writing about the same things but we don’t know it, and that we can share the highs and the lows. Everyone in my close circle is intimately connected with failure.”

Goldberg writes how sense memory, flowing from individuals’ histories, marks their unique passage. For him, a defining influence when he was young was the group the Beastie Boys. “When you’re young and Jewish and want to make art, role models aren’t exactly thick on the ground, but there were three guys who looked like me who were making art. It would eventually be great art. The Beastie Boys have been playing behind me since I was 14 and so I’ve tended to think of them as belonging to me, which is ludicrous I know. But that’s what makes some art great; it comes so close to you that you forget it’s just words, or pictures, or sounds that played while you were young, when you were older, but still so young, and then again today, when you weren’t so young at all.”

Santiago interviews Goldberg, who actually taught Santiago at UCLA Extension, at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 24 behind INK Bookstore on North Circle.

Eduardo Santiago’s popular Idyllwild Author Series will feature a two for one bonus on Sunday, June 17. Amy Friedman and Dennis Danziger, two writers who happen to be married to each other will be the next guest speakers.

Amy Friedman

Friedman is the author of the long-running syndicated newspaper column and series of audio books, “Tell Me a Story,” teaches writing at UCLA Extension, blogs for the Huffington Post and recently completed “The Murderer’s House,” a memoir of her 7-year marriage to a man in prison.

Danziger, Friedman’s present husband, teaches English at Venice High School in Los Angeles, collaborates with Friedman producing “Stories by Venice High School Seniors,” a PEN In the Classroom Anthology, and also writes about divorce in his recently completed a laugh-out-loud novel, “A Short History of a Tall Jew (Deal Street Press, 2010), Danziger, when asked how Santiago might moderate the conversation given two writers with different styles and genres, laughed and said, “Amy and I have never been at a loss for words. He might just have to ask one question and we’d go from there.”

Dennis Danziger

Before beginning his teaching career, Danziger wrote freelance for television in the decade from 1980 to 1990. His careers have been as he anticipated while at the University of Texas, Austin. When thinking about declaring a major, he wrote down his goals — to be a writer, a high school English teacher and a basketball coach. He’s proud that from barrio high schools at which he’s taught, many of his graduates go on to quality universities such as UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Santa Cruz and some have been published. “You can still get a good education within the Los Angeles public school system,” he said.

Danziger begins “Short History” with an account of how his character starts each day, since divorcing his former wife. She constantly hounded him to appear again and again in family court, with serious financial consequences. “Every night for the past twenty-some odd months I’ve said the same prayer before collapsing into bed. ‘Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, Creator of it all, please watch over my beautiful but ill-mannered children. And once Lord, just once before Zack and Lily turn 18, please let me win one hearing in Department 18 of Family Court, 111 North Hill Street, County of Los Angeles, Judge Isadore Brownstein, who hates my guts, presiding. Good-night now.’”

Danziger has his students keep a journal to develop their voices. “Whatever they write, they can share or not. It’s their own journal. No pressure, no one looking over their shoulder. Some have told me it’s the only place where they have a safe place and voice.”

Friedman works with Danziger’s Venice High students on shaping their writing, editing and re-editing. The finished pieces, some of which she finds extraordinary, are then published as part of the PEN anthology project. “Dennis sets up the process with the students in the semester prior to my coming in,” she said. “That way they’re prepared. It works very well. They find their voices and write and teach their truths.”

Friedman, like Danziger, an engaging and gifted conversationalist, has also pursued a varied career path involving teaching, writing and in place of Danziger’s basketball coaching, journalism. She left New York and moved to Canada to write a column for a small paper. That job landed a syndicated column that evolved into her widely successful “Tell Me a Story,” now also produced in audio CD with music.

In writing about her 7-year marriage to a man in prison, Friedman’s style is achingly evocative. “I’d never talked with anyone the way I talked with my ex. Never had that kind of time. Nobody does. But he was a prisoner, and for nearly seven years we sat and talked for hours every day, feet sticking to linoleum floors, butts aching from hard-backed chairs, eyes stinging from smoke, hands sweaty, hearts fluttering, limbs aching to touch. … He was paroled, and on parole he tried to combat his depression by building walls, first a sea wall of concrete blocks along the St. Lawrence River, and then he kept going, walling off as much of our property as he could, but in the end it couldn’t keep him in.” (from Friedman’s blog entry,“The Moment I Knew” on Huffington Post.)

Of her teaching, and her experience in co-writing with another, editing and shaping the words of others, Friedman said it began with her grandmother, who had chosen to stop talking. “I knew she had something to say. I started by giving voice, in my writing, to someone who could not speak. I think it is because I’m a natural empath that I enjoy that process [of understanding the circumstances and thoughts of another and helping to shape and present that voice to others].”

Friedman and Danziger appear with Santiago at 2 p.m. at the INK Bookstore on North Circle. The event is free to the public.