What a day we had yesterday, the hundreds of us who were able to get tickets to the annual authorfest sponsored by the Orange County Public Libraries. This event has become so popular that over two hundred potential readers had to be turned away. And its popularity is well deserved, as we enjoyed a full day that provided
- Keynote speakers Marcia Clark, Christina Baker Kline, and Fannie Flagg;
- Fifteen author panels, featuring forty-four authors and a vast variety of discussion topics;
- A tote bag that came complete with either Christina Baker Kline’s newest book, A Piece of the World, or Fannie Flagg’s new The Whole Town’s Talking;
- A bookstore teeming with great books;
- A chance to spend a day surrounded by book lovers.
I can only speak authoritatively of the three Author Panels that I attended, but they were all good enough to make me break my promise to Peter that I wouldn’t be bringing home more books to add to my To Be Read list. Fat chance!
Panel 1: “Behind the Orange Curtain”
I loved this panel. For you readers who live outside of “the OC,” we know we have a certain reputation here for being somewhat shallow, rubber-stamped stucco, Disneyland dominated, but it was great to listen to this panel talk about not only our infamy but, also, our rich history.
The specific books discussed (and I’m going to put a * beside the titles that I either did buy or am planning to buy) were:
- Stephanie Brown’s Allegory of the Supermarket
- *Victoria Patterson’s Drift: Stories (short story collection, all located in OC)
- *Andrew Tonkovich’s Orange County: A Literary Field Guide (a broad collection of writings about OC that ranges from M.F.K. Fisher to Philip K. Dick to Steve Martin)
The panels I didn’t attend (but heard great things about): “Mystery: California Crime,” “Cultural Mosaics,” “Family Fiction: The Ties that Bind,” and “Romance: Hot Nights.”
Panel 2: “Fiction: Novel Journeys”
As a lover of novels, of course I had to attend this panel, and what an exciting panel it was! I have every intention of buying each of the three novels that were discussed:
- *The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang. This is a novel about a Chinese-American family attempting to regain their family-owned land in China that was confiscated during the Cultural Revolution. Ms. Chang was bright, animated, and fascinating to listen to, as she explained the background to this work.
- *Grace by Natashia Deón, a novel that looks at a little-known aspect of slavery – those held in south-eastern states with no access to the Underground Railroad, who tried to get to Mexico to gain their freedom.
- *People Who Knew Me by Kim Hooper. Ms. Hooper has written a post-9/11 novel, the story of a woman who uses this horrific event to forge a new life.
Other panels: “Food: Eat Your Words,” “Mystery: Shock & Awe,” “YA: The Perks of Being a Teenager,” “*A Conversation with Martha Hall Kelly.”
*Although I didn’t attend the panel, I would say that Ms. Kelly’s book, Lilac Girls, got the most buzz of any single book presented. This is the story of three teenage girls during WWII. All I can tell you is that the members of my book club who went to this panel have insisted that we add this book to our reading list.
Panel 3: Fiction: Home Truths
Each of the titles discussed on this panel deals with a life crisis and how one moves on in the aftermath. Very powerful stuff!
- The Practical Navigator by Stephen Metcalfe is the story of a man who must come to terms with a series of crises in his life: a mother who may – or may not – be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, a son diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and a wife who bails on him, leaving him to cope in the aftermath.
- Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid is “in development” to be made into a movie. The story looks at what the flip side of Tom Hanks’ movie, “Castaway,” might have been like from the wife-left-behind’s point of view. This is the story of a woman whose husband, like the Hanks’ character, is lost at sea. She grieves, and then works to get her life back together. And then he returns . . .
- *Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley is a story about a man and his aging dog. The author talked to us about his own experience losing his beloved dog. All he said about the book was that it is about a dog with an octopus on its head. The Amazon.com review says, “Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.” I was very moved by the author and his discussion of his experience.
Other panels: “Random House: What Do I Read Next?,” “Memoir: No Limits,” “BFFs: Our Best Furry Friends,” and “Mystery: Webs We Weave”
I have to say that I would gladly read any of the books that I heard discussed, and I always find it fascinating to hear the authors talk about their process, their inspiration, their frustration, and everything else about bringing a new book into the world.
As you can see, Literary Orange truly had something for everyone. I wish I could have attended every one of the panels, because they all sounded fascinating. This celebration of books comes around every April. I can’t begin to encourage you enough to consider attending in the future, but one word of warning: buy your ticket early. It sells out fast!