Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The West Coast is Literary Too

And just to prove it, if anyone is in L.A. this weekend please attend the L.A. Times Festival of Books at UCLA. This is the 10th year of the festival, and close to 200,000 guests are expected. At least that's what they told us last weekend during volunteer training. I'm volunteering during the festival. Didn't get on a panel this year. Maybe next. But I can still network and meet cool folks.

They say the L.A. Festival of Books is the largest book fest/fair on the West Coast... and some say in the country. And everyone says that L.A. is only about screenwriting and movies. Which may be true... to some extent.

But I count many novel writers among my close friends or acquaintences or just writers I wanna have as acquaintences, okay :-) ... and they're all from the L.A. area: Jervey Tervalon, Denise Hamilton, Kerry Madden, Liza Palmer, Eric Jerome Dickey, Nina Revoyr, Deborah Vankin, Diana Wagman, Trent Jackson, Sheneska Jackson, Bebe Moore Campbell.

Novel writing isn't just an East Coast thing anymore. And with the multiple realities of ethnicity, class, and gender that shape life on the West Coast, the stories coming from this side of the U.S. are reflecting the people who would buy more books if their lives were represented more fully in fiction. But that day and time are coming.

I still have to laugh, though, at a conversation my friend Jervey said he had with an East Coast editor not from the U.S. originally, who said there aren't more books out there about Latinos because they didn't think Latinos spoke English or bought English-language books. That they didn't think the way L.A. is presented in some stories -- people of all ethnicities and classes living, working, loving together whether by force or choice -- was real. I'm paraphrasing, but it's more interesting when Jervey tells it. Jervey's cool like that.

That's why, if you're living on the West Coast and a writer, you have to continue to write stories reflecting the diverse experiences and groups here... because (and take note East Coast folks) the California reality will be the reality for the rest of the U.S. very soon. It already is, just not recognized or valued. And we all know California sets the trends and tests the waters for everything...

Anyway, hopefully I'll run into some of you this weekend at UCLA at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. I'll be in my bright yellow volunteer shirt... along with the thousand other volunteers!


Liza Palmer said...

I'll be there - trudging up the effing Janse Steps to get to some awesome panel!

See you there...

Rod said...

That sounds great, love book festivals. You have a great weekend planned.