LitFest on the Prowl

May 11, 2014

Off Course by Michelle Huneven

From Central Park to the Playhouse District, LitFest 2014 is on the prowl.

In Vroman’s courtyard, restaurant critic and Ruth Reichl will chat with L.A. Times’ Arts & Entertainment Editor Laurie Ochoa about Reichl’s debut novel Delicious, followed by a discussion about “the state of food culture” with Taco U.S.A. author Gustavo Arellano.

Wine will be offered by Everson Royce and food by Bistro 45.

Local publishers Prospect Park Books, Red Hen Press, Angel City, Rare Bird, Kaya, Siglio, Ammo, Balcony, Tian Chucha, and the brand-new Unnamed Press will be showcasing their authors.

Afterwards, in the Pasadena Playhouse courtyard, appearances will be made by Letters from Zora star Vanessa Bell Calloway and playwright Gabrielle Pina and the second Pasadena Prize in Prose will be presented to local high school students. The likes of Mona Simpson, Michelle Huneven, Gary Phillips, and Ron Koertge will be along El Molino Avenue, maybe on the street, maybe in Monopole Wine or Little Junebugs, giving readings and performances. Find Laura Jean and her “Americana” music in the alley.

The evening is scheduled to end in Arcade Lane—more food and drink and literature—with an after party at El Portal Restaurant, poetry by Poesia Para al Gente, and an open mic.



We spoke with LitFest Pasadena co-founder Larry Wilson about this year’s event…

HP: What made you take the leap from a book festival in Central Park to the Prowl? What was the impetus and why did this approach intrigue you? Will you ever go back to the book festival in the park or continue with the Prowl or think of other ways of celebrating Pasadena’s literary life for next year?

LW: The book festival in the park seemed to have run its course. We wanted to prowl! In the real city. There is little foot traffic in central park. The daytime can get hot. Whereas the playhouse district on a May Saturday night has tons of real people out already—at Vroman’s, the Laemmle, the Playhouse, the restaurants. When we landed Ruth Reichl with her first novel in the Vroman’s courtyard, and the principals of Letters from Zora at the playhouse talking to our crowd in between the matinee and the evening performance—done! This is the first year in the downtown but I’m thinking we’re staying there.

HP: Can you say which independent presses will be exhibiting in Vroman’s courtyard at the beginning of the evening?

LW:  Red Hen, Prospect Park, Angel City will all be there—Colleen is handling the presses but I know there will be those.

Editor’s Note:  Colleen Dunn Bates is co-owner of the Pasadena publishing company Prospect Park Books and originally created Hometown Pasadena online.


HP: Will the authors you’ve lined up for LitFest on the Prowl have their readings at the same place or will it be spread out? Are there times listed so people can plan to be at a certain place at a certain time to see a favorite author?

LW: Michelle Huneven, Mona, Jervey, Denise, Ron and Brendan—all will be in the Playhouse block, either in the Playhouse library or Monopole Wine, between 6 and 8 p.m. We’re encouraging  short, repeat performances so that if you go to one, you can go to the others and not miss anything. Also, repeating some of the performances in the 8-10 part of the evening in the Arcade Lane. But we’re sort of intentionally not listing times so that there is a group of artists and audience staying together from 6 until the after-party, up to and going past 10 o’clock …

Arcade in Playhouse District Pasadena


LitFest on the Prowl
Saturday, May 17th
5 p.m.:  Vroman’s courtyard with conversations and local publishers selling books
6 p.m.:  El Molino Ave. with readings, talks, & music at Zona Rosa Caffe, Monopole Wine, & Little Junebugs
8 p.m.:  Arcade Lane for more cocktails, food, & literature with after-party at El Portal
For more info, visit



Michelle Huneven‘s Off Course is called “a finely wrought novel” by Marv Weingarten of the Los Angeles Times. He continues to say that Huneven is “a writer of great empathy and emotional precision” and doesn’t “resort to cheap moralizing.” “She lets her characters play out their scenarios like real adults must—weighing the pleasures of the present against their own future guilt.” ( Hometown Pasadena review coming soon.


Mona Simpson has just released Casebook, a novel, that “was conceived in the Santa Monica Public Library, on one of the big long tables.” Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times writes that “Casebook provides an ungainly look at a boy’s relationship with his mother as their family navigates the choppy waters of separation and divorce.…this novel gets off to a bumpy start, then builds slowly in its second half into a genuinely moving story.” (


Jervey Tervalon has a sick and original imagination—and I mean that in a good way,” says author Tayari Jones. Los Angeles Times bestselling author Jervey Tervalon’s newest novel Monster Chef a “twisting tale of suspense involving drugs, perverse sex, and poisonous celebrity worship, in which a man trying to rebuild his life becomes entangled in dangerous and deadly circumstances.” After reading Tervalon’s Understand This and All the Trouble You Need, Jones’ description sounds spot on—and we mean that in a thoughtful way. To us, Tervalon’s writing can be captivating, enlightening, erotic, and disturbing, as well as annoying and irksome. We can’t wait to read Monster Chef. (Release date, June 2014, Amistad/Harper Collins.)

The Last Embrace-200

Denise Hamilton is an award-winning journalist and the author of five contemporary crime novels in the Eve Diamond series—all Los Angeles Times bestsellers. The Last Embrace, set in 1949 Hollywood and inspired by the real-life disappearance of starlet Jean Spangler. She is also the editor of and a contributor to the award-winning short story anthology Los Angeles Noir. 


Ron Koertge writes:  “I wrote a novel and eventually got it published when I was around forty. I thought that was the beginning of a real career. Instead, the next novels were awful. Unpublishable. I was, in a way, a failure. Then a friend fo mine pointed out that I was chronically immature. Why didn’t I write for teenage boys?”

Koertge is the author of a dozen books, most of them novels for young adults, such as Margaux with an X, Stoner & Spaz, and Strays. The last two were chosen by P.E.N. as winners in their Best Books for Young Readers category. We think it’s an even higher honor that most of Koertge’s books have been American Library Association choices for Books for Reluctant Readers.

Koertge is also a poet with ten books to his credit including The Ogre’s Wife (Red Hen Press 2013). He “introduces readers to Little Red Riding Hood all grown up with a fondness for salsa and chips, explores the thorny relationship of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, spies a Trojan pony and the children it bamboozles, and offers an alternate reading to the Icarus story.”


Brendan Constantine is a poet based in Hollywood. His first book, Letters to Guns (Red Hen Press 2009), is now required reading in creative writing programs across the nation. His most recent collection is Calamity Joe (Red Hen Press 2012). In addition, he regularly offers classes in hospitals, prisons, shelters, and with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project.




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