As home to one of the county’s best bookstores and many accomplished writers, Pasadena has always been a literary place. But it’s never had a literary event of its own, until last Saturday’s Pasadena Literary Festival of Women Authors, which took place at the Pasadena Senior Center.
As typically happens with such productions, the idea started with a few smart, literate friends who walk regularly around the Rose Bowl. They wondered why such a smart, literate city didn’t have a literary event, and before long, there was a committee, a venue and a beneficiary.
Chairs Susan Long, Elsie Sadler and Peggy Buchanan recruited friends to help out, built a roster of six women writers, arranged for Vroman’s to provide books to sell, hired Porta Via to serve clever and tasty brown-bag lunches, and worked with the Senior Center to stage the event; proceeds, of course, went to the Senior Center.
The keynote speakers were crime writer Denise Hamilton, an L.A. native, former Los Angeles Times reporter, author of the L.A.-based Eve Diamond novels and editor of the bestselling Los Angeles Noir; and Gail Tsukiyama, the San Francisco-based author of such historical novels as Street of a Thousand Blossoms. Each spoke about her journey to become a successful writer, in Hamilton’s case starting with less-than-thrilling reporter jobs in the Times’s Ventura and Monrovia bureaus, and in Tsukiyama’s case starting with teaching and writing what she called “really bad poetry.”
After the lunch, the 195 attendees went to breakout sessions headed by four authors: Pamela Samuels Young, an L.A. attorney and author of such successful legal thrillers as Murder on the Down Low; Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, author of the hugely successful novel A Woman of Independent Means; Erika Schickel, author of You’re Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom and a blogger for L.A. Observed and others; and yours truly, publisher here at Prospect Park Books and co-author of Hometown Pasadena, among other books.
This was a pilot event, so its future is not certain just yet, but it sure seemed to be a big success, with a turnout of nearly 200 people, robust book sales and lots of enthusiasm. One possibility, said co-chair Susan Long, is that it may morph into a plain ol’ literary festival, not just one featuring women authors. Or maybe next year’s will have a different focus. Here’s hoping it’s come to Pasadena to stay.