Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Saturday Morning, Latino Book Fest

Michael Sedano

Gustavo Dudamel was at Disney Hall early Sunday afternoon, so there went my plans to attend that day's panels at the 12th Annual Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival. Saturday morning was better; I managed the opportunity to enjoy the three events pictured here.

CPT is a potent enemy of even well-run events. The first event of the day was delayed in getting started. The audience began trickling in a few minutes past the scheduled start time. In their defense, signage in the area of Salazar Hall indicated room numbers but not event names. A single large festival schedule board stood unmarked nearby.

The panel on History Past and Present in the U.S. Latino Novel included one academic and three novelists. Moderator Rigoberto González conferred quietly with the panel then read a prepared introduction that sounded like the frontspiece of a new anthology. Then each novelist read for five minutes más o menos. At López-Calvo's time, he extemporizes off a powerpoint that seems designed for several classroom lectures, not the informality in operation today.

A hybrid panel like this is a wonderful idea but requires either comfortable collegiality or careful preparation to make it come together.

History Past and Present in the U.S. Latino Novel
Moderator: Rigoberto González
Montserrat Fontes
Reyna Grande
Ignacio López-Calvo
Eduardo Santiago

Latinos In Lotusland
Moderator: Daniel Olivas
Melinda Palacio
• Conrad Romo
Rigoberto González
• Estella González

I'm looking forward to reading Daniel Olivas' experience as a presenter. Any and all niggling details aside, those attending the panels I audited went away with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. All these writers, all their stories, listen to them read.

Daniel's panel of Latinos in Lotusland writers attracted an SRO audience. I wonder if audience members noticed the writers all shared the same copy of the anthology, except the final reader, Melinda Palacio, who has taken the extra step of printing a copy of her story, holding the pages in a portfolio to elminate distractions borne of page stacking.

The audience was treated to superb reading. Expressive, intrepretive, clear. Daniel's heard some or all of these writers perform at earlier readings. I wonder how their confidence and poise with their oral art have influenced their writing?

Chicana Historical Fiction
Moderator: Amelia Montes
• Alicia Gaspar de Alba
• Emma Pérez
• Graciela Limón

My final panel of the morning brought a powerhouse team of writers together. Like the morning's first, this offered a hybrid of fiction and academic writers. Pérez an historian. All work in academia for their principal occupation. This panel worked without a hitch. That closeness absent from the panel of strangers of the morning in evidence here as the participants took snapshots with one another.

It was a special treat to hear Limón read from Song of the Hummingbird. I'm sure there were people in attendance whose first knowledge of the work is today's reading by the author. I'd like them to go out to tent city on the plaza, buy copies of the works, have the authors sign the title page.

One of the pleasures of attending book fairs is the opportunity to hear authors read their own stuff. Another pleasure is having the author sign a book, adding singularity and value to the book's place in your own library. Moderators should make a big deal of the signings and sales going on in the plaza. It's push-pull, of course. The authors read at 10:30, then go sign at 11:30. But gente want to attend a panel at 11:30. It's the time management quandary of good book fairs. Choices, choices, wonderful choices.

Only a few booths catch my attention as I navigate through the tents housing the food, fun, and commerce part of the festival. I have to return to my car and head to the Mark Taper Forum for what turns out to be a dreadful musical travesty.

Tent city feels busy. Someone has sold space effectively and vendors have come to the event in great number. I wonder if there are a hundred booths. What this commercial area of the event needs, it seemed to this passerby, is people. A lot more people.

Nearing my parking space, I spot Edward James Olmos in his car, talking on the phone. I wonder if he is discouraged at the spotty crowd up on that plaza, the promises salespeople made to vendors about advertising, marketing, crowd size.

And the Winner Is...

Last week I announced the Tuesday La Bloga participation in the Hachette book giveaway in recognition of (Latino) Heritage Month. I am happy to announce the first entrant submitting 100% correct answers to 100% of the questions is...

María Elena Ovalle from Edinburg, TX.

Thank you María Elena for finding these answers. Hachette has put your collection in the mail. Look for them soon.

1. Did Olga Garcia climb all the way to the top of the Statue of Liberty? No

2. Title of KATHY CANO-MURILLO's new novel. Waking Up in the Land of Glitter

3. Her poem, "To Walt Whitman" is one of this poet's most quoted works. Angela de Hoyos

4. Jesse Tijerina's guest column reviewed this poet's early work. raul r. salinas

5. This character in Reyna Grande's Dancing With Butterflies steals money to buy cosmetic surgery. Yesenia

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Daniel A. Olivas said...

Michael, mil gracias for the fine report on the festival. I came home Saturday evening feeling incredibly energized and fulfilled by the event. I am so grateful for the authors who were on the two panels I moderated: their love of literature and commitment to the audience came through, without question. And I loved that audience, too! Many thanks to you, Reyna Grande and all of the other organizers. Yes, there can be some improvement here and there, but I have no doubt that this was a truly historic and successful event.

Francisco Aragón said...

I enjoyed reading these thumbnail panel sketches, alongside the well-snapped portraits

reyna grande said...

Hi Michael,

I have to say that the first panel (History past & present) had a slow start, but the rest of the panels were very well attended.
The Border Stories panel had about 70 people in it. The Latino LA panel had over 50 in it and it was the last panel of the day!
The next morning at 10:30 for the Barrio Stories panel we had 50 people at the beginning of the panle and 70 by the time it ended!
Too bad you couldn't be there on Sunday. There was standing room only for the Victor Villsenor session and his book signing took about an hour!!!
Overall, I say that the book festival was wonderful. This marked the new beginning of this festival, for as you know, last year it didn't it even happen.
And yes, we needed more people to attend, but hopefully next year they won't miss out!