Last month, I attended the first ever West Covina Literary Festival. It's always good to be on the ground floor of anything that's going to be an annual event. Foot in the door and all that.
West Covina is in the San Gabriel Valley, one of the towns that make up Los Angeles County. It's a middle class suburb and, well, the literary arts don't have as much sway as the local malls. College prof John Brantingham and his cadre of supporters are changing all that.
John, his wife Ann and two former students from Mt. San Antonio College, felt there should be a place for writers to go to find a vital literary community. Because John grew up in West Covina, he decided to broach the idea with the city leaders. City Hall became partners in the endeavor, even waiving fees for use of their building and the surrounding grounds.
Oak Tree Press recently published John's mystery thriller, “Mann of War.” I was the one who acquisitioned the novel. In return, John gave his new publisher a table to display our wares. We had half a dozen of our authors show up, one from as far away as Bull Head City, Nevada. Many were meeting for the first time although they were familiar with each other through online posts. It quickly became not just a lit fest, but an Oak Tree family reunion.
The weather was one of those blissful Southern California days. Out on the lawn, poetry readings were going on. Musicians played in the walkways and over 2000 people attended. In the evening, all of us genre writers were given our moment in the spotlight. We read from our novels, Jeri Westerson did a presentation of all things medieval and we dressed one cute guy up in armor and gave him a sword to pose with as we took photos.
While we didn't sell many books, we were a presence. The local librarian networked with us and soon Oak Tree's books will be found on the shelves of the West Covina library. These are opportunities authors look for--rewards might not be immediate but can be several years down the road.
I hear so many people complain they can't find venues to reach the reading public. I put together two book fests in my small area that allowed San Joaquin Valley authors to display their works. John Brantingham saw a need and, instead of complaining, went out and MADE an event. Now the City of West Covina is considering a Literary Arts Center to hold classes, bring in famous writers and poets and have members of the community do readings. And, of course, there will be next year's festival to look forward to. I'll be there and I'll be bringing more Oak Tree authors with me.
The message: Dream big. Then put that dream into action.