I went to the fair on Sunday. The West Hollywood Book Fair. I always enjoy it, as it's smaller than the UCLA/USC book fair, and I also know a lot more people involved.
I swung by my friend Charles' booth for Bloom, his award-winning literary journal. I ran into the effervescent Paul McCullough, who was facilitating Q & A's for the food stage and also signing his new book on Roma tomatoes called Roma Therapy. Eduardo Santiago was signing his new book Midnight Rumba as well. I also saw someone I know who was playing keyboard for a friend of his doing a piece on the poetry stage and I helped him move the keyboard from his car. So I like this one, as I end up knowing people from around. Even though I don't live in Weho, it feels neighborhood-y.
The people I didn't know (though turns out a couple are connected to other people I know, since the world is very small) were the ones whose panel I went to on memoir and secrets. The panelists were Daniel Stern, the author of Swingland, his account of the Swinging subculture; Kimberly Rae Miller, the author of Coming Clean, her memoir of growing up with a hoarder as a father; and Aaron Hertzler, whose memoir Rapture Practice is about growing up gay in a fundamentalist Christian household. The talk was informative, and I'm interested in reading all three. Miller's seems a little more serious in tone, though Hertzler's book definitely deals with some weighty issues, though targeted to a young adult audience. Stern's is an interesting comic escapade/how-to manual, which is a fascinating hybrid. All three deal with writing something that is usually hidden or kept secret to varying degrees. There was talk of shame, or difficulty, in writing these things, and also how the others involved have reacted. It's an interesting topic with confessional or personal writing. I think of that Joan Didion quote that a writer is always selling someone out. I don't know that I'd agree with that, but it takes bravery to put one's own experience on a page, knowing that others involved will see themselves portrayed, possibly unflatteringly. Each of the authors had a story about that, as well as their own trepidation of putting something personal out there. Interesting factoid - they are all actors. Miller has a BFA in acting, and Hertlzer and Stern both have MFAs. The moderator, Dinah Lenney, is an actress, memoirist, and writing teacher as well. I bring it up as she did. Interesting coincidence.
I have an MFA, too - is a memoir in my future?
It was a nice afternoon. I'll go again. I would have loved to buy more books, but that's always the case. I need to get better at reading them all, too. One at a time, I guess. That's the way.