LitFest Pasadena 2.0 brings together local literati Saturday
By Carl Kozlowski 05/08/2013
With musical treasures such as the Pasadena Symphony & POPS, CalPhil and MUSE/IQUE, and world-class theatrical venues like the Pasadena Playhouse, A Noise Within and Boston Court Theatre, the Crown City has certainly earned its place on the national entertainment stage.
But along with musicians and actors, Pasadena is also well known for the talented writers who work and live here. This weekend, LitFest Pasadena 2.0 aims to make its own mark on the cultural scene by spotlighting what local writers and publishing houses have to offer. Following a successful debut last May, when 2,000 local book fans attended to see a mix of panels, readings and numerous other fun events, co-organizer and local author Jervey Tervalon expects this weekend’s edition to be even better.
“Pasadena’s a swinging town and has a lot of diversity and great writers here because it’s a great place to be an artist,” says Tervalon. “Plus, I’m a tremendous advocate of the literary arts … So many teachers, especially in the public schools, are being pressured by the big test situation going on. They’re leaving out the polishing of students in the arts to focus only on the core subjects. We’re hoping to eventually become a lobbyist for literary arts in schools.”
Tervalon helped launch LitFest last year along with several prominent locals, including Pasadena Star-News Editor Larry Wilson and Light Bringer Project head Tom Coston, who also oversees the Doo Dah Parade and the annual Pasadena Chalk Fest. This time, Tervalon is teamed with Billy Goldstein, Chris Konish and Jim Tranquada. But their secret weapon is chief creative consultant Roz Helfand, who spent a decade running the successful West Hollywood Book Fair.
However, not everyone is hopeful the event will showcase all of the authors living and working in Pasadena. Thelma Reyna, a former Pasadena and South Pasadena teacher and administrator and author of “The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories,” asked why local Latino authors weren’t included in any of the literary panels on this year’s schedule.
“Here is a Pasadena literary festival and within the city we have at least six to 12 published Latino and Latina authors, some national award-winning, and not a single one of them was invited,” says Reyna. All the writers on the one Hispanic panel of authors, she writes, are “outstanding and well-deserving of the recognition, but not one is local and some live quite a distance away. To see the committee bring in outside authors, it’s like they’re saying we have to reach outside Pasadena because there’s no Latino/a authors of note within Pasadena. My point is to expand the festival and include them more.”
For his part, Tervalon says that LitFest organizers have tried to make the event ethnically diverse.
“We only have 12 panels, and people of color are on many of them,” says Tervalon. For instance, he says, “The panel that Melinda Palacios is moderating has some of the best-known Latino and Latina writers in the nation. My intent was for racial equity, and we’re only in our second year and only four people are running this. I’m happy to address it forcefully, but I’m disappointed we’re having to discuss it.”
One thing that appears to be looking up for this year’s event is the weather. The forecast is for a sunny, 81-degree day, which would be a marked improvement over last year, when the first attempt to host it in March was postponed until May due to severe weather.
This year’s festival features more than 75 authors, storytellers, performers and exhibitors. There will be a dozen panels exploring an eclectic mix of subjects, such as the Southern California surf culture, local history and children’s and young adult literature.
Confirmed guests include Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times, in conversation with a group known as the “626 Foodettes,” as well as American Book Awards winner Reyna Grande and Kate Durbin, a Los Angeles-based writer, performer and founding editor of the online journal Gaga Stigmata.
The theater troupe Unbound Productions will bring a Harriet Beecher Stowe story to life in a History Lit performance and Emmy Award-winning writer/producer Alan Brennert of “LA Law” fame will speak on a panel about his new novel. Kids will have plenty of fun activities aimed their way, highlighted by a performance by the Los Angeles classic institution the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.
“There’re lots [of attractions] for kids and great food trucks, too, including one with a gelato cart. I can’t wait to try it,” Tervalon said. “Also, a lot of groups are creating their own booths that are like lounges. We had a little of that last year, but we’re much more creative and successful this time around.”
LitFest Pasadena 2.0 is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Central Park, between Raymond and Fair Oaks avenues and Dayton Street and Del Mar Boulevard in Old Pasadena. Admission is free. For more info, visit litfestpasadena.org.