The well-received Idyllwild Authors Series closes on Saturday, Aug. 6 with the spotlight on Eduardo Santiago, the man who conceived the series and brought 10 distinguished and varied Los Angeles authors to Idyllwild.
New to the community, Santiago wanted to contribute. As a published author who has benefited from sales of his books at independent bookstores, Santiago wanted to help assure the continuity of Lauren Devore’s B’s Mountain of Books in Idyllwild.
“I wondered what I could bring to this community,” he remembered. With no budget, Santiago said he started emailing authors he knew and those he knew of to see if they’d be willing to make the trip to Idyllwild. “All I did was follow my inspiration,” said Santiago. “Anything is possible if your heart is in the right place.” He remembers that Devore was a bit overcome by it all at the beginning. “You want to do what for who?” he remembers her saying.
Needing to publicize the series, Santiago went to the Pen Center USA in Los Angeles, a nonprofit that works to protect the rights of authors, to stimulate interest in the written word, and to promote a vital literary community in the western United States. “I asked for $600 for ads to promote the series,” he said. Pen’s executive director, Adam Somers, hearing of Santiago’s plans, said, “I think that sounds wonderful,” and committed to providing the ad budget.
And it all worked. “They [the authors] all showed up on time,” he marveled. “They weren’t paid and they were all eloquent and generous. As a result everyone, authors and audience, had a good time.”
Somers drove up to attend sessions by two of the authors, Mary Otis and Rachel Resnick. So impressed was Somers with the series that he committed to funding it next year, and expanding it to include some author events in the winter months and perhaps a writers’ retreat. Santiago has already secured author Amy Findley for a January cooking-related workshop. Findley is the season three winner of “The Next Food Network Star” and author of “How to Eat a Small Country” (Random House, 2011). “We want to continue the excitement,” said Santiago. He said he thought that Summers would fund ads and possibly small author stipends.
“Running the series was a lot more work than I had anticipated,” said Santiago, “and it was incredibly satisfying.” And now, at the request of his repeat audiences, Santiago, the author, will be the subject of the Aug. 6 event. And, it will be an event. “Lauren is planning a party, a buffet, champagne and, of course, Karen Black as the interviewer,” said Santiago. Black is the Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award-nominated actor from some of the most important movies of the 1970s, “Five Easy Pieces,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Nashville,” “Easy Rider,” and “The Day of the Locust.”
Santiago is an immigrant from Cuba. He left when he was 10. “My grandfather came to the window of my school and motioned me to come outside,” he remembered. “The next day we drove to Havana and then flew to Spain. After a year there we moved to the Los Angeles area.” Santiago went to high school in El Monte, attended Cal Arts in Valencia and recently received his master of fine arts in creative writing from Antioch University. He currently teaches writing as part of the UCLA Extension Program.
He will be reading from his just completed novel “Midnight Rumba,” a story beginning in 1949 of the unfolding of the Cuban revolution as seen through the eyes of a young girl who travels throughout the provinces with her Rumbero father and his traveling show. “I wanted to see the conditions that fomented this revolution,” he said.
His first novel, “Tomorrow They Will Kiss,” is, in many ways, the opposite story — one of Cuban-born immigrants working in a factory in New Jersey.
Of Cuba, Santiago said, “It is a place that I miss every single day. I miss knowing where I belong and what I remember as an amazing time and place.” Santiago compared the closeness of families and friends in Cuba with the U.S. “I have found in the U.S., even in Idyllwild, there’s a certain loneliness, a cautiousness.” He remembers going back to Cuba when he was 35 and standing in front of his former home. “The neighbors came out, recognized me, and embraced me as if I were their long lost son,” he recalled.
Santiago will share his stories at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, at B’s Mountain of Books. Karen Black will be the interviewer. Guitarist Joe Baldino is the special musical guest. There is no charge to attend.