Eduardo Santiago, celebrating year two as an Idyllwild homeowner, said he enthusiastically jumped into the Idyllwild community with both feet. Part of that jump included founding a free Idyllwild Authors Series last year to try to help preserve a struggling independent bookstore.
“It’s really important to me for some romantic reason to keep an independent bookstore in Idyllwild,” said Santiago, a successful Los Angeles author and creative writing teacher. “A town without a bookstore is a town without a soul.”
Santiago has lined up 10 prominent Los Angeles writers from a variety of literary disciplines for the series’ second year. He said there is something about each of this year’s featured writers that piques his curiosity. And although the quality of their work is comparable to last year’s authors, much has changed for the series.
Last year Santiago created his series from nothing, with no funding and no guarantees of support. He launched his enterprise as a gift to the community, fueled solely by his commitment to the printed word, his infectious imagination, and his energy and belief in his purpose. Many A-list Los Angeles authors made the trek to Idyllwild just for the joy of discussing their work, promoting literature and supporting Santiago’s goal of saving the bookstore. “They were paid nothing, not even gas money,” said Santiago, amazed that so many recognized writers would respond to his invitation.
Santiago said this year builds on last year’s success. “I now have enormous and faithful support from the Idyllwild community,” he said. That support takes the form of strong attendance at each author event and donations from local businesses that help promote the series and house and feed featured authors.
Also this year, thanks to donations from Los Angeles nonprofit PEN Center USA, and unflagging enthusiasm for the series from PEN’s Executive Director Adam Somers, Santiago will have money to fund small author stipends and transportation expenses. “He [Somers] sees such growth potential [for the series],” said Santiago.
Santiago chose to make two changes this year regarding selection of authors. For the first time, a local author, Sabrina Verney, will be featured discussing her book “Xtul.” In another change, Santiago has scheduled self-published author George Snyder to discuss his book “On Wings of Affection.”
Santiago decided to include Verney because of the premise and quality of her book. With Snyder, he wanted him to discuss his experience of self-publishing his works. “Self-publishing used to mean generally lower quality, maybe some editing omissions, but the publishing industry has changed dramatically and self-publishing is on the rise, following the route of indie films, recordings and YouTube,” said Santiago. “I thought it might be interesting to get that author point of view.
“I love this series, every single moment of it. It’s been pretty much a waking dream.”
Asked if he would again close the series as an interviewed author, he demurred. “The [series] regulars conspired to make that happen [last year],” he said. “But this is not about me. It’s about the authors and the public and the bookstore.”
The Idyllwild Authors Series begins at 2 p.m. every Sunday from May 20 through July 22 directly in front of the INK Bookstore on North Circle Drive. Admission is free to the public. Oscar nominee Quinn Cummings opens the series talking about her book, “Notes From the Underwire.”