It was standing room only for the final author in the second year of Eduardo Santiago’s Idyllwild Authors Series. “We were scrambling trying to find chairs,” said Santiago of the attendance at Amy Wallace’s Sunday, July 22 appearance at INK Book Gathering.
Wallace, daughter of Irving Wallace, and author of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda,” was the last of 12 authors in a series Santiago designed to draw attention to and promote the business of Idyllwild’s only independent bookstore. “A town without a bookstore is a town without a soul,” said Santiago, who launched the series last year with no money, just a belief that the store (formerly B’s Mountain of Books) needed support and that an author series would bring attention and attendance.
“It’s been such a moving experience to have the community reach out and support this,” said Santiago. “The seeds have been planted. It’s growing. This year has been exciting because of the turnout and the diversity of the authors.”
Santiago, at the beginning of each interview, takes time to thank key supporters that have helped fund the series (PEN Center USA), feed the authors (Café Aroma), house the authors (Strawberry Creek Inn), design ads (Pete and Betty Anderson) and provide a home for the series (Julie Johnson, INK owner). But in looking back over this year, it’s the audience to whom he is especially grateful.
“If they did not show up, it would be just me and the author talking,” he said. “The appreciation of the audience, showing up each week, that means a lot to me.”
Santiago is an author and a creative writing teacher, as are many of those who have come this season and last. Some have been his teachers, like Steve Heller, master in fine arts creative writing chair at Antioch University Los Angeles and Tod Goldberg, master in fine arts creative writing chair at University of California, Riverside’s low residency program, but said Santiago, “There are no preinterviews. When they’re in the hot seat [at the Authors Series], I get to ask whatever I want. I want it to be spontaneous.”
Santiago is an entertaining interviewer, bringing both a writer’s understanding of the creative process and a sense of humor to the events. “And everybody this year has been amazing — punctual, interesting, funny, open to whatever.”
For next year, Santiago said, “I have dreams. My dance card [authors for next year] is almost full, but it’s too early to announce. I’d like to see some improvements, like a deck at the back of the bookstore that I could build [if agreeable with the landlord and Johnson] to make patrons more comfortable; maybe scheduling the events later on Sunday so it’s not as hot; perhaps, with more financial support, bringing authors from other cities. I keep wondering how I can improve this,” he said. “If I’m able to get a little more [support] then I can provide a little more.”
While Santiago created the series for the town, the energy of the series moves in both directions. He noted that living part-time in Idyllwild and making so many friends through this series has positively impacted his career. “I’ve written the book for a musical and tomorrow [July 24] we’re having a first table read with a bunch of actors in Los Angeles,” he said. “The energy I get from Idyllwild has made me so much more courageous.”