Idyllwild has always been known for its arts community—and now, it’s become a destination for lovers of literature.
For 10 consecutive Sundays during the summer, the mountain town, located an hour’s drive from the CoachellaValley, hosts authors at Café Aroma to discuss their craft, thanks to the Idyllwild Authors Series.
This year’s series will conclude on Sunday, Aug. 3, with an appearance by Dete Meserve, author of the novel Good Sam.
Eduardo Santiago, the founder and host of the series, said Idyllwild is a perfect place for literary events.
“Idyllwild welcomes the arts,” Santiago said. “All of the arts are represented all the time. We have a lot of musicians in our town, so there’s always music everywhere—every restaurant you walk to, and every plaza. We have a lot of art galleries, so you get to see a lot of sculptures and paintings.”
However, something was missing from the Idyllwild arts scene, Santiago said.
“I felt that the writers were unrepresented,” he said. “So about four years ago, I started the authors’ series. For 10 Sundays in a row every summer, I interview a different writer.
“Reading is kind of a solitary experience, but I make it a speaker series. I interview the writers in front of a live audience, and I ask about nine questions, and the writer reads a little bit from his or her book. The audience also gets to ask questions and interact with the writers.”
Writers who have participated in the series so far this summer include Neile Adams, author of My Husband, My Friend, about her marriage to late actor Steve McQueen; novelists Mark Sarvas and Cynthia Bond; and Real Women Have Curves scribe Josefina Lopez.
The series has been well-received, and it’s not uncommon for the audience to fill Café Aroma.
“We have a fantastic turnout,” Santiago said. “When I started doing this about four years ago, we probably had about eight people in the audience. Now we get about 60 to 80 on any given Sunday. It’s always standing-room-only, and it’s a very popular series. One reason, I think, is because Idyllwild doesn’t have a bookstore. So here is a place where you can go, and people are interested in reading, in authors, and in books.”
While Idyllwild doesn’t have a bookstore, Santiago did mention the new library in Idyllwild.
“(My series) is not the only game in town, but it is the only game of its kind, because I’m recruiting writers from all over California to come and talk with us. I also make sure to include local writers in the series,” he said.
While many bookstores have blinked out of existence in these days of e-readers and the Internet, Santiago said Idyllwild’s residents still put a lot of value on literature.
“Idyllwild is a reading town,” he said. “Idyllwild doesn’t have winter sports; we’re not Big Bear, and we’re not Lake Arrowhead. We do have a large reading population here. I feel so fortunate that this is where I am, because people are responding. I say every time, ‘I only do this because you show up.’ As long as I continue to have the support of the community, I’m going to keep doing it.”
The Idyllwild Authors Series is held every Sunday at 3 p.m. through Sunday, Aug. 3 at Café Aroma, 54750 N. Circle Drive, in Idyllwild. Admission is free. Sunday, July 27: Rob Roberge, a musician and novelist from Los Angeles, will discuss his book The Cost of Living. Sunday, Aug. 3: Dete Meserve, a film and television executive who worked on Home Improvement and What Women Want, will discuss her novel Good Sam. For more information, visit www.idyllwildauthors.com.