Archive for the ‘Books/Authors’ Category

‘This River’ Author Bares Family Wounds

July 1, 2011

(from L) Bestselling author James Brown meets a fan at Cafe Aroma

By Marcia E. Gawecki

When he was signing books afterwards, you couldn’t help but notice the large veins in his muscled arms. They stood out like a river’s arbitraries and pituitaries. Then you noticed his eyes, dark and knowing. Like someone who has seen a lot, and not necessarily good stuff. You earn those kinds of eyes.

On Thursday night, July 30, bestselling author James Brown read from his new book, “This River,” on the deck at Cafe Aroma. It was the seventh installment of the popular Idyllwild Author Series, but the first at this venue.

After his introduction by moderator Eduardo Santiago, James said that he came to Idyllwild because of Frank Ferro (Cafe Aroma’s manager/owner). They have been friends for a long time.

“I came because of his nice smile on the poster,” admitted Anna Ancheta, a youth orchestra conductor from Mountain Center.

Others were there because they’ve read his many books, including “LA Diaries.” They mingled in with the diners on the deck, who were chatting at first, but became captivated when James Brown started reading from his latest book, “This River.”

James described the Chetko River, located in Oregon, about 800 miles from his home in Southern California. He talked about fishing with his three boys for the first time, and hearing his father’s voice in his head.

“It reminded me a lot of ‘Big Two Rivers,’ by Hemingway,” Anna added. “Some rivers speak to people.”

Yet, James’ unassuming title, “This River,” doesn’t fully prepare the reader for what lay bare inside. It’s a memoir about James’ dysfunctional family life, his mentally ill mother, and alcoholic father, brother and sister, all of whom committed suicide. In the book, James describes how he put his brother’s ashes into the Chetko River, by wading waist deep and releasing them in handfuls.

“Of course, I didn’t file a permit to release my brother’s ashes,” James read. “This is a river of dreams, and stories of his childhood.”

He then closed his eyes and prayed to no one in particular. He was grateful for having known his brother, Barry, a talented Hollywood actor.

Eduardo Santiago introduces James Brown on Cafe Aroma's deck with bright banners

“Many of you may have known Barry from the film, ‘Daisy Miller,'” Eduardo said. “He had a promising career and was headed for the likes of James Franco.”

According to the IMDb web site, Barry Brown, who died at age 27, was also an author and playwright. Peter Bogdanovich praised Brown’s contribution to the film, describing him as “the only American actor you can believe ever read a book.”

“He was enormously talented. He had an IQ of 170, which includes only about 150,000 people in the world,” James said.”But he was an alcoholic, and when he died, he didn’t kill Barry; he killed the drunk.”

“I’m the last one standing,” James said.

In one evening, James Brown laid bare his own troubled life, including his struggles with drugs and alcohol.

“You may ask me if writing this book was cathartic,” James said. “It wasn’t. I didn’t want to return to those dark places, but they were the most defining moments that shaped my character. I knew that I had to get through it or I wouldn’t write another book.”

Eduardo said that James’ mother also had her share of troubles.

“She committed arson and homicide, but went to jail for tax evasion,” James said.

Yet, he nursed her in her old age, after a series of strokes.

“There was nothing to be afraid of anymore,” James said. “She was old and frail. But we talked and I got to know her better.”

“If you were an alcoholic, how do you know that you’re recording it as it really was?” asked one audience member.

Audience members and diners listen intently to James Brown read from his new book, "This River"

“I can’t recall things that happened 20 years ago sober,” James said. “But in memoir writing, there’s always a distortion, but we write to the best of our abilities. I like to think of it as ‘an emotional truth.'”

A waiter from Cafe Aroma, who had read James’ “LA Diaries”, asked him about forgiveness.

James said that he didn’t want his books to be negative, but redeeming.

“I have to learn to forgive myself for my bad behavior,” James said. “And forgive my brother and sister for taking their own lives. That way, I can love them more fully.”

Afterwards, Anna jumped up from her chair to purchase “This River.” B’s Books, which also sponsors the author series, had them available for sale. Some of the diners added the book to their bill.

“He’s a gracious man with a large vision,” Anna said. “His imagery is just beautiful.”

Next up in the Idyllwild Author Series will be “Deus Ex Machina” by Andrew Foster Altschul on Sunday, July 3rd at 2 p.m. at B’s Mountain of Books. Andrew lived in Idyllwild for some time, but he still returns every summer with his family.

“His new book is called, ‘Deus Ex Machina.'” Eduardo said. “It’s a fancy title for a fabulous novel about the effects of reality television on our culture.”

For more information, visit or call B’s Books at (951) 659-5018.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Bestselling Writer Conceived Story in Idyllwild

June 20, 2011

Eduardo Santiago introduces Mary Otis, an award-winning short story writer

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Pilgrim Girl,” earned Mary Otis a Pushcart Prize honorable mention (past winners include Raymond Carver and  John Irving), and today she admitted to writing it in Idyllwild.

Mary was the sixth California author to be featured in the “Idyllwild Author Series” held at B’s Mountain of Books. Like the others, Mary is a friend of Eduardo Santiago, an Idyllwild resident, who started the series in May.

To date, the series has covered the novel, the memoir, the non-fiction narrative, and the short story.

“‘Pilgrim Girl’ is the first story in the collection, and I wrote it in a week in Idyllwild many years ago,” said Mary Otis, about her collection, “Yes, Yes Cherries.” “I’d work on it all day, and one night, I remember going to watch a Gene Hackman film in someone’s garage while eating peanut M&Ms.”

Some locals in the audience tried to recall if they were there at the time.

“Pilgrim Girl” tells the story about a 14-year-old girl’s crush on a married guy next door, and her far-reaching attempts to get his attention. She puts on her mother’s frosted wig and tries to impersonate a traveling saleswoman; only that she has no products to sell.

The crowd on Father's Day was captivated by Mary Otis' humorous stories

It seemed like everyone in the audience could relate to Mary’s humorous collection, which included stories about a drunken therapist and a fistfight on a first date.

Mary said that all of the events in the stories didn’t actually happen to her, but were pieces of her life. Some of them happened to someone else and she changed the stories around a bit.

“The fist fight on the first date happened to my friend,” Mary said. “She was taken to a bar-b-que at his ex-wife’s house, and then a fight broke out.”

Eduardo mentioned that Mary Otis started out as an actress, and wondered if her characters may have come out of that experience.

She started out acting in a neighborhood playhouse in Boston that actress Diane Keaton had also attended.

“They’d make us do everything, including ballet, jazz and fencing,” Mary recalled. “But it was such an intense program, that if you weren’t cutting it, you’d get cut. It was almost like improv, and it helped me immensely.”

Mary said that her short stories focus on family, relationships and are set partially in Los Angeles.

She said that living in Los Angeles for the past 20 years, has been rewarding, and the longest she’s lived anywhere. She grew up in a small town outside of Boston.

“LA is a strange, intense town,” Mary said.

In her first novel, she treats LA as a character itself.

Mary read an excerpt from her new novel, "Flight"

“It’s tragic, desperate and gorgeous all in one,” she added.

She’s only written the first 50 pages of “Flight,” but read an excerpt anyway.

“My mother had two speeds,” Mary said. “Drunk or driven.”

She recounted a car ride in which her mother was playing “chicken” with another motorist in the passing lane on Route 3 in Cape Cod.

“Fucking hell!” her mother said in frustration, while she began hallucinating from fear. She remembered random answers to her junior high test questions and tried to breathe from her elbow.

Throughout the reading of “Flight,” the audience was laughing heartily.

“I know that I sound self-centered,” Eduardo said afterwards. “But I feel like you were talking to me. I’d like to buy that book.”

Mary said that she wasn’t sure if the manic driving excerpt would be at the beginning, middle or end of her book.

“It’s different from a short story,” Mary explained. “I don’t write in any particular order. Everything just comes in pieces.”

She admitted to writing the novel after being prompted by her agent to develop her writing beyond short stories. According to her web site, Mary Otis is an award-winning writer whose short story collection, “Yes, Yes, Cherries,” was published in 2007 by Tin House Books. She has had stories and essays published in Best New American Voices (Harcourt), the Los Angeles Times, Tin House, Berkeley Literary Journal, and the Santa Monica Review, among others.  Originally from the Boston area, Mary is a fiction professor in the UC Riverside Low-Residency MFA Program where she is part of the core faculty.

(from L) Jeffrey Taylor talks to Mary Otis afterwards. He asked if she had any interest in her stories from the film industry.

Some of the questions from the audience asked about when her novel is due out, what she’s reading now, and if she could recommend a good writing book. Yet, it was a guy in the back who asked the best question.

“Have any of your short stories been picked up by the film industry?” asked Jeffrey Taylor, Green Cafe, who has hosted a weekly film series in Idyllwild for the past 14 years.

“Not any so far,” Mary said. “But my agent said there was some interest in one, but it didn’t go anywhere.”

“I would think that ‘Next Door Girl’ about a seamstress and a Russian hair model would make a good screenplay,” Eduardo interjected.

“That’s the one they were interested in!” Mary exclaimed.

Jeffrey said later that most movies are based on short stories.

“The people in the film industry don’t have time to read novels, but a short story they can get through quickly,” he said.

His father wrote mystery novels and later worked as a PR man for Warner Bros.

(from R) Mary Otis and Eduardo Santiago pose with the owner of B's Mountain of Books, Lauren Devore

After the discussion, Mary signed copies of “Yes, Yes Cherries,” while others mingled, drank lemonade and ate Bing cherries.

Eduardo said that there wouldn’t be an Idyllwild Author Series event next Sunday because he’s graduating from UCLA. The next author, James Brown, will be featured on Thursday, June 30th, at a new venue, Cafe Aroma. He will read from his book, “This River.”

All Idyllwild Author Series events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit, or call B’s Mountain of Books at (951) 659-5018.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Series Brings California Authors to Idyllwild

June 17, 2011

Books by Janet Fitch and Hope Edelman are discussed at the Idyllwild Author Series held on select Sundays from May to July

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Idyllwild Author Series, featuring some of California’s most celebrated writers, is more than half over, yet it is quickly gaining momentum.

It began mid-May at B’s Mountain of Books, with eight authors. Since then, they’ve added two more, plus another Idyllwild location.

These authors are either friends or close acquaintances of originator Eduardo Santiago, author of “Tomorrow They Will Kiss,”  and a part-time Idyllwild resident. He invited these best-selling authors to come visit Idyllwild during select Sundays from mid-May to early July. He sets them up at a local inn, plans and then runs the interview/discussion sessions.

The best-selling authors include: David Francis (Stray Dog Winter); Hope Edelman (Motherless Daughters); Leslie Schwartz (Angels Crest); Janet Fitch (White Oleander); Gary Phillips (Bangers); Mary Otis (Yes, Yes Cherries); Noel Alumit (Talking to the Moon); Rachael Resnick (Love Junkie); James Brown (This River) and Andrew Foster Altschul (Deus Ex Machina).

Most of them live in the greater Los Angeles area, and they make the trip up to Idyllwild willingly.

“Still I’m shocked that they make the drive,” said Santiago, after the session featuring Hope Edelman, a New York Times bestselling author of “Motherless Daughters,” and four other bestsellers.

During the discussion/interview, Hope said that she was happy to see so many people in attendance. There was about 30 locals there, including authors, writers, editors and business owners. Oftentimes, at Barnes & Noble, she said, only 10 people show up.

(from L) Eduardo Santiago interviews Hope Edelman, author of "Motherless Daughters"

Eduardo, who has no vested interest in B’s Mountain of Books, said that he has always held a romantic notion of bookstores and wants to keep them alive.

“I’ve dreamt that two people would reach for the same book, their eyes would meet, and it would be their fate,” Eduardo said to laughter from the audience. “It could only happen in a bookstore.”

Yet, most would agree that authors and bookstores go hand-in-hand, and need to support the other.

Hubert Halkin, owner of Cafe Aroma, who has attended many of the sessions, said that Eduardo has taken a professional approach to the series.

“He makes it look very informal and casual,” Hubert said. “But he has done his research on these authors, and has good questions written on three-by-five index cards.”

Eduardo conducts the interview/discussion that generally lasts an hour.

“If someone asks a question, and the discussion goes off in another direction, Eduardo goes with it,” Hubert added.

The Idyllwild Author Series is good for the originator too.

The series is casual discussion with California's most celebrated authors right here in Idyllwild

“I love it because it gives me an opportunity to renew friendships and blatantly ask questions that I would be more reluctant to ask in a social setting,” Eduardo admitted.

He said the Janet Fitch event, held on June 5, was “awesome.” There were about 50 people there, with two tents set up and every chair filled.

“Actually, so far, all the authors have been quite charming and comfortable in front of crowds,” said Eduardo. “Last Sunday, I was quite taken by Gary Phillips (Bangers), a crime novelist, who just charmed the pants off of everybody.”

During the discussions, Eduardo asks pointed questions about the featured book. Then the author reads a few excerpts, and then he opens it up to questions from the audience.

Hope Edelman, who brought her two young daughters, along with homemade cookies, was very comfortable talking before an audience, not only about “Motherless Daughters,” but her other books as well.

“Motherless Daughters” is a compilation of experiences cited by women who have lost their mothers at an early age.

Hope talked about how she started out writing the book as an assignment at the University of Iowa Writing Program. She had no idea that “Motherless Daughters” would touch so many people. Up until that time, there had only been books published about daughters who lost their mothers later in life. Hope had lost her mother when she was only 17.

Then she talked about her new book, “The Possibility of Everything,” and writing about relatives.

Many in the Idyllwild audience are writers, editors, authors and business owners

“The Possibility of Everything” is about her young daughter’s experience  with an “imaginary friend.” When the “friend” began to alter her daughter’s personality, she took the advice of her housekeeper and visited a Mayan healer in Belitze. The book covers the entire emotional experience.

“Why did you write a book about me?” Hope said that her daughter asked.

Her 13-year-old didn’t like the book idea at all.

“I explained that it was really a book about me,” Hope told her Idyllwild audience. ”

During that experience, she was able to accept things beyond her imagination, she said.

Still, Hope suggests that writers continue to write about their relatives, if the story is compelling.

“In my experience, they never object to things you’ll think they’ll object to,” Hope said.

Many in the audience were big fans of Hope’s, having read many of her books.

“This series is a great way to meet your favorite authors in person, and ask them any question you want to about their books,” one woman said.

Eduardo said that many attendees ask private questions as the authors are signing their books afterwards.

“I’m very proud of the way the series is going,” Eduardo added. “We just added two more events – June 30th at Cafe Aroma for memoirist James Brown (This River) and July 3rd for Andrew Foster Altschul (Deus Ex Machina).”

The next session of the Idyllwild Author Series will be held this Sunday, June 19, at 2 p.m. featuring Mary Otis, an award-winning author, whose short story collection, “Yes, Yes Cherries,” was published in 2007. The event is free and open to the public. It will be held in the tent outside B’s Mountain of Books at 54385 North Circle Drive in Idyllwild. B’s carries all of the Idyllwild Author Series books. For more information, contact Eduardo Santiago at, or call the bookstore at (951) 659-5018.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved. All Hope Edelman photos courtesy of Mark Davis.

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It’s Summertime in Idyllwild, Time to Abate

June 3, 2011

Idyllwild Fire Department is inspecting homes with abatement issues right now

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Memorial Day Weekend brought hundreds of tourists to Idyllwild, mostly for the yard sales. There were also hoards of part-timers here on a mission: to fire abate their yards.

No one can describe this abatement situation in a more humorous light than Ben Killingsworth, a current Idyllwild Fire Department Commissioner, and former columnist for the Idyllwild Town Crier newspaper.

In his recent book, “Waiting for My Wife,” a compilation of his Town Crier columns from 2003, Ben pokes fun of Idyllwild part-timers who come to enthusiastically abate their yards. Here’s an excerpt from “Making Little Clouds of Dust,” from page 242:

“Something else that didn’t take long to notice is that the average part-timer does more work in his/her place over a weekend than we full-timers accomplish in the five days in between. In fact, they are almost fanatic about it. I’ve even seen one or two jump out of their car with rake in hand before pulling to a complete stop in their driveway.”

Most part-timers are as enthusiastic about fire abatement as Ben describes, while others are not.  My neighbor from the LA area came to inspect her yard Memorial Weekend. The foot-high grass covered her front yard, but she decided to do nothing.

Fire commissioner and author Ben Killingsworth at home with a portrait by local artist Marcia Gawecki. Ben wrote a book about Idyllwild and humorously covers abatement.

“It’s still too green,” she said.  “I’m going to wait until it dies to abate.”

Rhonda, from the Idllwild Fire Department, doesn’t think that’s the right attitude to take.

“We live on this mountain, and not just during spring and summer,” she said. “Even if you don’t live here year round, your home is still here all year. Everyone needs to take responsibility for abatement.”

Abatement notices went out a month ago to full timers and part timers, giving them a heads up, Rhonda said. Then the IFPD waited another 30 days, but is now doing residential inspections and giving notices to homeowners. Once you get a notice, you have 30 days to comply or you’ll be cited.

Besides the notices in the mail, Rhonda said there’s been many articles in the Town Crier. They also have lots of abatement information on their web site,

Since Memorial Day, locals have been trimming trees, weed wacking and raking pine needles. The organic waste site at the dump has grown from a few piles to a large mountain top.

Yet, these sights and sounds make some homeowners sweat. They work full time and can’t keep up with abatement too. One single woman in her 50s was seen raking her yard at midnight because she was afraid of getting a citation that she couldn’t afford.

Knee-right weeds need to be abated now or you'll get cited.

“It doesn’t have to come to that,” Rhonda said. “If you are having difficulty abating your yard, the IFPD is here to help. We’ll recommend someone or give you more time.”

My other neighbor said that some Mormon volunteers came to her house and offered to abate her yard for free.

“They really seem like they care about our community,” she said.

“We want this year’s abatement in Idyllwild to be successful for everyone,” Rhonda added. “If you’ve received a notice and you’re having time constraints, just give us a call. We’ll work with you.”

The IFPD’s phone number is (951) 659-2152.

If inspectors see leaf bags or piles, they'll know that you're working on abatement and won't cite you

If inspectors see piles and waste in bags, they know that you’re working on abating your yard and aren’t going to cite you. However, she said homeowners with hard-core abatement issues who ignore the notices and don’t even try to abate their yards, will not receive as much sympathy.

“All it takes is a phone call,” Rhonda said. “Talk to Jack Peckham, our fire marshall, and he’ll work with you.”

More abatement information can be found on the IFPD web site at Ben Killingsworth’s book, with humorous accounts about abatement and other Idyllwild-isms, “Wating for My Wife,”  is for sale in the Idyllwild Pharmacy, Bee’s Books and on

Copyright 2o11 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Creative Writers Recite Thursday Night

May 26, 2011

Austin and his classmate, Austin, will recite tonight.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Tonight three seniors from the Creative Writing Department will recite some of their favorite works from their time spent at Idyllwild Arts.

It’s the second night of a two-part series. Wednesday night featured works by Katie, Taylor and Madi. Tonight’s event featuring Amber, Austin and Austin will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall.

Stephens is the place where great music happens. All of the junior and senior classical instrumental recitals were held there. And the classical and jazz voice majors sang there too. On Tuesday night, the place was packed and sweaty with jazz fans eager to hear the Final Jazz Concert. Even empty, the place resonates with sound.

Granted, it doesn’t sound like much excitement will be happening tonight at Stephens. Three seniors will come up to the mike at the podium and read. What could be more boring that that? Two guys and a girl reading passages from a book? No music, no dancers, not even video in the background.

But I can’t think of any place that I’d rather be tonight.

Writing is so powerful that you don’t need “all that jazz.” You can just read out loud and captivate your audience. Remember story time at preschool? And bedtime stories with your family? We’d all gather around my dad on the bed and have him read book after book until his eyes crossed.

“Read it again, Daddy!” my sister would exclaim.

Sometimes he would read the same book again, or pick another. The worst words were when he’d yawn loudly and say, “OK, that’s enough for tonight. Everyone get some sleep.”

I miss people reading to me so much that I’d even get “warm fuzzies” when my boyfriend would read the directions out loud on how to install a new appliance.

“Read it again, honey,” I’d say. “I didn’t hear the last part.”

Stephens is the place where jazz recitals are held.

So tonight, when Amber, Austin and Austin (what are the chances of that?) will read some poetry, plays and short stories excerpts, I want to be front row and center. Nothing is more exciting to hear a writer recite his own words that he started long ago on a blank page.

Most writers don’t have great voices. They can be kind of weasly and quiet. The pen takes over where they lack in sound. However, to their credit, Austin and Austin both have great voices. Perhaps it comes from all of that reading practice in class. One of the Austins was a lead in a student movie called, “Penelope,” that will be released next week. Maybe saying, “Oh, my love!” so many times helped his voice.

Boring setup, weasly voices aside, it’s the content that we die for. These writers will recite the best of what they’ve written while they’ve been here at Idyllwild Arts. Maybe some of their best works came during their freshman year, when they were younger and more naive. Perhaps years of living in the woods has opened up their eyes to the wonder of nature. Or years of co-ed living has given way to love and lust that can only be expressed on paper.

If you want to get a preview of some of tonight’s works, pick up a copy of “Parallax, the Spring 2011 Edition.” It’s available for free in the bookstore and in the Parks Exhibition Center. It’s less than 150 pages, but chock full of stories, poetry, plays, and peppered with photographs and illustrations from the Visual Art Department.

Some of the word choices and content will be shocking. Lesbian love, menstrual cycles and butt picking are a few that I came across.

Austin only laughed at me.

“We’re teenagers,” he said. “We’re supposed to shock.”

Scarlett, another writer, didn’t agree.

“What is so shocking about that?” she asked.

So tonight, you be the judge. Come early and sit on the folding chairs, amongst students and staff members that you haven’t met yet. But know that you are among friends who’ve all come together for one reason: To hear gifted young writers read to us.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall. It’s free and open to the public. Stephens is located on campus at the end of Tollgate Road in Idyllwild. For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Photos courtesy of Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: May 26, 2011 @ 7:28

Creative Writers Recite

May 28, 2010

Ruby and Joey perform a love song from Sunny's musical

It’s always better to hear an author read. It’s an authentic voice. And a treat, if they ever become famous.

Many times, I’ve sat in bookstores, listening to authors read. I close my eyes and try to envision what they are saying. Most of the deliveries were presented in a monotone voice. There was no three-piece band, singers, or accompanists to “jazz” things up. But that was then, and this is now. Even readings on the high school level, there is more of a “show” with actors and musical instruments.

“Senior Readings” in the Creative Writing Department at Idyllwild Arts began on Wednesday night, May 26, but I missed it. Two seniors, Dustin and Khalid, read poems and excerpts from their short stories.

Khalid, who attended the second reading on Thursday night, said that people in the audience Wednesday night got pretty emotional when he read, “At the Diwan of Rumi in Afghanistan.”

“They started to cry, then I almost cried, but I couldn’t because I had to keep reading,” Khalid said.

His sponsor wants to help him publish his last piece, “In Search of My Youth During the War.” She is a screenwriter with connections in Hollywood, and is eager to get started, he said. But he wants to wait.

“Because my parents aren’t here, and it doesn’t seem right,” Khalid said.

On Thursday, May 27, three seniors were slated to read, including Jordan, Sunny and Emma. However, before they began, Kim Henderson, head of the Creative Writing Department gave a little preview. She said she had been working with these three students for three years now, and what they were about to read was some of their best work.

Emma read her poems, short stories and excerpt from her novel

Each of them were required to read for 15 minutes, but they decided to break it up and take turns reading two pieces each until everything was covered.

Jordan was up first and read two poems, “Where It’s Warm,” and “The Lookout at Airport Mesa.”

Next, Emma read “Resurrection,” a short story about two friends on an Indian reservation. They would often watch Peter’s uncle carve animals out of wood, or would run errands for him. One day, Peter’s uncle came up missing, but they found his wrecked car. After awhile, the two went to investigate to add closure to the uncle’s life.

Then Sunny read two poems, “Death of a Stranger,” and “Inflation,” with great descriptions, such as “Days hung like sugared frogs,” and “Five dollars for your soul.”

When Jordan read from his novel (the title he didn’t give out), he got some great laughs from the audience.

“This story is about a guy named Westin, who lives off of a trust fund in New York,” Jordan began. “But he’s not attracted to his wife anymore.”

He went on to describe how Westin ran around Central Park, using people as mile markers. And he had the paranoid idea that everyone was following him, so he ran.

Jordan read from his novel about a guy who believed pigeons were following him

“What’s more, the fucking pigeon was following him,” Jordan said. “It was if he was running from nature itself.”

The pigeon ended up attacking Westin in the leg, and a woman in an orange suit defended it. “They are gentle things you know,” she said.

For her next piece, “Something,” Sunny played the piano and sang, as her mother beamed and took pictures from the front row.

“I know how to write poetry,” Khalid said later. “But I sure as hell can’t write songs like that! Amazing!”

Sunny read three more poems, “Adoption,” “Origin of Snow,” and “Sonnet,” which was based on Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poem, “I Find No Peace, and All My War is Done.”

Then Emma read an excerpt from her novel about a married man attracted to a flower shop girl.

“Enough,” a haunting love song from Sunny’s “Fire and Brimstone” musical, was performed by Joey and Ruby, two musical theater majors. They sang without props right in front of the podium. Just goes to show you that you don’t need a lot when the content is good.

After Jordan recited his poem,” Melanesian Mythology,” he jumped right into an unusual good-bye.

“I’m leaving for NYU in the fall and Emma is going to USC, but we’ve never been together onstage at the same time,” Jordan said. “So I’d like to invite her up here to sing her favorite song, “Your Love.”

Sunny read her poetry and sang a song that she wrote

The two sang a duet, danced and camped it up for the audience. The music by The Outfield was prerecorded. There they were, two writers singing and dancing a farewell song that was sentimental, but not very good. But it didn’t matter because the audience, which was made up of friends, family members and faculty, loved it.

Then Sunny joined them onstage and they gave their final bow. They hugged each other like good friends, and then everyone was invited outside for ice cream.

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Favorite Idyllwild Columnist’s New Book

January 22, 2010


Author Ben Killingsworth at home in Idyllwild with a Pop Art portrait of him

By Marcia E. Gawecki

A cross between Garrison Keillor and Erma Bombeck, award-winning local columnist Ben Killingsworth presents some of his humorous “Off the Cuff” columns (that ran in the Idyllwild Town Crier newspaper from Feb. 2003 to Nov. 2005) in a 102-story collection entitled, “I’m Waiting for My Wife.”

Most of the stories are uniquely Idyllwild, such as the Jazz Fest, the Home Tour, Casino Night, poetry readings, trips to the post office, and hikes in the woods–all told from a local’s perspective. At the time they appeared, this retired CHP Chief, was also president of the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce and a Rotary volunteer. All of those experiences served as fodder for his weekly columns. One unusual one entitled, “Doggone Right,” reveals how Ben “converses” with a dog at a local meeting, reading the dog’s responses and wholeheartedly agreeing with him–which nearly gets him thrown out of the meeting!

Some feature locals by name, including bookstore owner Steve Moulton and realtor Dora Dillman, while others remain anonymous. But none are mentioned more often than Ben’s wife, Nanci, a local artist and volunteer, who is always the “voice of reason.” For example, in “Hammer Down,” Ben wants them to become a semi-truck driving team, while Nanci reminds him of their two dogs, three cats, and all the litter boxes and leashes that need to come along. “You be sure and write,” Nanci quips.

“Ben’s an observer,” Nanci adds. “I’ll be talking to him out on the deck, and his attention will wander to a spider making a web. It’s all about the animals, birds, insects and people in our world, and he does a good job of writing about it.”

Waiting for My Wife is now available at local shops in Idyllwild, including the pharmacy

Years after the columns ceased to appear in the paper, locals would often tell Ben that they missed reading them. “They’d say that my column was the first thing they’d read in the paper, and sometimes the only thing,” Ben said. So, after getting permission from the former Town Crier publisher, Ben decided to self publish his book of columns. It’s in the final editing stages, and will likely be sold in early spring for $13.95. For more information, contact