Orange connects writers and readers

The Orange County Public Library System hosted its 8th “Literary Orange” on April 5 at the Irvine Marriott in Irvine Calif., its annual daylong event that celebrates the art of writing. This event brought together passionate writers, readers and critics in an environment to openly discuss and learn about the process of writing and the ever-changing landscape of fiction and nonfiction writing in books; for example, up-and-coming genres such as “Fictional Magical Realism.”  In addition, USC Annenberg Professor Judy Muller spoke as a panelist.

This gathering allowed avid readers the opportunity to have their books signed by renowned authors while directly interacting with these notable literary figures and nibbling on yummy desserts.

With extremely successful ticket sales, Literary Orange has proven itself as an established and popular literature event in the art world. This event was put together by many Orange County librarians and volunteers, all of whom dedicated enormous amounts of time to bring a variety of authors to this event. At the helm of these volunteers was Helen Fried, the county librarian for OC Libraries since 2008.

“It’s what we like to do the community,” Fried said. “I think everyone appreciates and enjoys how we have many different speakers and panels. We try to reach a variety of topics and different authors. We actually have several writers that attend the program, because we have a panel on how to get literary agents and publishing. There’s something for everyone. It’s very compelling to hear about these writers and how they got started.”

This year’s convention hosted  authors Ann Hood and Marlo Thomas as keynote speaker. These two powerful and successful women dedicated their time to Literary Orange to promote the importance of literature. Ann Hood, author of best-selling memoir Comfort: A Journey Through Grief, offered some advice about the importance of events similar to Literary Orange.

“I always get very excited by people who are excited about books,” Hood said. “We get this negative feeling that books are dead, but coming to Literary Orange is very affirming for a writer to be involved in — because to see people read makes you so excited.”

In addition to conventions that raise awareness about the field of humanities, Hood stressed in her keynote speech the importance of an individual reading and writing as much as possible. She emphasized that words are the most important aspect of human emotion and expression.

“Life goes on and starts throwing stuff in your path — you could pick up a book and forget about it. But if you wanted to make sense of it, you could write about it,” Hood said to the hundred attendees. “That dual source of comfort where I could read to get away from it, and I could write to understand it.”

The community, in turn, responded with the same amount of enthusiasm and positivity. First-time attendees and aspiring authors themselves, Esther Denn and Robyn Waugh, discussed their favorite moments of the day.

“To me this [event] is a step in putting forward my goal and vision,” Denn said. “I really enjoyed Marlo Thomas as a guest speaker. It started off with Marlo Thomas saying, ‘What is your next chapter? Because it is never too late.’ And she was right. I’m 65, and I’m going to write my book. This is just another cog in the wheel towards reaching my goal.”

Denn and Waugh were also pleased that the event promoted hopeful writers. Numerous speakers and attendees themselves offered advice to young adults and students who hope to pursue writing as a career.

“This sounds so obvious. I meet a lot of people who want to write, but do not read,” Hood said. “I learned how to write from reading books. Read everything. Write every day and practice the art.”

The name of the convention wasn’t just orange, the color was also a theme throughout. The venue was decorated quite literally with oranges, and each attendee purchased books placed in an orange reusable bag. Literary Orange, hosted by 34 public libraries in over 12 cities, victoriously celebrated the importance of literature in the 21st century and provided the perfect environment for aspiring writers.