Los Angeles Times to be Title Presenter of 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival

The Los Angeles Times held its 11th annual Festival of Books recently.  This weekend-long event held at and in association with UCLA began with its Friday night author dinner and Los Angeles Times Book Prizes award ceremony at Royce Hall.  It closed with the Los Angeles premier of Lion's Gate's 'Peaceful Warrior,' the film adaptation of Bay Area California author Dan Millman's incredibly inspiring loosely autobiographical story.

Bestselling author Dan Millman at the Q&A following the Los Angeles premier of the adaptation of his book "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior"

Marketing Director Monique Muelenkemp and the other folks of New World Publishing were busy attending to visitors when I arrived Saturday afternoon, and I happened upon Millman accidentally.  In truth, I was literally pulled- without knowing why- to go in to extend a greeting after I'd visited with Marketing Director Brenda Knight and authors BJ Gallagher and Sharon Tate at the Red Wheel/Weiser group.  While we know there are no accidents, I still thanked my lucky stars to have a few minutes to talk with each of these authors since I'd purposely planned no appointments.  The Festival was going to be just for my own enjoyment.  Yeah- right!  Knowing that once someone is a bookseller, he or she is ALWAYS a bookseller, you can appreciate that in no way could that be the case.

Queue outside UCLA's Royce Hall waiting to see "Peaceful Warrior"

Millman told me he's very pleased with the way the film turned out.  Although I wasn't the author, I'd agree that 'Peaceful Warrior' is a very fine adaptation.  Late the following Sunday afternoon, the queue waiting to see the film was testament to the success of Millman's book- it wound almost completely around Royce Hall.  I'd forgotten how beautiful that venue is, and the audience enjoyed a terrific screening in great comfort.  I won't tell much about the film- since it opens in June- but I will say that it IS inspiring, and star Nick Nolte shines in the role of beloved spiritual mentor.

Beautiful interior of Royce Hall announcing upcoming Los Angeles Film Fest

A Q&A with Millman followed the screening, during which time the announcement was formally made that the Los Angeles Times will serve as the title presenter of the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival, Thursday, June 22 through Sunday, July 2, in Westwood Village.

Those beautiful blue and white tents on the UCLA campus

The weather couldn't have been more accommodating, and the UCLA campus was gorgeous dotted with blue-and-white-tented stalls where vendors sold everything and anything related to books, and authors could be found waiting to surprise a fan with an autograph.  One such author was BJ Gallagher.  Gallagher is the author of 'A Peacock Among Penguins' (Berrett-Koehler).  BJ's latest book, an inspirational modern parable written in collaboration with Steve Ventura, is 'Yes Lives in the Land of No.'  I now have a coveted signed Advance Uncorrected Galley, but it's available to the world by way of May/June launch.  The book is a clever and inspiring look at what it takes to persevere in a business environment that is stuck in the status quo.  Highly recommended!

The Anaheim Ballet delights the crowd gathered in front of the outdoor "Etc. Theater"

Numerous free panels and celebrity talk events were presented inside campus lecture halls and classrooms.  Frank McCourt was interviewed by Mitch Albom.  Joan Didion, this year's winner of the Robert Kirsch Prize, was in conversation with David L. Ulin.  Both she and Gay Talese drew sell-out crowds to their talks.  Dean Baquet, editor of the Los Angeles Times, was 'in conversation' with Kevin Roderick, editor of the snarky blog 'LA Observed.'  (Now that must have been a spectacular 'discussion.')  Other celebrity authors who either spoke or were part of panels included Joyce Carol Oates, Scott Turow, Ray Bradbury, Mary Higgins Clark, Dave Barry, T.C. Boyle.  The combination of so much commercial and other literary talent in one place at one time can only be described as unforgettable.

Speaking of that, San Francisco Chronicle book critic David Kipen was part of a panel that discussed 'The Outsiders: Independent Film Today.'  Timely, especially given the upcoming Film Fest.  I'm a total Kipen fan; somehow he always manages to be at the right literary place at the right time.  (I've since caught him moderating a panel entitled 'The Future of Fiction' at the Santa Monica Public Library where he and four NEA grant winners discussed good writing and good books.)

Children's book authors Marie-Louise Gay, Alan Zweibel, and *** with Mary Ellen Walker, LA Times children's book editor

Los Angeles Times children's book editor Mary Ellen Walker moderated two panels discussing writing picture books.  Marie-Louise Gay, children's book author/illustrator was on hand to participate in one, along with Alan Zweibel.  Gay, a two-time Canada Council Award winner whose most recent book is 'Stella, Queen of the Snow,' created the original artwork for the cover of the LA Times newspaper section announcing the event, as well as other materials promoting this year's Festival.  Zweibel, an original 'Saturday Night Live' writer, collaborated with Billy Crystal on his one-man Broadway show '700 Sundays' and is the author of a novel and a children's book entitled 'Our Tree Named Steve.'

Paula Yoo (a former 'West Wing' writer), Rachel Victoria Rodriguez, and local author and publisher Eric Drachman were on hand to discuss their experiences with and views about children's book authorship.

Gay graciously invited me to attend a signing a few days after the Festival at Every Picture Tells a Story, a children's book and book art shop on Montana Street in Brentwood.  She and Drachman had a lovely signing there amongst all that beautiful original children's illustrative art.

Celebrities from screen and stage made the LA Book Festival scene, including Terri Garr, Carl Reiner, and Marlo Thomas.

Marlo Thomas with Gerlyn Ruane, coordinator for the author "friends" who presented at the Festival

Thomas looked her usual trim, fit and gorgeous, and she was radiant with the joy that comes from working on a worthwhile project.  She was there with several 'new friends,' submitted personal stories included in her latest book benefiting St. Jude's Children's Hospital, 'The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2.'  Thomas' first volume grew from the inspiring stories of her friends 'in the biz' of entertainment.  This time around, her (new) friends included 'non biz' folk with stories as varied as a doctor who had finally agreed to adopt a child, a woman struggling with and overcoming the challenges of throat cancer, a survivor of child sexual abuse by a family member, a young woman learning about the richness of the more mundane aspects of a long-term love relationship, and an aspiring actor who came to have more belief in himself after an encounter with a stranger he'd originally dismissed as an annoyance.  Each had his or her turn on the outdoor stage at the Festival to share those stories.  Their words shared were quite moving.

Funny lady Rhea Perlman reads from her "Otto" series books

Other celebrities entertained overflow crowds of children and their parents reading from their books for children. Among these were Billy Crystal, Rhea Perlman, Henry Winkler, Julie Andrews, and John Lithgow.

Beloved children's author Rosemary Wells took the stage, too.  Wells is probably best known for her sweet characters Max and Ruby who continue to charm even after many years.  Max, she informed, even 'has his own book' coming out soon- an ABC book.  Her latest book, 'Carry Me,' is dedicated to her grandchildren Zoe and Del in Brooklyn, New York.  Her beloved characters Max and Ruby continue to charm.  Wells shared her thoughts about children and reading and she shared bits from this new work.

Beloved children's author Rosemary Wells reads from her latest book

'Good habits make a child ready to learn,' she told the audience of parents and kids.  'Give me a child ready to learn and I'll show you a shining star in return.'

May all our children, now and in future, read lots of books and become stars as they enjoy the knowledge and pleasure they give.  All us big kids, too.

Fabulous setting for a memorable literary/film event

The Los Angeles Festival of Books in association with UCLA is an annual event.  For more information about next year's Festival, please watch for the LA Times notices, or visit the web site announcing this year's event at www.latimes.com/extras/festivalofbooks/

The Los Angeles Film Festival begins June 22, 2006.

A huge thank you to a Festival volunteer who, when he heard how badly I wanted to see the 'Peaceful Warrior' premier, gave me his own ticket for the sold-out event.

Copyright 2006 M.D. Caprario text and photos



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