From the Long Beach, CA, Press Telegram:
Literary women write on in L.B. [Long Beach]
720 people from across U.S. attend L.B. event; seven authors give talks.
By Kelly Puente, Staff writer
LONG BEACH - Each year on Jan. 2, Long Beach school teacher Phyllis Greenberg makes a dash to the post office.
"I know the day is coming and I get prepared," she said.
Greenberg was one of hundreds of women who scrambled to send in their invitations last month for an annual event so exclusive, only 720 people are permitted, and hundreds more are turned down.
"It's a fight every year," said Long Beach resident Judy Jacobson. "But it's so worth it."
Women from across the country packed into the Long Beach Convention Center on Saturday for the 26th annual Literary Women Festival of Authors.
A celebration of women writers and readers, the day-long event sells out every year and has attracted best-selling authors such as Mary Higgins Clark, Barbara Kingsolver and Sue Grafton.
Organizer Judy Ross said those hoping to attend must send in their invitations on the same day received, or they probably won't get in.
"The event has become so in demand, we don't like to advertise," she said. "The entire thing had been through word of mouth."
Although a few men could be found in the crowd Saturday, the event has always been overwhelmingly attended by women.
Founder Harriet Williams started the festival in 1982 after she learned that her son's reading list from Wilson High School had only three women authors.
Since then, the event has become massively popular with women readers and writers alike.
This year's lineup of seven writers ranged from Pulitzer Prize-winner and best-selling author Geraldine Brooks to Bo Caldwell, whose debut novel, "The Distant Land of My Father," won Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year.
Speaker Andrea Barrett, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of six novels, said the festival's almost fanatical attendance is contrary to reports that Americans are reading less every year.
"When you see such a large number of passionate readers in one room, it makes you feel like everyone is reading," she said.
Long Beach resident Wendy Zeh has attended the festival for the last 10 years largely for the camaraderie and inspiration.
This year, Zeh said she especially enjoyed author Susan Tyler Hitchcock's candid accounts of her life and the writing process. In front of a room of more than 300, Hitchcock regaled a time when critics blasted her nonfiction novel, "Coming About: A Family Passage."
"It hurt, but I was blessed with an overwhelming abundance of self-confidence," Hitchcock said, as the crowd laughed.
Zeh said it's that type of intimate atmosphere that keeps her coming back.
"You're surrounded by hundreds of women like you, who love reading," she said. "It's a special day."