First annual literature festival received with mixed emotions

Leland Myrick -- Carly Mckean Photog.JPG

Several APU English students participated in the first SGV literary festival.
Photo: Carly Mckean

West Covina, Calif.—The first annual San Gabriel Valley Literature Festival hosted at the city of West Covina’s City Hall this past weekend was reigned in with the help of many APU students and staff. With professors from the English department and many of their students presenting from Friday to Sunday, there was clearly a Cougar presence felt by the members of the local community.

All types of literary genres (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc.) were presented and discussed by authors both known and unknown. Published novelist and poets included B.H. Fairchild, Simon Fruelund, Suzzane Lummis, Morgan St. James, Sunny Frazier, Charles Harper Webb, Eloise Klein Healy, Laurel Ann Bogen, Jeri Westerson and many more. All paired with “open mic” time slots for local writers to share their talents with anyone eager to listen; there was a good mix of the different levels of literature that can be found in the San Gabriel Valley.

From 12 to 9 p.m. there were three areas designated as stages set up to visit at any time of the event. The main stage, outdoor stage and the library stage all housed various events during the different time slots given to presenters. Time slots varied from 30 to 15 minutes, with some of the more notarized authors receiving multiple blocks of time.

Senior English major Becca Snider, shared her work on the library stage on Friday.

“I was invited to read one of my creative non-fiction essays by [professor of English] Dr. [Tom] Allbaugh. That was a really good honor for me just because it was a really good opportunity and it wasn’t something I would have come by on my own,” Snider said. “So it was really cool to have someone believing in me and in my work so I just have to thank Dr. Allbaugh.”

Senior English major Chelsea Johnson was also asked to read one of her works at the festival.

“It was nerve racking as always, but a good opportunity to share my writing,” Johnson said.

Allbaugh became involved in the event after his colleague, professor of English Dr. Ralph Carlson, introduced him to the festival’s organizer in January.

There was clearly room to improve the format the new festival. For example, there was no one to introduce Allbaugh and his cohort.

“I was personally disappointed that the festival did not follow through on its format of having someone there to meet Chelsea, Becca and me before our reading, someone who was also scheduled to introduce us,” Allbaugh said. “Apparently, he thought we weren’t worth his time. He came late to introduce the poet who followed us, and he didn’t even apologize. I wasn’t impressed with that aspect of it.”

But the production wasn’t all bad for the professor.

“This was the first time it was put on, and I can see that they are learning from what they’ve done,” Allbaugh said. “I went to several of the readings, and I found the opportunity to connect with writers and groups from two other schools—UCR [University of California Riverside] and Riverside Community College. Both connections will be valuable in the future.”

Snider had a few suggestions on how to make the event better.

“They could make the schedule of events a little bit clearer, there wasn’t really a handout or anything with a schedule to reference, maybe a little bit more advertising so that there is more attendance,” Snider said. “Overall they have a good foundation, but it was a little unorganized, that’s for sure.”

Johnson followed suit by suggesting ways to increase festival attendance.

“They should probably use social media networking,” Johnson said. “It would probably serve them well to send out a representative to local universities, maybe have a booth the way that we have visitors on Cougar Walk, to try and get even more student participation and submissions.”

All in all, there were many positives for Cougars here.

“I would go again because it is an opportunity to go and appreciate literature and writers,” Snider said.

Allbaugh highlighted the benefits of having such an outlet available.

“I was very impressed with Becca and Chelsea. I thought they read well, considering that our audience was not very large. I also think that the experience was good for all of us,” Allbaugh said.

While this was clearly a step forward, the SGVLF has much room to grow and can become a major success and resource for future writers in the community, especially APU.

“Perhaps it will be better received as a ‘2nd annual event,’ when word gets around better,” Allbaugh said.