Nearly 800 people were in attendance for Literary Women’s annual Long Beach Festival of Authors, which showcased a cohort of newcomers and veteran female authors from a variety of genres.
The group Literary Women has organized the festival since 1982 as a way to spotlight female authors.
The festival lineup on Saturday, Feb. 11, consisted of seven authors sharing their books:
Aamina Ahmad, “The Return of Faraz Ali” (novel);
Nina De Garmont, “The Christie Affair” (historical fiction/mystery);
Laurie Frankel, “one two three” (novel);
Xochitl Gonzalez, “Olga Dies Dreaming” (novel);
Nana Nkweti, “Walking on Cowrie Shells” (short stories);
Nita Prose, “The Maid” (mystery); and
Mary Roach, “Fuzz” (nonfiction/science).
Chairwoman Anne Emigh said she was looking forward to people getting to know the authors behind the words on the pages.
“Everyone is at the edge of their seats because authors are our rock stars,” Emigh said.
Sharing women’s voices through literature is important, she added, because it shows people a different perspective and “encourages more people to speak up and share their voices and points of view.”
Attendees had the opportunity to hear four of the authors – Gonzalez, Prose, Frankel and Roach – speak in the Long Beach Convention Center’s main ballroom.
The authors spoke of their process and thoughts behind creating and writing their books to a sea of book-lovers. Authors like Gonzalez and Prose also shared what inspired them to write their novels, and how although the stories are fiction, contain aspects of people and experiences in the real world.
“I have been looking forward to this for quite some time, and I’m really happy to be here at this festival today,” Prose said after taking the stage. Her debut novel, “The Maid,” was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, a Good Morning America Book Club Pick, and an international bestseller.
“My intention with this book was not to recreate reality, but to create a hyper-real version of it in which every reader could insert themselves,” she later said. “For those of you who have read ‘The Maid,’ thank you for making it yours, thank you for relieving me of the burden of it being mine and mine alone. Stories, after all, exist to be shared.”
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People also chose to attend one of three breakout sessions that happened simultaneously, with authors Ahmad, Nkweti and De Gramont. In a more intimate setting with the authors, it allowed for attendees to ask questions.
During Nkweti’s session focused on her book “Walking on Cowrie Shells,” she shared how being a Cameroonian-American and wanting to see wider representation in books through different genres inspired her to write the collection of short stories.
The audience was animated and engaged as Nkweti shared excerpts from her book and more. When asked if she preferred writing short stories, she replied “yes” with a big smile.
“I feel like I was naturally drawn to the short stories because I have so many interests, it allows me to quickly enter a world and get to the insightful incident,” the author said. “I love the fact that the constraint of time and pages pushes you into narrating faster and you have to find a way also to tell a story with precision.”
The festival included a bookstore where attendees could purchase the volumes being highlighted and browse other publications recommended by Literary Women. The authors were also available to sign their books.
“It’s an amazing time,” said Rosemary Vos, who has attended the festival since 2019. “To be around people who like to read and talk about books, it’s very stimulating and I always come out of here with a list of books to read.”