San Diego has its own little self-contained book ecosystem: We grow writers locally, then we publish them locally, then we distribute many of them from the El Cajon-based Sunbelt Publications. CityBeat interviewed two local authors with books coming out this fall, both distributed by Sunbelt.
Must I do everything myself?
At 45, Eric Peterson had one of those shit-or-get-off-the-pot moments. Northern California born and educated, he'd grown up yearning to be a writer. He studied communications for two years at UCSD before transferring to Stanford's more practical journalism program. After graduation, he moved back to San Diego, but he got diverted into venture capital and software development. In 2003, his latest endeavor, a software company, came to an abrupt end. Faced with prospects of more of the same, but backed by a decent bank account, Peterson had his moment. And he decided to shi—err, write.
He spent the next six years working part-time and writing a novel called Life as a Sandwich. Last year, as the novel finally began to round into a final form, the 51-year-old Peterson began to think hard about where to publish.
“I heard all these horror stories of people who spent five or 10 years shopping their book,” he said.
So he did what anyone would do in that situation: He founded a publishing house.
“I wanted to let the market decide what it thinks of my work—and not have to wait for years to find out,” he said.
“And I want as much control of the product as possible.”
Huckleberry Press, Peterson's new firm, has exactly one author in its stable, and that's Peterson. And it has exactly one employee, but it's not Peterson; it's a salaried manager named Jill Treadwell. She'll be responsible for managing the finances, finding new authors and working out the details of the company's distribution deal with Sunbelt. Peterson doesn't want to deal with that stuff. Now that he's gotten started following his dream, he wants to see where it leads.
Usually a résumé doesn't include a list of all the people the applicant has ever kissed—nor does it include a full documentation of a strict Christian upbringing. It doesn't detail the hazards of coping with chronic eczema, and, generally, a résumé doesn't come bound in the form of a book.
But Ella deCastro Baron's work of creative nonfiction, Itchy, Brown Girl Seeks Employment, does all of these things.
The whole book is structured as a classic curriculum vitae, with the appropriate sections of Background, Education, Field Work and Professional Experience and High Achievements. The sections are collections of Baron's work from her time at San Diego State University's writing program, where she experimented with every form of writing imaginable. As a result, the pages are filled with songs, poetry, essays and genre writing of all types.
The heart of the book focuses on grappling with her eczema and the numerous psychological maladies that came with it: depression, sleeplessness and anxiety. Baron tried everything from Western medicine's latest science to becoming a vegan to traditional Eastern healing techniques. Somehow, she says, everything suddenly came together and she was cured.
“One day I just knew it was done,” she said. “I got healed. The book tries to explain. I think it was a combination of just trying everything. The rehab stuff, the eastern and the western stuff.”
And the book is for real in its title—Baron really does want a job. The introduction is a cover letter that concludes simply: “If you want to talk further about whether I can be useful, please contact me.”
Ella deCastro Barron will read from her work on Friday, Oct. 2, at the City College International Book Fair.
Radical! Books!: Every year, the City College International Book Fair puts on the best free bibliophile event in San Diego. This year, starting Monday, Sept. 28, author lectures will cover everything from poetry to politics in City College's Saville Theatre. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Oct. 3, the parking lot will be covered with booksellers offering everything from strange ideological tracts to works by local authors to the latest best sellers. When the weather's good, you can't go wrong taking a stroll through the tables, perusing the wares. Republicans be warned, though: The political gamut at the SDIBF runs from progressive to liberal. www.sdcitybookfair.com.
Reading the Bard: Sometimes The Old Globe just can't provide that crucial Shakespeare fix. It can be too pricey and too, well, staged. Sometimes the best way to get a jolt of Shakespeare is simply to read him aloud. The Upstart Crow (835 West Harbor Drive in Seaport Village) hosts the monthly meetings of the San Diego Shakespeare Society, featuring readings of plays by the Elizabethan playwright in an informal atmosphere. Trained actors help with certain parts, but members of the audience are also invited to participate. They'll be reading Henry IV Part 1 on Tuesday, Oct. 6, The Merry Wives of Windsor on Nov. 3 and Antony and Cleopatra on Dec. 1. The meetings start at 6:45 p.m. Upstart assures us everything is kept informal but respectful of Shakespeare. Free. www.sandiegoshake
Pulp critic: Manny Farber would probably have loved Quentin Tarantino. Both men were fans of B movies and spent their lives paying homage. Farber, a renowned painter and film critic, spent much of his time skewering Very Important Directors like Orson Welles in favor of the B-movie specialists who made westerns and horror thrillers. Farber died last year, but his wife, Patricia Patterson, and Robert Polito, director of the New School's writing program, have compiled all his writings into a single volume, Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber. The pair will be speaking at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, at D.G. Wills, 7461 Girard St. in La Jolla. Free. www.dgwillsbooks.com.
Me talk pretty right now: Last time David Sedaris came through San Diego, he posed a question to his audience: “Is Barack Obama circumcised?” No one really knows why he was so interested in this matter, but one thing we can say is that people are totally obsessed with the question—if response to a post on CityBeat's blog is any indication. That's the kind of provocative oratory you can expect from Sedaris when he comes to the Balboa Theater, 868 Fourth Ave., Downtown, at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30. Ticket prices vary. www.ticketmaster.com.
People of the book: When Anita Diamant's The Red Tent first hit bookstores in 1998, it seemed like the sort of book my Jewish grandmother would really dig. And so it was—she totally dug it! But then, so did my mom, sister, other grandmother and much of the rest of the country. It was a bestseller for, like, ever. And now Diamant will be speaking at the 15th Annual San Diego Jewish Book Fair, along with former Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, Rabbi Harold Kushner and a slew of other authors. Evening lectures will take place on Thursday, Nov. 5, and from Saturday, Nov. 7, through Thursday, Nov. 12, and cost $17 for non-members. There will also be a bookstore open most of the days of the festival. There will be two main sites for lectures, the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center (4126 Executive Drive in La Jolla) and Temple Solel (552 S. El Camino Real) in Encinitas. www.sdcjc.lfjcc.org.