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It started with a call from Readers Magnet, inviting me to participate in their booth at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival. The event, postponed for two years but finally able to happen, was April 23-24. I added a few days to take in a few museums. My goal was showcasing The Hand of Ganesh, and that I accomplished. But the getaway was far more.

Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California

My friend Karla, part-time Santa Monica resident, hosted me and joined in the whirlwind of events. After two days spent exploring beaches, Venice seaside, the Getty Villa Museum and the Getty Center Museum, we embarked on our literary adventure.

Saturday morning arrived fresh and sunny. Hundreds were already gathered when we arrived at the USC campus. Youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman delivered a stirring talk, highlighted by fresh new poetry. Writers Mary Laura Philpott, Annabelle Gurwitch, and Sandra Tsing Loo, introduced by Samantha Dunn, hosted a panel titled “The Next Chapter.” The essence of their messages: Drill down to the core of what you’re doing. Another captivating panel was “Imagining the Future,” which featured Latina and African American panelists Blair Imani and Dereca Purcell. Imani talked about the importance of Now and the fact that we were all “chosen” to survive the pandemic. Arce called on people not to compare their pandemic sufferings and instead to work on building more racial harmony in the future.

A discussion title “The Gilded Age” featured scholarly authors Jonathan Kirsch, Michael Hilzik and Zachary Karabel. Their focus was on robber barons and how the railroad changed U.S. history. Railroad “kings” became “aristocracy.” Edward Harriman, related Michael Hilzik, expanded his holding from railroads to steamships. Harriman, it seems, “despite his great wealth,” was very public spirited. These panelists gave the impression that in the past the gospel of wealth included giving back to society. Edith Wharton, they agreed, was the best literary critic of the Gilded Age.

Speaking of books, not only did I sell copies of mine, I supported other authors by buying theirs. These autographed copies have joined my stack by the bedside. Book immersion is great for the brain.

Join Elaine on Monday for a view of life through adoption colored glasses. She reflects on gardening, walking, outdoors and the writing life. To buy Beast of Bengal, All the Wrong Places, or her newest book The Hand of Ganesh, click on book titles. You’ll be able to order directly from Pocol Press. Your comments are invited.