Event celebrates love of books

When the clock struck 4:30 p.m. at the Daily Pilot in the early 1980s, reporter T. Jefferson Parker would unplug his IBM Selectric, grab a thick stack of white paper and run out the door, clutching the typewriter and smiling at his editor.

Parker worked nights and weekends penning his first novel, "Laguna Heat." Three decades of writing and 18 books later, Parker is a New York Times bestselling author known for his crime novels set in Orange County.

Parker was just one of the more than 60 published authors sharing the most intimate details of their writing lives at UC Irvine on Saturday at the fifth annual Literary Orange event.

The full-day conference drew 430 bibliophiles to the UCI Student Center. UCI collaborated with the Orange County Public Libraries to host the event.

Designed to celebrate authors, readers and libraries, it featured keynote speeches by author Ron Hansen and Parker, book signings and a wide array of panel discussions.

Assistant County Librarian Paula Bruce said this was the first year the event sold out, and she was thrilled with the turnout and the quality of the program.

"I thought the authors were fantastic, and the feedback I've been hearing from people is they're really happy with the authors and the diversity of the panels," she said. "I think a lot of aspiring authors come because it's a great opportunity interact with a lot of writers and learn about the process and how they might get published."

In nearly 20 panels, writers from genres as diverse as children's picture books to science fiction to travel answered questions about the behind-the-scenes efforts that go into producing a book. They shared tips on how to avoid scams, advice on getting published and how they started writing.

"I turned to writing because I couldn't afford a therapist," joked Andrew Winer, UC Riverside professor and author of "The Marriage Artist."

The relatively young Literary Orange event has grown over the last five years to include panels on publishing, nonfiction, Latino fiction and war. Hundreds of local writers use the event to network and learn.

For Parker, Orange County has proven fertile ground for his career.

In his keynote speech, Parker said when he was starting out, Orange County was seen as "no place to set fiction." Friends told him that if he wanted to be a writer, he needed to move to New York or Paris. But he disagreed, and delved into the county's history with his novels, setting them in places like Westminster's Little Saigon and Newport Beach.

He said he hopes he's contributed a little piece to the county's literary history.

"As I branched out and wrote more about Orange County, I found it to be more and more interesting," Parker said. "It's not the whitewashed place Angelenos like to say it is... Decades from now, after I'm gone, I hope that those books will stand as some sort of a reasonable account of what life was like in the time they were written."

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