Our Laguna: Luncheon celebrates the written word

Not all authors are as good at speaking as they are at writing, so the guests at the 26th annual Literary Luncheon on Saturday had a real treat.

The Laguna Beach Chapter of the American Assn. of University Women hosted the annual luncheon at the Surf & Sand Resort. It was sold out.

Authors Rahimeh Andalibian, Maggie Anton, Margaret Dilloway and Nicole Mones entranced the audience with snippets of their lives, how they became writers and some tidbits from what they had written.

Luncheon chairwoman Karen Dennis introduced them with brief biographies.

Andalibian was born in Iran, but her family escaped, taking with them secrets that led to isolation and misunderstandings for 30 years.

She wrote about their experiences in "The Rose Hotel," described by Publishers Weekly as a "multilayered tale ... beautifully steeped in culture and Iranian history ... an ornately imagined tapestry."

"My purpose in writing this book was to help people connect," said Andalibian, the only first-time author this year.

She is working with other authors to produce a play that weaves her family's story with similar tales. Her goal in her writing is to help people to open up and connect with their loved ones and the world.

"I hope to touch lives and maybe change minds," said Andalibian, who is also a psychologist.

Anton's Book "Rav Hisa's Daughter, Book I: Apprentice," tells the story of the youngest daughter of one of Judaism's most revered scholars. As a young girl, she learned the Torah by heart but was banned from further studies because of her sex.

"That does resonate in the hearts of AAUW women," Dennis said.

Anton's first book was published in 2005, something she didn't expect.

"I like happy endings so I wrote the book I wanted to read," Anton said.

Anton is familiar to some Laguna Beach readers who attended her book signing last year at Jane Hanauer's Laguna Beach Books.

"It was the biggest book signing I have ever had," Anton said.

Anton, the recipient of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, is currently working on a sequel to her first book.

Dilloway is the product of what used to be called a "mixed marriage," in her case the union of a Japanese woman and an Irish-Welsh American father.

She was inspired by her mother's experiences to write "How to Be an American Housewife," the same name as the manual her father gave her mother.

Dilloway knew she was a writer from childhood, beginning in kindergarten.

"I didn't talk, I just wrote," she said.

After college, Dilloway worked for two weekly newspapers and wrote "Bluetooth for Dummies."

Her most recent book, "The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns," is the American Library Assn.'s 2013 Literary Tastes Pick for Women's Fiction. It was a finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Book Award.

Dilloway was accompanied by her husband, Keith, with whom she lives in San Diego with their three children.

Mones' book, 'The last Chinese Chef," delves into Chinese culture and cuisine, which she said are inseparable.

"China is the only place that you can be famous as an eater," Mones said.

She is proud of the Gourmand Prize for cookbooks awarded to her novel, which does not contain a single recipe.

Mones' "Lost in Translation" (no relation to the movie) and "A Cup of Light" are in print in 20 languages. Her honors include the Kafka Prize for the year's best work of fiction by an American woman and the final round for fiction that best enhances understanding of any Pacific Rim culture.

Ten minutes was not nearly long enough for her to speak.

"You might as well ask me to write a haiku," she said.

The annual luncheon benefits the chapter's programs.

"Beneficiaries of our fundraising have historically included women in graduate study, gender-equity research and other programs through the AAUW Educational Opportunities Fund," said Nancy Miller, co-president with Patricia Griggs of the chapter.

Locally, luncheon proceeds will provide scholarships for nine Thurston Middle School seventh-grade girls to attend AAUW California's Tech Trek science and math summer camps at UC Irvine and UC San Diego.

"These camps promote self-esteem in young women and inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology," Miller said. "We also provide scholarships to deserving high school graduating senior girls and women returning to Saddleback, UCI and Laguna College of Art + Design."

Other programs include tutoring at El Morro Elementary School and arranging community grants to nonprofits that support AAUW's mission of education- and gender-equity for women and girls, such as the Laguna Beach Live! concerts featuring young female musicians.

AAUW Laguna Beach was established 46 years ago. It currently has more than 165 members with backgrounds in the arts, education, business, science, engineering, medicine, law and community affairs.

The luncheon also included a silent auction and book signings. Dennis credited her committee for its success.

Committee members included Sue Reese, Stephanie Cunningham and her daughter, Laura. Special mention went to Jean Brotherton, Janette Mestre and Katie Haven.

Brotherton is one of the founding members of AAUW Laguna Beach and also of the Literary Luncheon. This year, she arranged for the authors, put all the silent-auction items that she had wrapped in a database, created the wrapping paper for the gift books on each table (and got her son to help wrap the books) and made the name tags.

Chapter and foundation treasurer Mestre worked with Haven on reservations and seating.

Other committee members included Diane Logan, Lesley Danziger, Diane Ertley, Miriam Kranser, Deana Pink, Madeleine Peterson, Anita Halton and Bev McComb.

Among the guests: retired City Clerk Martha Anderson, Michelle Reinglass, Joan Gladstone, Ginger Osborne, Peter and Barbara Antonacci, Lee Winocur Field, Pat Jameson and Peggie Thomas with her mother, Martha Wissman, who will be celebrating her 100th birthday in a couple of weeks.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call 1 (714) 966-4618 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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