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Local Writers Meet, Mingle at UCI Event : Friends of Library Reception Salutes Wide Mix of Authors

April 11, 1986|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

As an annual literary salon, it is probably as diverse a group of authors as might be assembled under one roof.

It's an opportunity for Elizabeth Chater, author of "Runaway Debutante," to meet K. Kit Sum, author of "Switch Mode Power Conversion," and for Maureen McClintock Rischard, author of "The Centennial History of Tustin Presbyterian Church," to meet T. Jefferson Parker, author of "Laguna Heat."

The unusual meeting of these and 18 other Orange County literary minds occurred Wednesday afternoon at the former UC Irvine chancellor's residence in Newport Beach, which now serves as the university's hospitality house.

The occasion was a champagne reception sponsored by the UCI Friends of the Library for Orange County authors who had books published in 1985. The 22 authors who attended the gathering--and 28 others who were unable to attend--will be honored April 27 at the Friends' 21st annual Orange County Authors' Recognition Dinner at the Regency Hotel in Irvine.

Opportunity to Mingle

The informal reception in the spacious home overlooking upper Newport Bay offered more than 60 patrons of the annual dinner (mostly members of the Friends group) an opportunity to meet and mingle with the county's twinkling and full-wattage literary lights.

It also offered the fiction and nonfiction authors a chance to break away from their typewriters and word processors and meet their fellow scribes over hors d'oeuvres and cookies.

For first-time honorees like M. Davis Stephens, a Laguna Hills fourth-grade teacher, recognition by the Friends for her book, "Orange County: A Book for Young Students," is the icing on the cake of being published for the first time.

Sipping a cup of coffee on the large patio, Stephens noted that she spent "all my free time for a year or more" writing her book on the history and geography of Orange County.

'Gee, It's Wonderful!'

"I don't know how they (the Friends group) got my name; I don't know who submitted my book," she said, enthusiastically adding: "It's real exciting, though. . . . Gee, it's wonderful!"

When the newly formed UCI Friends of the Library initiated the author's recognition dinner in 1965, only 17 books were submitted, and awards were given to what was considered to be "the outstanding book" in each category, explained Claude Brown, president of the group.

But over the years, as the number of submissions grew to 70 or more, Brown said, the Friends stopped giving awards to individual writers and instead began honoring Orange County writers as "a group of people whose hard work and dedication have resulted in their publishing a book. We consider that to be a major triumph in itself."

Brown said that of the nearly 70 books submitted for recognition this year, the Friends selected 50 that met their criteria: The book had to have been published in 1985, and the author either must live or work in Orange County.

This year's crop of honored authors, whose works range from poetry and novels to technical tomes and history books, are in good company.

Brown said, for example, that two years ago "we recognized two people who between them had three books on the New York Times best-seller list"--Joseph Wambaugh (formerly of Newport Beach) and the Rev. Robert Schuller.

This year, the undisputed "name" Orange County author being recognized by the Friends of the Library is T. Jefferson Parker. Indeed, as one patron inquired at the start of the two-hour reception, "Is our celebrity here, Jeff Parker?"

Parker, whose first novel, "Laguna Heat," has generated considerable publicity, was cornered while getting a glass of champagne in the dining room.

National Recognition

Since the novel was published last summer, Parker has been featured, complete with a full-page portrait of the author, in Saturday Review magazine. "Laguna Heat" also was reviewed by the Washington Post and Newsweek magazine.

"The Washington Post said it was a California classic," said Parker. "Newsweek was more guarded: They said it was a good book, but that it had the faults of a first novel."

Parker also has sold "Laguna Heat" to Home Box Office to be made into a television movie. New York newspaper columnist and screenwriter Pete Hamill has written a first-draft screenplay, which he currently is rewriting, said Parker.

With the money from book sales and the HBO sale, Parker said, "I'm solvent for the year, and I should finish the second book before then, so I can still float for a while."

New Mystery Novel

The second book is a mystery novel called "Little Saigon." "It takes place half in Laguna Beach and half in Little Saigon--in the Westminster-Garden Grove area," explained Parker, whose research has involved "a lot of time with the cops up there" and visits to nightclubs.

Because he's now able to write full time, Parker said his second novel, now half-finished, is getting done much faster than the first. "I'm good for five hours a day behind the word processor. Then I kind of get mush-headed," he said.

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