Noe Valley Voice March 2013

Word on the Street

March Literary Fest Covers All Subjects

By Heather World

Noe Valley’s seventh annual literary festival, WordWeek, promises to be a thriller—with 16 events and several dozen authors to see and hear over eight days.

The celebration, sponsored by the residents group Friends of Noe Valley, kicks off on Saturday, March 16, with a reading by Scott Hutchins, author of the national bestseller A Working Theory of Love. (An excerpt from the novel, which the New York Times called “charming, warmhearted, and thought-provoking,” can be found on page 10.) The opening-night party takes place at Clich… Noe Gift Store, 4175 24th St., from 7 to 9 p.m.

Each day thereafter will feature a different venue, theme, and author (or authors), including such luminaries as Lambda Literary Award winner Ali Liebegott, children’s author-illustrator Ashley Wolff, and mystery writer Cara Black, famed for her Aim…e Leduc investigation series.

Authors Come Together

The week will reach its peak on Saturday, March 23, with the first-time Noe Valley Authors Festival, at St. Philip Church, 725 Diamond St, from 2 to 5 p.m. Twenty-four writers from Noe Valley, Glen Park, and surrounding neighborhoods will set up tables, talk lit, and sign their books.

“We decided to have an authors festival so all the authors in our literary and literate neighborhood could participate in WordWeek,” said Richard May, who organized the event with Friends members Peggy Cling and Susan Kroll. “We think this will be a great thing for Noe Valley authors, and we hope they all become famous!” May said.

In addition to the authors’ booths, there will be three readings in a side room at the hall. At 2 p.m., Alvin Orloff will read from Why Aren’t You Smiling?, his book about a “loveable dweeb” growing up in 1970s Los Angeles. Jon Sindell will take over at 3 p.m., sharing his humorous baseball saga The Mighty Roman. At 4 p.m., Frances Payne will talk about her memoir of missionary work in Bolivia, They Make Us Dangerous.

Throughout the afternoon, door prizes, including books and gifts provided by Noe Valley merchants, will be given away every half hour.

Storytelling for Children

Kids can celebrate on Tuesday, March 19, which is devoted to “Kids Lit: New Works & Old Favorites.” 

The day starts at 9 a.m. at Fairmount Elementary School, 65 Chenery St., when Mike Jung will read from his tween-oriented Geeks, Girls & Secret Identities.

Michelle Diaz Cannon, who will also have a booth at the authors festival, will turn the pages of Ben Not a Puppy at Philz Coffee, 4298 24th St., starting at 10:30 a.m. An hour later, at Calliope Dance Studio, 1414 Castro St., artist and teacher Giselle Shardlow will read from Anna and Her Rainbow-Colored Yoga Mats, an interactive yoga story that she will reprise at Spark Creativity, 1513 Church St., at 2:30 p.m.

The last kids’ event March 19 happens at 3:30 p.m., when Ashley Wolff, illustrator of the Miss Bindergarten book series, will do a reading at the Noe Valley/Sally Brunn Library, 451 Jersey St.

Fact or Fiction?

There are “nonfiction” events in WordWeek, too. On Thursday, March 21, four authors will appear at Savor (3913 24th St.) in a panel discussion of the topic “How I Got My Book Published.” Each has used a different avenue, from Jim Provenzano, who publishes his own work, to Karen Joy Fowler, whose Jane Austen Book Club was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

On Friday, March 22, Kroll, the former director of the Ohio State University Health Sciences Library, will talk about her research into 10 crucial questions you should ask your doctor, at the Noe Valley Library from 1 to 3 p.m.

Compare that to the more traditional reading, like the Cara Black fête champêtre (garden party) March 22 at Le Zinc French Bistro, 4063 24th St., from 3:30 to 5 p.m. For $19, fans will have a glass of wine, hors d’oeuvres, and the chance to win a trip to Paris while Black reads from the 13th in her Aim…e Leduc investigation series, Murder Below Montparnasse.

Beer-loving and other literary types can drop by the new Caskhouse, 3853 24th St., on Monday, March 18, from 7 to 9 p.m., to enjoy readings by five LGBT writers, including Lucy Jane Bledsoe, the award-winning author of four novels, a collection of short fiction, a collection of narrative nonfiction, and six books for kids.

Other Bookings

The neighborhood’s two bookstores will team up to host readings on Wednesday, March 20. Food blogger Elissa Altman, who won the 2012 James Beard Award for Best Individual Food Blog, will appear with her new book Poor Man’s Feast at Omnivore Books, 3885 Cesar Chavez St., from 6 to 7 p.m.

From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Noe Valley author Aneesha Capur will read from her debut novel Stealing Karma at Phoenix Books, 3957 24th St. The book, the story of an …migr… widow and her daughter living in Africa, was listed as “Essential Reading” in Britain’s Sunday Guardian.

Another must-see is the reading of winning works by students at local schools, on Sunday, March 17, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Noe Valley Library on Jersey Street.

The event was tremendously popular last year, filling the library reading room, said WordWeek organizer Peggy Cling. “There were grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles—the vice principal of James Lick Middle School was there,” she said.

So, come early to get a good seat.

Event sponsor Friends of Noe Valley is accepting applications for tables at the Authors Festival until March 15. Email For more information, visit



From A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins


Editor’s Note: On March 16, opening night of the seventh annual WordWeek, Dolores Street author Scott Hutchins will read and talk about his work at Cliche Noe on 24th Street from 7 to 9 p.m. As a preview, here’s a short excerpt from his bestselling novel A Working Theory of Love, published by Penguin Press in October of last year. A few words of introduction are included.


Neill Bassett, reeling from life gone awry, returns from Fairfax after the implosion of his relationship....

We are all, of course, wayfaring strangers on this earth. But coming out of the Rainbow Tunnel, the liminal portal between Marin and San Francisco, myth and reality, I catch sight of a beautiful, sparkling city that might as well be on the moon. I can name the sights, the streets, the eateries, but in my heart it feels as unfamiliar as Cape Town or Cuzco. I’ve lived here for fourteen years. This is the arena of my adult life, with its large defeats and small victories. Maybe, like all transplants (converts?), I’ve asked too much of the city. I would never have moved to Pittsburgh or Houston or L.A. expecting it to save my soul. Only here in the great temple by the bay. It’s a mistake we’ve been making for decades, and probably a necessary one. The city’s flaws, of course, are numerous. Our politics can suffer from humorless stridency, and life here is menacingly expensive. But if you’re insulated from these concerns, sufficiently employed and housed, if you are—in other words—like most people, you are in view of the unbridgeable ideal. Here, with our plentiful harvest, our natural beauty, our bars, our bookstores, our cliffs and ocean, our free to be you and me; here, where pure mountain water flows right out of the tap. It’s here that the real questions become inescapable. In fact the proximity of the ideal only makes us more acutely aware of the real questions. Not the run-of-the-mill insolubles— Why am I here? Who am I?—but the pressing questions of adult life: Really? and Are you sure? and Now what?

Of course, what is San Francisco? The thumbnail on top of the peninsula, a seven-mile-by-seven-mile square with a mayor and a waste treatment plant. It is a beautiful topography. When people jump to their death from our elegant bridge they never—never—face the ocean. They take their last fall in the embrace of the Golden Gate. But beyond that? It’s hard to shake the feeling that the city is an intricate, beautiful shell secreted by an animal that’s since swum on to an uncertain fate. I—little squatter crab—have taken up temporary residence, claws bobbing before me, always ready, in its dark recesses, for retreat.


Scott Hutchins’ work has appeared in Story Quarterly, Esquire, and the New York Times. He teaches at Stanford University.