For 29 years, the Assistance League Professional Humanitarian Auxiliary, also known as ALPHA, has hosted the popular Day of Authors event, which has drawn roughly 500 book lovers each year. While the annual event was virtual in 2021, this year, they resumed in-person at the CSUF Titan Student Union building. I attended ALPHA’s 2022 A Day of Authors on Saturday, April 30.
ALPHA has continued its history of attracting authors of distinction to share their unique stories, perspectives, and writing processes with readers young and old. This year, the selected authors were Laura Dave, Kate Quinn, Walter R. Borneman, Rachel Howzell Hall, Lee Hollis, Jean Reagan, Christopher Reich, and Steven Rowley. The “Day of Authors” event has become a way for the organization to raise money to help fund its philanthropic projects in Brea, Buena Park, Fullerton, La Habra, Placentia, and Yorba Linda. These projects include:
• The McKinney-Vento Student Toiletry project: ALPHA distributes toiletry kits to 350 homeless students in the Fullerton and Placentia/Yorba Linda School Districts. In addition, they celebrate the birthdays of these children with cupcakes and gift-wrapped books.
• The Tiny Togs project: ALPHA provides clothing, blankets, diapers, and age-appropriate books to local infants and toddlers at St. Jude Neighborhood Health Centers.
• ALPHA donates scholarship funds to allow special needs children access to equine assisted activities and therapies that promote their physical, cognitive, and social well-being in coordination with Tara’s Chance.
• The Fullerton Police Explorer Program, ALPHA also donates scholarship funds to provide opportunities for deserving students to attend the police academy and learn about careers in law enforcement.
• ALPHA also uses funds from events like Day of Authors to provide grants to Fullerton teachers in grades Pre-K to 8th grade, and award scholarships to quali- fied Fullerton Joint Union High School seniors enrolled in accredited post-sec- ondary education institutions.
• Operation School Bell project, ALPHA provides children and youth in the communities with backpacks filled with clothing, shoes, and books.
About a month before the event started, I received an email from the group asking me to provide proof of vaccination. According to a pamphlet I received in the mail, these precautions were taken “for the comfort and security of members, authors, and guests.” So, I took a photo of my vaccination card, and emailed it to them, so that I could easily check-in. Guests who did not send in photos of their vaccination cards had to show proof at the check-in area on the day of the event.
Arriving early at 7am, I met with Becky D’Arrigo, ALPHA Resource Development Chair, in a conference room at the Titan Student Union that served as the event’s check-in area where members were organizing badges and table assignments for guests. Walking down a series of hallways past posters for the different authors’ books, I followed Becky to the Pavilion area where banquet tables were being set up.
Most ALPHA members working at the Day of Authors were adult volunteers. However, there were also teenage volunteers from eighth to twelfth grades, known within the group as Assisteens. One Assisteen named Genevieve helped show me around to the different locations where members were setting up and guests were arriving.
Next, we walked out of the Pavilion and into the open atrium area where Barnes and Noble workers were hard at work unloading books from boxes and laying them out on tables. Proceeds from Barnes and Noble book purchases at the event are used to help fund ALPHA’s many philanthropies. Around 8:30am, ALPHA member hosts met with their assigned authors and took them on a tour of the building, showing them where their break-out rooms were located.
Eight authors were present on Saturday, April 30. To begin the event, ALPHA Chairperson Heather Gonzalez delivered a morning announcement. “The members of ALPHA have been preparing for you since last summer,” Gonzalez said in her opening remarks. “ALPHA is a volunteer organization of working women…With your support, over 29 years now at the Day of Authors, we have raised well over $600,000.
“The height of A Day of Authors is, of course, the guest authors,” Gonzalez continued. “You get to have a glimpse into their lives today as you meet them. We have two main speakers, and then you chose two break-out sessions. That is a total of four authors, but we have eight, so we are going to let them intro- duce themselves.”
Rachel Howell Hall explained that she’s a native of Los Angeles where she writes a lot of her stories. Hall was at the event to promote her book, These Toxic Things, about a digital archaeologist who has to piece together a person’s life from the artifacts they cherish.
The next author to speak was Christopher Reich who writes international espionage thrillers. Reich said that he always travels to where he’s writing about, so he travelled to South America in March 2020 to do research for his book, but instead of staying for two weeks, he ended up staying for two months in the middle of Bolivia. His latest book is called Once A Thief, the fourth novel in the Simon Riske series.
Author Jean Reagan said that she writes for the best people in the world: children. She writes books that people can read with their child. Her latest book, How to Welcome a New Baby, is a fun and adorable picture book about welcoming a new baby into a family.
Walter Borneman was the next speaker on-stage. He introduced himself as the “non-fiction” guy and said that he mostly writes about American political and military history. Borneman’s latest book is called Brothers Down: Pearl Harbor and the Fate of the Many Brothers Aboard the USS Arizona, which is a deeply personal and never before told account of events on December 7, 1941.
Steve Rowley talked after Borneman. He’s the author of three novels, Lily and the Octopus, The Editor, and his latest book, The Guncle, which is inspired by his brother coming to visit him in Palm Springs.
Rick Copp spoke next. Copp has been a film and television scriptwriter for 34 years for productions like Golden Girls, and The Brady Bunch Movie, as well as many kid’s shows. Copp and his sister Holly Simason write together under the pen name Lee Hollis. They author the popular cozy mystery series, Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mysteries, where readers will find food, alcohol, comedy, and murder.
Kate Quinn introduced herself as a historical fiction writer. She has written novels that take place in Rome, both in the Italian Renaissance and in the 20th century. Quinn said she writes books about “wonderful women of the past who have done the most incredible things.” She was the Day of Authors Afternoon Keynote Speaker.
Heather Gonzalez then introduced the morning guest speaker, Laura Dave, a New York Times bestselling author of six novels. Five of her novels, including her latest thriller, The Last Thing He Told Me, have been optioned for film and television.
Afterward, we were dismissed to our break-out groups. Once they finished discussing their stories, the authors autographed books and talked to guests. Soon, they had to get ready for their second break-out session talks. Following these second talks, the authors sat at tables in the hallways and signed books for guests interested in purchasing copies of their works.
During lunch, I sat at a table with ALPHA Member Becky D’Arrigo. As people ate, they could listen to the afternoon keynote speaker, author Kate Quinn, talk about her personal journey toward becoming a writer, her writing process, and how her experiences have informed her stories. Once she completed her talk, there was a silent auction accompanied by raffle basket drawings led by ALPHA members and Assisteens.
At the end of A Day of Authors, I left with several good books and food in my stomach. I enjoyed the line-up of authors and found the event to be quite fun and informative. ALPHA’s members begin planning for next year’s event soon, so keep an eye out on their website at www.adayofauthors.com.
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