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I'll be blunt.

The Central Valley is considered an agricultural giant. However, many consider this area a cultural wasteland. Some of those people with negative impressions don't live in Los Angeles or San Francisco. They live right here.

For a writer who believes there is a wealth of possibilities to write about in this region, the misconception hurts. William Saroyan renamed Fresno “Ithaca” for “The Human Comedy.” He brought Armenians to literary attention with “My Name Is Aram.” John Steinbeck mined the Dust Bowl experience and a grim time in Valley history in “The Grapes of Wrath,” and walked away with a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize.

Another Valley-grown Pulitzer Prize winner is poet Philip Levine. He taught for many years at California State University, Fresno. Flying under the radar is essayist Gerald Haslam. “The Other California: The Great Central Valley In Life and Letters,” is a collection about growing up in Kern County. Sadly enough, when he did a book signing in Fresno, I was one of the few people who attended.

Love him or hate him, Mark Arax created controversy with “The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire.” I was in college journalism with Mark and can only applaud his success, regardless of his subject matter.

Is that enough proof that we don't deserve the reputation for being culturally deprived? Yet, if you look at the major newspaper, The Fresno Bee, it would seem homegrown authors don't exist. Canned reviews of best selling authors show up in the Spotlight section, but little is mentioned of local authors. We're out there, and they don't care.

If you build it, they will come. Why, I wondered, can't Kings County be a Field of Dreams? Nobody else was stepping up to the plate. We don't need a half-million unmotivated people to support a cultural crusade. Fresno had its chance to get their literary on, and it turned its back. Maybe it's time for a small town to show what can be accomplished with motivation and community support.

So, I teamed up with the Kings County Library, the Hanford Mall and the Hanford Sentinel to put on the Big Valley BookFest. The event was FREE and participating authors kept all the money generated from sales.

I have a reason to invest in this endeavor. I'm a local author. I write about the Valley because it's what I know and love. What writers really want is an audience, a chance to show their stuff. The Write Stuff.

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