April 6, 2019

Pasadena Hilton Hotel

Learn about the authors’ personal journeys

Enjoy lunch while talking with other readers

Shop for books and have them signed

Featuring 2018 National Book Award Winner Sigrid Nunez!








Main Ballroom Authors

Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers is a dazzling novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss. Rebecca Makkai takes us on an emotional journey from 1980s Chicago to contemporary Paris, as she explores the AIDS crisis and its residual effects on the lives of survivors. Makkai has written two other novels, The Hundred-Year-House, and The Borrower, as well as a short story collection, Music for Wartime. The Great Believers is a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction.  Makkai’s short fiction won a 2017 Pushcart Prize and was chosen for The Best American Short Stories for four consecutive years.

Makkai received her BA from Washington and Lee University and her MA from Middlebury College. The recipient of a 2014 NEA fellowship, she is on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada College and Northwestern University and is the Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago. Makkai taught at elementary Montessori schools for 12 years prior to publishing her first novel.  Now the mother of two young daughters, Makkai makes her home in Chicago.

“Engrossing…thrilling and beautiful to behold.” – The Boston Globe. “Symphonic…The Great Believers soars…magnificent…” – The Chicago Tribune. “An absorbing and emotionally riveting story about what it’s like to live during times of crisis.” – The New York Times Book Review.

Paula McLain

From the author of The Paris Wife comes another bestselling novel, Love and Ruin. McLain tells the story of Martha Gellhorn, who smashed social and professional taboos to become one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th Century, all while negotiating her other starring role as the third wife of literary and cultural lion Ernest Hemingway.   McLain has published three other novels, A Ticket to Ride, The Paris Wife (which became a fixture on The New York Times bestseller list) and Circling the Sun, as well as two collections of poetry, and a memoir, Like Family:  Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, which describes her life as a child in the California foster care system.

McLain was born in Fresno, California. After aging out of the California foster care system, and before discovering she had the desire and talent to write professionally, she worked as a nurses’ aide, pizza delivery girl, cocktail waitress and an auto-plant worker.  She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996. She lives with her family in Cleveland.

“McLain does an excellent job portraying a woman with dreams who isn’t afraid to make them real.” – The New York Times Book Review. “McLain’s legions of fans will relish the inspiration of a gutsy woman who discovers she doesn’t need a man at her side, after all.” – The Boston Globe.

Sigrid Nunez

When a woman unexpectedly loses a lifelong friend and mentor to suicide, she reluctantly agrees to take in his traumatized, bereft dog. A massive, arthritic Great Dane, he creates havoc in her tiny Manhattan apartment and threatens her rent-stabilized lease — but also provides unexpected solace. The Friend is both a meditation on friendship and loss and a celebration of the joy and healing power of the human-canine bond. The Friend is the winner of the 2018 National Book Award for fiction and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

Sigrid Nunez is the author of seven novels, including Salvation CityThe Last of Her KindA Feather on the Breath of God, and For Rouenna. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. Nunez has been the recipient of the Whiting Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, four Pushcart Prizes, and a Berlin Prize Fellowship. She lives in New York City.

“In crystalline prose, Nunez creates an impressively controlled portrait of the ‘exhaustion of mourning.’” —The New Yorker. “A beautiful book … crammed with a world of insight into death, grief, art, and love.” —Wall Street Journal.

Ivy Pochoda

The lives of six characters, each running from some desperate chapter in their lives, intersect against the sun-bleached canvas of Los Angeles in Ivy Pochoda’s new novel, Wonder Valley.  Pochoda takes the reader from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific, from the 110 to Skid Row, in a story where place is its own character. Wonder Valley was named an NPR Best Book of 2017, a Los Angeles Times Best Fiction Pick, a Refinery29 Best Book of the Year, and a BOLO Books Top Read of 2017. Pochoda is the author of two other novels, The Art of Disappearing and Visitation Street.

Pochoda grew up in Brooklyn. She has a BA from Harvard College and an MFA from Bennington College and was a world ranked squash player. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, where she teaches creative writing at the Lamp Arts Studio in Skid Row.

“Incandescent… Pochoda keeps you guessing while bringing these lost souls wonderfully, intensely alive.”- People, Book of the Week. “A dizzying, kaleidoscopic thriller. . .. Impossible to put down.” – Los Angeles Times.

Breakout Session Authors

The following three novelists will speak concurrently.

Zinzi Clemmons

In her debut novel, What We Lose, Zinzi Clemmons tells of the overwhelming grief of a young woman in Philadelphia, struggling to connect the dislocated pieces of her life following the death of her mother. Thandi is half African-American and half “Coloured” from South Africa, striving to balance between cultures and find her identity. What We Lose was a finalist for the NBCC John Leonard First Book Prize, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and the California Book Award First Fiction, as well as longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize.

Clemmons was born and raised in Philadelphia. A graduate of Brown and Columbia, she is a cofounder and former publisher of Apogee Journal and a contributing editor to Literary Hub. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, where she is Writer in Residence at Occidental College.

“Clemmons’s narrator occupies a voice so clear that she, and her grief, feel immediately tangible.” – The New Yorker. “A richly volatile study of grief, wonderment and love.” – The Wall Street Journal. 

Aja Gabel

Aja Gabel’s debut novel, The Ensemble, gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look into the high-stakes, cutthroat world of classical musicians, and of lives made in concert. The story of Brit, Henry, Daniel, and Jana, The Ensemble is a richly-drawn portrait of ambition, friendship, and the journey of youth to adulthood.

Gabel was born in Northern California. She earned her B.A. at Wesleyan University, her MFA at the University of Virginia, and a Ph.D. at the University of Houston. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Literary Arts Oregon, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she was a fellow in fiction. A former cellist who drew on her own experience for her novel, she lives in Los Angeles.

“A magnificent, musical debut … brilliant, groundbreaking … No other novel is quite like The Ensemble.” – Bookpage. “A stunningly resonant debut…. A virtuoso performance.” – Booklist.  “Mark our words: you won’t be able to put this exquisite book down.” – Refinery29.

Nova Jacobs

In The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, a famous mathematician dies under suspicious circumstances, leaving a dangerous equation for his granddaughter to track down before others can get their hands on it. Through a series of puzzling clues and unexpected plot twists, Jacobs keeps the reader guessing all the way to the final resolution in this remarkable debut novel. The Last Equation of Isaac Severy was a Book of the Month Club selection and an Indie Next Pick.

Jacobs holds an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is a recipient of the Nicholl Fellowship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Prior to writing The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, Jacobs wrote for the film industry.  Her growing fascination with the rich scientific worlds of Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory running parallel to LA’s entertainment culture provided the spark for her debut novel.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband.

“Hugely entertaining.” – Wall Street Journal. “Clever . . .. Nova Jacobs has penned a novel that is anything but clueless, filled with consideration and compassion.” – Washington Post. “A brilliant first novel radiant with promise of even better to come.” – Booklist (starred review).

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