By Polet BAGATOURIAN
Everyone it seems who lives in La Crescenta knows about Once Upon A Time bookstore. A quaint little shop set in Montrose, the “family bookstore” has been around since 1966. Although an avid reader myself, I had never really seen the need to visit. With the advent of ordering the books I want off of the Internet at my fingertips, why should I stir from home?
But that was before I attended the OUAT “L.A. rocks L.A. rolls” event on Sept. 22 that featured four local authors who write about a futuristic Los Angeles. I knew of writer-director Scott Speer, author of “Immortal City,” and heard great reviews of Lissa Price’s upcoming series “Starters,” but Marie Lu (“Legend”) and Jennifer Bosworth (“Struck”) were new to me.
It didn’t matter. By the time the event was over, I felt like all four of them were long-time friends.
Lu’s “Legend” is the first book in the trilogy of the same name. The author sat at the far left side of the panel. “Legend,” set in the year 2130 after the societal collapse of the United States, follows the privileged June and the criminal Day, two unconnected young adults from opposing social classes whose lives collide following a murder.
Next to her was Price, whose series “Starters” is set in a world where everyone between the ages of 20 and 60 died and Enders (those over 60) can rent out the bodies of Starters (those under 20). But what happens when a Starter finds out that an Ender means to commit a crime with her body?
On the other side of Price sat Bosworth, promoting her new series “Struck,” whose heroine Mia Price tries to avoid the dangerous addiction to lightning she developed since being struck. But when an earthquake destroys her city and Mia’s connection to lightning is blamed, she must find a way to escape.
Last on the panel was Speer, whose allegorical series “Immortal City” sheds light on the contemporary obsession with celebrities. Set in a literal “City of Angels” where angels are not only real but are famous and followed, a girl who isn’t captivated by angels must join forces with an angel to catch a serial killer.
The OUAT event was informal; there was a group of attendees sitting in front of the panel of four authors, asking whatever questions they wanted. I laughed at Price and Speer’s easy banter when their alma maters came up (Price went to UCLA; Speer to USC); was charmed at Lu’s blushes when fans mentioned how much they loved “Legend” (which was often); and inspired by Bosworth’s advice to young writers.
“Write the book that only you can write,” Bosworth urged, encouraging aspiring authors to develop their own sense of creativity and value their idiosyncrasies.
This advice seemed to ring most true for Once Upon A Time itself. “Be the store that only you can be.” Maybe it is more convenient to be able to order books online. But providing books is not the only goal of Once Upon A Time. At the bookstore’s event, I got to meet four authors; hear about four new books; and get shaken out of my comfort zone. Although I had heard of a couple of the authors before, I had not read any of their books. After the panel discussion, I bought all four.