Next week, we're fortunate to have not one but two special author appearances at Barnes & Noble at Bella Terra.
At 7 p.m. Sept. 18, Martin J. Smith, editor-in-chief of Orange Coast magazine, will discuss and sign his new book, "The Wild Duck Chase: Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest."
The next day, at 7 p.m. Sept. 19, Ann Meyers Drysdale, one of the greatest stars in the history of basketball, will discuss and sign her book, "You Let Some Girl Beat You?"
I spoke with the authors this week after reading their books, both of which I found extremely compelling, albeit in different ways.
Smith's book, which started as a magazine piece in Orange Coast, delves into the fascinating world of competitive duck painting as it played out during the 2010 Federal Duck Stamp Contest. Interestingly, this is the only juried art competition run by the U.S. government.
Since 1934, the duck stamp, which is bought annually by hunters to certify their hunting license, has generated more than $750 million, and 98 cents of each collected dollar has been used to help purchase or lease 5.3 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the U.S., which is the core of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It's a small subject, the competition, but it casts a very large shadow.
Smith told me that today, his concerns are on the fact that such a remarkably efficient program is actually at risk of being eliminated, due not just to the waning numbers of hunters and stamp collectors, but also to a looming "cut government spending" mentality that exists in some corners.
Since 2009, when he started the project, Smith has become fascinated with this "fragile piece of Americana," as he describes it. At first, he was intrigued by the colorful cast of characters, but then his appreciation grew as he realized the monumental amount of good the program does.
And he also gained a new perspective on hunting, which he was not much of a fan of before he wrote this truly captivating book.
As he told me, "78 years ago, hunters decided to tax themselves. They said, 'Hey, we use this resource, and for the privilege of using this resource, as long as the taxes go to protecting this resource, we'll support this.' Such a simple idea. The money has gone to creating a good chunk of the wildlife refuges, and this ethic has been passed it down to kids.
"Ironically, these refuges are also used by birders and many other people who hold hunters in contempt. But I found these folks to be mindful custodians of nature — not exploiters of wildlife."
Part-time Huntington Beach resident Ann Meyers Drysdale is not an exploiter of wildlife either, though she was well known for exploiting other team's defense patterns, first as a hoops star at UCLA, where her four-year athletic scholarship made history (in that she was the first female athlete to receive a Division I scholarship).
A four-time all-American who led UCLA in 1978 to its first and only women's national championship, she made even bigger headlines in 1979 when she signed a $150,000 free-agent contract with the Indiana Pacers. Meyers may not have made the team, but her efforts crashed down many doors of opportunity for future female athletes.
Her new autobiography, "You Let Some Girl Beat You? — The Story of Ann Meyers Drysdale," talks about these moments, plus her life as the wife of famed Los Angeles Dodger and Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale. She also details her career as a sports broadcaster and her current responsibilities as a VP with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the NBA's Phoenix Suns.
As frank and refreshing in conversation as she is on air, Meyers described to me how she credits Billie Jean King for her tenacity and also heaped praise on one of her main mentors, Coach John Wooden (whom she still refers to as "Papa"), and her good friend Julius Erving, who penned the foreword.
As far as that legendary Pacers tryout, she told me that the support from her family was a huge help, as was Wooden. " 'Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can' — that is a favorite quote of his that I took to heart at that time in my life," she said. "Also a line from Churchill: 'Failure is not fatal, success is not final, it's courage that counts.' Not that I consider myself that courageous when compared to real heroes. But that kind of thought helped me fight through the pressure."
Meyers also credits Joni Ravenna, who wrote the book with her: "She got so much out of me I never would have talked about. I'm very private and she did an amazing job."
In the fourth grade, Meyers was inspired by a book about Babe Didrikson Zaharias. The famed female athlete's accomplishments as an Olympian, basketball player and all-around athletic star had a huge impact on her. And Meyers hopes her own book will be embraced by schools so that other future athletes might be inspired by her own wondrous journey.
As to why write a book at this point, Meyers offered, "So many people wanted me to write one after the Pacers tryout. I was adamant about not writing a book then, because I didn't want people to think I did the tryout to get a book out of it. That was not it at all. It was real, not some PR stunt. And so much has happened in my life since then that the time seemed perfect."
I hope you all take advantage of this opportunity to come hear two very special storytellers share their work next week at Barnes & Noble.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County" from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun