Santa Monica Review Celebrates 30 Years

The Santa Monica Review (SMR) celebrated their 30th Anniversary at The Edye on the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center on October 14. SMR Editor Andrew Tonkovich stood on the center floor stage paying tribute to the history of the literary journal and its contributing writers. His long, peppered gray hair partly covered his left eye, as he delivered a candid and heartfelt speech to an audience of inspiring writers, both young and old.

“I’ve been the editor for nineteen years, since 1999. I tried very hard to develop a cadre, or a group of writers, sort of beginning and mid-level writers who have gotten some publication history through the magazine and the other thing is we tried to publish as many west coast writers as we could,” said Tonkovich.

An eclectic group of writers individually took to the stage, reading excerpts from their novels or short stories. Each story was powered with profound voices that reflect on subject matters of class, womanhood, and spiritualism. “I have a background as an activist so my eye goes for things that sort of try to challenge contemporary issues or embrace the discussion around class [and] environment.” Tonkovich noted.

SMR was founded by SMC Creative Writing Professor, Jim Krusoe, in 1988. Krusoe is an American novelist, poet and short story writer. His novels include Girl Factory, The Sleep Garden, and Towards You. Krusoe stepped down after six years passing down the torch to two other editors, but it was he who took the flame and ran with it. SMR is published twice a year, during the Fall and Spring; and it is distributed nationally to writing workshops, bookstores, college universities, writing classes, and literary festivals.

“[SMR] has been all over; back east, it’s been in a couple of foreign countries...You know, were small, but I think we’ve had a pretty good impact. We’ve been featured in all of the annual Best Of anthologies at the end of year,” said Tonkovich.

At the top of the evening there were many writers that read from their works. First, author Richard Wirick read an excerpt from his novel The Devil’s Water. A story about bank robbers, said to be inspired by the North Hollywood bank robbery in 1997. Then, short story writer, Vishwas Gaitonde read a story about an Indian-American family debating between science and astrology On Earth As It Is Heaven. Dylan Landis proceeded to read from her novel, Rainey Royal, a tale about girlhood set place in Greenwich Village in the 1970s. Last, but not least, Krusoe was the final writer to read and was met with a standing ovation and heart-warming introduction by Tonkovich. Krusoe read the first two chapters of his latest novel, which is still in the works, titled Criminal.

The event was concluded with vanilla and chocolate cake, both decorated with the journal and special anniversary logo. Apple cider was served from a large tin jug near the desert table. I think this is fantastic. It’s a triumph for Santa Monica Review, which has published some amazing writers," said Landis, one of the performing authors.

All of the authors posed for a group photo at the center stage, while some sold and signed their books at a large table. Wirick, one of the writers mentioned earlier, would cross out his printed name and replace it with his handwritten name and then write a special note of gratitude. Landis continues, "I’ve been published three times [in SMR]. One of them was a story I made from five chapters of my first novel and it wasn’t published and so I created a story out of those five chapters and another one out three and Andrew published them both. That’s how that novel got published so I feel a very deep loyalty and affection to the Santa Monica Review."

Tonkovich and his wife Lisa Alvarez gave copies of SMR’s 30th Anniversary Edition, on each theater seat, showing much gratitude and appreciation to those who have devoted their time to reading the journal and celebrating the event.