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City culture in small town Lafayette: The Distinguished Speaker Series

DSS guest Rick Steves relaxes in the Orinda Theater prior to his presentation.
DSS guest Rick Steves relaxes in the Orinda Theater prior to his presentation.
Lily Dong Photography

The Algonquin it is not, but Dorothy Parker and her pals from the round table would likely feel right at home. And, one need not travel to NYC for the experience. Evoking the character of literary salons of the past is The Lafayette Library and Learning Center’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

An exchange of ideas, general amusement, a quest for inspiration or deeper knowledge – these were, and still are, key elements to a cultural literary gathering. The LLLC's Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS) delivers on all counts.

DSS attendees have been moved by Cheryl Strayed’s recounting of the circumstances leading to her 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail hike. They have been challenged by Rick Steves to broaden their idea of travel, and they have empathized and laughed with Kelly Corrigan and Katie Hafner as they related their mother troubles.

In addition, past DSS speakers include the late Louis Zamperini, subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s New York Times bestseller 'Unbroken,' New York Times bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith, of 'No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' fame, renowned photographer Michael Collopy, and essayist and bestselling novelist Joyce Maynard.

'Of all the places I’ve been invited to speak in recent years,' says Maynard, 'none has offered a warmer welcome or a more engaged, articulate and well-read audience. What I find at the Lafayette Library is not simply an opportunity to speak, but to listen to what readers have to say, back.'

The series’ success inspired another LLLCF program – the Authors & Athletes Family Series, where hometown heroes such as former Golden State Warrior Adonal Foyle, Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi, former NFL player Tim Green, and four-time Olympian Heather Petri have addressed their fans.

The schedule for the 2014/2015 DSS season features Anthony Marra, New York Times bestselling author of 'A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,' Piper Kerman of 'Orange is the New Black' fame in conversation with author Joe Loya, and Malcolm Margolin, founder of Heyday Books.

Annual DSS subscriptions are currently available and include two reserved seat tickets to all July 2014 – June 2015 programs, along with access to event receptions with guest speakers. Individual tickets are also always offered, though programs do sell out. For information on DSS and Authors & Athletes, email To sign-up for LLLCF’s e-newsletter, visit or email

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