In The Writer's World

The Tucson Festival of Books is all about Story.

Last year, some of you may remember, I attended as a participant. This year, my friend Mary Leatherman and I traveled south for a little getaway, and have been enjoying timeshares in Sedona, and now Tucson. Sedona has great hiking; Tucson has the Tucson Festival of Books, a huge sprawl on the University of Arizona campus that hosts more than 100,000 people yearly.

I don’t purchase books at the festival, but I ran into a couple with a huge tote full of books. “We buy our books here and read them all year,” the wife told me. Then they come back next year and do it again! Easy to do when you live in Tucson.

What I come for are the stories. Some of the country’s most noted authors appear here every year to give talks and workshops. My takeaway? Ideas from the best in the land, plus a reading list that will last well into the next decade.

tucson 2 This year I attended talks by such luminaries as Valerie Plame and Michael McGarrity (center and left, with emcee at the right). Plame, an outed CIA agent, now writes spy thrillers. She’ll also give you an earful of on the treasonous and reckless behavior of her outers, nuclear proliferation, and other topics in which she is well-versed. McGarrity, a retired policeman and seasoned crime novelist, is now finishing a historical fiction trilogy on New Mexico. The two are neighbors in Santa Fe.

Also on my aggressive agenda for yesterday were colonoscopy authority and humorist Dave Barry, legal thriller master Scott Turow, and a trio of historical fiction authors–Sarah Bird, Sarah McCoy, and Brian Payton who have written novels on the invasion of Okinawa at the end of WWII, the life of Sarah Brown (daughter of abolitionist John Brown), and the little-known battles of the Aleutian Islands during WWII, respectively.

I. Was. In. Heaven. Not only do the authors share their stories, but also their stories about stories. And as I have said many times, “It’s the story, stupid.”

Nirvana for book lovers, my friends. And these are the luminaries I couldn’t fit in: Mitch Albom, Amy Tan, Leonard Pitts, Daniel James Brown, Joyce Carol Oates, J.A. Jance, Craig Johnson, Ridley Pearson, Anne Perry, Gail Sheehy, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Ruth Reichl, just for a sampler. It’s more than the heart can stand.

In its seventh year, Tucson Festival of Books is free and open to the public. Droves of volunteers make it happen, everyone from college students to the elderly. All are knowledgeable, helpful, and polite. Once nice woman even let me use her cell phone when mine ran out of juice! The festival raises funds for literacy projects in the greater Tucson area.

With all this community, all this greatness, one can only wonder why a book festival hasn’t caught on in that best city of readers ever, Portland, Oregon.








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