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March 16, 2015 Reader Edy Alderson Reports on the Tucson Festival of Books

Posted by emily

This past weekend, March 14 – 15, the University of Arizona campus was overrun with book lovers of all shapes and sizes, as people gathered to attend the Tucson Festival of Books. With more than 250 exhibitors and new and veteran authors including Lisa See, Deborah Harkness and William Kent Krueger in attendance, there was plenty for attendees to see. Luckily, Edy Alderson is an experienced festival-goer, and she was kind enough to navigate the scene for us. Here, Edy shares --- with infectious enthusiasm --- her favorite panels, event highlights, and which book she’s most looking forward to reading. How long have you been attending the Tucson Book Festival?

Edy Alderson: I have been attending the Tucson Festival of Books since 2009 --- the year it began. Since that first year, my husband and I have developed various strategies for "doing" the festival. Some years we wander; other years we spend the entire two days attending sessions. I only missed one year after I had knee surgery. I think I was in more pain from not attending the book festival than from my surgery!

BRC: How did this year’s event compare to other years? 

EA: Even better. Every year the festival improves. It becomes more organized and more efficient. The author choices also vary each year with great favorites returning and new ones coming to share in the excitement. Among the new authors this year were Leonard Pitts, Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Lisa See, Joyce Carol Oates, Hampton Sides, Gail Sheehy, Craig Johnson and Mitch Albom! And many others. There were over 350 authors to choose from!

Science City is a "festival within a festival." The College of Science at the UA (University of Arizona) is one of the best in the country --- no, I am NOT an alumnus! Science City celebrated Pi Day on Saturday. The entire area promotes science literacy with multitudes of hands-on activities for kids and adults. Eight of the campus science museums/labs were open --- for free --- including the world renowned Steward Mirror Lab where the lenses for the giant telescopes being built in Chile are made.  

Also new this year was the availability of teacher credits --- both in the children's area and in Science City.

BRC: Was there one author you were particularly excited about meeting? If so, share with us something about that.

EA: C.J. Box and William Kent Krueger. These gentlemen are two of my favorite male mystery writers. I never thought I would read books in which the protagonist is a man, but these gentlemen have written characters that are so very authentic and compelling. Regular "Joes" as C.J. Box puts it. Krueger does his writing in a coffee shop in St. Paul --- not in some fancy office. Box writes in his basement office --- with dogs and family running around. They make me understand that authors --- even famous ones --- are very real people. And very nice people. Both of them are so appreciative of their colleagues and their fans.  

BRC: What were some of the event highlights for you?

EA: The biggest thrill for me in attending the book festival is the realization that all of these people (well over 100,000 over the two days) are there because of books. Yes, they eat, listen to music at the many entertainment venues, watch the circus, and get wet playing in water experiments in Science City, but it's BOOKS that bring them there. I was volunteering in one of the information booths on Sunday morning and watched the crowd of people rushing to venues to hear authors and then rushing out to buy their books! The printed word is alive!

I am always excited to get the chance to hear some of my favorite authors, but I also look for new authors I have yet to read. As I was working at the booth, who should walk up looking for information but T. Jefferson Parker!!!!!! I was ecstatic --- and he was so sweet. Later I was talking with a lovely gentleman and his wife. Turns out, he is a local author, and while not yet a "rock star," he has a unique perspective on the Sonoran desert in which we live. I have already received an email from him and will get together for some history talk. 

BRC: Was there one panel that stood out to you? If so, what was it, and why? If there was more than one, feel free to share as many as you like!  

EA: This year I think my favorite panel was one called "Family Dynamics," with C.J. Box, William Kent Krueger and Ace Atkins. I was intrigued as to how and why they used family as such an important part of their mystery novels and was very impressed with their insights. Not only do the families play important roles in the books, the families grow and change over the years, keeping the protagonist fresh as he needs to grow and change as well. I do think this is why their books appeal so widely to female readers. They all acknowledged that aspect, stating that the new model is quite different from the Bond approach of hard drinking, sex with a different woman every night, hot cars sort of "hero."  All three men are clever, witty and humble. I love hearing authors speak about their writing processes and challenges. The panel was moderated by the terrific Alex Kava! What a treat!

BRC: Was there anything you learned during an author talk or a panel that surprised you?

EA: Not really. Maybe I'm too old to be surprised by too much any more:)) Usually, I'm pleased, amazed or thrilled by things authors do. I'm so impressed with how Betty Webb incorporates Arizona social issues (think DESERT WIVES!!!) into her novels.  

BRC: In honor of its 150th anniversary, The Nation magazine held several special programs, including “A Conversation with Noam Chomsky.” Did you get to attend that? If so, what were your thoughts? 

EA: Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Noam Chomsky's talk. I can tell you that people were lining up by 8:30am for the ticket release at noon!

BRC: Events like this always have so much going on that often you cannot see everything. What did you wish you had had time to see that you had to miss?

EA: More panels, of course. I never, ever can see all of the ones I want to. I missed Hampton Sides and Leonard Pitts and Craig Johnson. I heard fabulous things about them --- especially the Craig Johnson panel with Rob Taylor and Lou Diamond Phillips!! I'm so sorry that I couldn't make those.

BRC: What did you walk away wanting to read most?

EA: FREEMAN by Leonard Pitts.

BRC: Did anyone join you at the event? If so, what were their thoughts about it? 

EA: One of my girlfriends joined me on Saturday. She has been with me at the book festival before. She was impressed by the new ticketing system for five of the largest venues. This helped to avoid much of the LONG wait time for many people. Twenty-five percent of the seats were kept open for general admission.  

BRC: Is there anything that would make the Tucson Book Festival more special for you?

EA: It's really hard to beat two days of sun, temps in the low 80s, an extraordinarily beautiful campus that is easy to negotiate --- AND books!!!! I guess I would love to see Louise Penny come.  

BRC: Feel free to share any other tidbits that made this special for you.

EA: This is the first time I have spent much time in the children's area. We have an eight-month-old grandson, and I send him a new book every month. So I spent some time scouting out the children's space and was so thrilled to see so many happy youngsters curled up with books or picking out books to take home. Hope for the future right there.

As a retired reading specialist, I am so thrilled that the festival has donated over a million dollars to local literacy efforts. This means so very much in any community, but even more in communities where there are so many, many children --- and adults --- in need. Everything begins with reading.