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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


“Tucson a creative haven, festival authors say”

Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Sadie Lindley performs a trapeze act.
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat Sadie Lindley performs a trapeze act.

The weekend’s weather forecast predicts sunny, breezy days in the low- to mid-80s for Tucson. That perfect spring weather may have something to do with the increasing popularity of the Tucson Festival of Books.

“”In about three years, the festival has grown to become fourth largest in country,”” said Laura Fitzgerald, a local author and festival organizer. “”Writers are excited to come here. It doesn’t hurt at all that it’s March and 70 degrees here, and snowing on the East Coast.””

Of course, the weather isn’t all that’s drawing more than 400 authors to the festival, which will take place March 12 and 13 across the UA campus.

Local authors from a variety of genres, from journalism to science to children’s books, are slated to participate in festival events, as well as authors from all over the country. Tucson is a city that welcomes writers and other creative people, Fitzgerald said.

“”Tucson is very writer, artist and creative people friendly. It’s really live and let live, and really celebrates individuality,”” she said.

Manuel Muñoz, a fiction writer and UA assistant professor of creative writing, agreed.

“”There are a lot of writers here (in Tucson),”” Muñoz said. “”A lot of poets, a lot of community work and interest.””

He said one of the things he was most excited about when he first came to teach at the UA was the Festival of Books. The festival’s first year corresponded with his first year teaching.

“”I’m very proud of the festival,”” he said.

Fitzgerald’s involvement in the festival is twofold, as she’ll sit on panels and also helped draw speakers to the event. Among the most exciting authors she was in touch with were Helen Simonson, author of “”Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,”” and “”Still Alice”” author Lisa Genova. Both are New York Times bestselling authors and book club favorites, Fitzgerald said.

Both Fitzgerald and Muñoz are excited to participate in the festival.

“”I go for the poets,”” Muñoz said. “”I think poets are the sexiest people on Earth.””

The festival also offers first-time authors and guests a chance to not only discuss their work, but also to talk with others about writing and publishing.

“”I’m looking forward to meeting the person behind the name and hearing their stories about the whole process of writing,”” said Mitch Tobin, a consultant with California Environmental Associates who will be visiting the festival for the first time as an author.

Tobin’s first book, “”Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink,”” is based on his work as an environmental journalist for the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen.

“”It’ll be interesting to hear about others’ experiences. I think writing a book is so difficult that you want to swap war stories with others who are foolish enough to try it,”” Tobin said. Five years had passed between Tobin’s yearlong Arizona Daily Star series about endangered species to the completion of “”Endangered,”” which was published in July 2010.

For Terry Moore, cartoonist of “”Strangers in Paradise”” and “”Echo,”” the festival is an opportunity to meet enthusiastic readers.

“”The first thing I ever noticed from the very first (comic book) convention I went to was how upbeat and positive it was to be there,”” said Moore, who is making his first visit to the Tucson Festival of Books this year. “”Everybody was there because they wanted to be, and it made a huge difference in the vibe. And I thought, ‘Gosh, what a fun industry to be in.'””

Fitzgerald, too, looks forward to talking with readers. “”Meeting readers completes the story in terms of the whole experience of being a writer,”” she said. “”It’s not like musicians who walk into a bar and people say they love their music. You don’t get to see people reading your books.””

Fitzgerald and Muñoz both said they think the Festival of Books is an important response to the notion that the written word is dying. Although people may be changing the way they read, Fitzgerald said, the fundamentals are still there.

“”It points to the power of stories,”” she said. “”Reading will always have a place in a free society.””

Muñoz sees the festival as a chance for writers and readers to see that they’re not alone, nor a dying breed.

“”It’s really an opportunity to see just how invested people really are in reading,”” he said. “”All we ever hear is the book is dying, and publishing is going nowhere and no one reads anymore. But show up on Saturday morning on the UA Mall and you’re going to be proved wrong.””



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