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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


What to expect at this year’s Tucson Festival of Books

AJ Stash Castillo

Preparation is just about finished on the UA Mall for the Tucson Festival of Books. Now, all that’s left are the vendors!

The Tucson Festival of Books is back! With special guests like Lois Lowry and Bernie Sanders making appearances to small businesses selling their own products, the festival is sure to be bustling this year. The festival was founded in 2009 and is going into its 14th year.

Leah Kiser is a painter based out of Casa Grande, Arizona, and owns a business called Artifact Fine Art. This will be her first time attending the Tucson Festival of Books and selling her work.

“I wanted to get back into making things again. After college, I had kind of gotten away from it because I had other things pulling me away. I had to make money, I had kids and then I decided I wanted to get back into making things again, so I started illustrating a book my brother had written,” Kiser said.

Kiser had dabbled in drawing and sculpting but got into oil painting around 2014, but then she took on the project of illustrating her brother’s book and kept going from there. She also likes to experiment with textures and detailing in her work.

Kiser wanted to make her illustrations look like they came from a children’s book, but also as if they belonged in an art gallery, which inspires most of her work. Her daughter had put a Barbie tutu on her dinosaur toy, and Kiser was inspired to make a series of works based on that concept.

“After doing the dinosaurs with tutus, I kind of decided to continue going down that path of making things that made me laugh and smile. A lot of times, animals are things that make me laugh and smile. So a lot of times, I’ll start with a particular animal, and I will think, ‘what will be sort of fun with that?’ When the idea makes me laugh out loud or makes me think, ‘oh, I’ve never seen anything like that before,’ that’s the kind of thing I like to paint,” Kiser said.

Kiser is currently showing at the “Celebration of Fine Art” out of Scottsdale, Arizona, and is painting feather cats and lace fish. She is working to add more people into her work in the future. She will be signing her book “There Will Be Nonsense” at 2 p.m. both days and will be located at booth #338.

Among the vendors will be indie author Julie Stone, who has just written a new novel titled “He’s with the Band.” Stone is based out of Iowa, and this will also be her first time at the Tucson Festival of Books. She has done the DSM Book Festival as well as the Twin Cities Book Festival.

“‘He’s with the Band’ is this story of a woman who recently divorced and realized she was living a life that wasn’t really true to who she intended to be when it started out. Part of the inspiration was my love of going to concerts and live music, and I wrote it during COVID-19, so that was something I really missed. In the years leading up, a friend and I sort of made a bucket list of performers we wanted to see, so I’ve been to a lot of concerts and had been paying attention to the people surrounding me at the concerts,” Stone said.

Stone was an English major in college, graduating from the University of Iowa. She had her first novel published around 2006. Stone’s novels are rom-coms and mostly focus on middle-aged protagonists as a way to show that there isn’t an “expiration date on a happily ever after.”

Stone wants to tell stories with heroines who have a little bit of wisdom under their sleeves. She doesn’t want to stick to the status quo of younger protagonists, but appeal to those who are more mature.

“When I graduated from college, I hadn’t thought much about being an author as a career. I looked into writing for magazines and newspapers. When I graduated with a degree in English both of my parents were like, ‘well an English degree without a teaching certificate, what are you going to do?’ When my first book came out I put in my dedication, ‘This is what I’m doing with my degree,’” Stone said.

Stone has written a sequel to “He’s with the Band” based on an event the protagonist’s best friend had in the book. She also has a book on submission that is a retelling of “Pretty in Pink” where it’s “book lovers vs. jocks.” She will be at the event, Indie Authors — Adult Fiction and Nonfiction on Saturday, March 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Tucson Festival of Books will be held along the UA Mall on March 4 and 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Follow AJ Stash Castillo on Twitter

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