Books by Melissa Bowersock

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tucson Festival of Books

BOOK FAIR – I am guessing that most of the time those two words don’t conjure up much beyond a dusty collection of mismatched tables in a church parking lot, the tables crowded with cardboard boxes, the boxes full of old, used and worn-out books that just recently were hauled out of garages and storage sheds for their weekend in the sun.

No so in Tucson.

The Tucson Festival of Books debuted in the spring of 2009 on the campus of The University of Arizona. The central grass-covered Mall of the university is three blocks long and at the inaugural event every square inch was devoted to the love of books. The Festival featured 450 authors and presenters and had an estimated 50,000 visitors. It was noted at the time that the TFOB had slotted itself into the top ten US book festivals in its very first appearance. Ranked sixth in attendance behind such mega festivals as Miami, the National Book Festival, Chicago and L.A., the TFOB had actually more authors than any of them. Tucson, it seems, is a hotbed of literary talent.

In its second year, the TFOB attracted an estimated 70-80,000 people and last year it brought in over 100,000, leapfrogging Chicago and Decatur to rank 4th just behind the attendance of the L.A. Times Book Festival. Obviously, this is no parking lot rummage sale.

For whatever reason, we have an inordinate number of authors in the Tucson area. Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty), J. A. Jance (Left for Dead), Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) and others appear at the festival regularly. Sue Grafton (A is for Alibi) and Michael Blake (Dances with Wolves) have made appearances, along with many other mid- (and lower-) list authors from the southwest. The Festival has non-stop presentations by authors and editors, workshops, panel discussions and book signings. For two days, the U of A is almost giddy with book lovers. It seems that half the town comes out to enjoy the (usually) warm, clear days and revel in the joys of reading. I am always particularly gratified to see so many kids. The Festival provides probably 100 different ways of engaging the kids and encouraging them to read, and of course we all know that reading is the gateway to knowledge. We need more of that!

I have been at the book festival every year, claiming a spot in one of the Author’s Pavilion tents reserved for indie and unsponsored authors. I always sell a few books, but surprisingly, that is not the primary goal. What I really enjoy is meeting the people. I hand out free bookmarks and am always willing to chat with the visitors, whether it’s about one of my books, one of their books or their great uncle Fred or whatever else happens to come up. I’ve talked with soon-to-be-published authors, wannabe writers and a few who have been around forever. It’s just a blast talking with people who love books, who love stories, and who appreciate the written word. I’ve discovered that we are part of an extremely large and very inclusive club!

One of those authors who has been around for a long time is Gary K. Yamamoto, author of Creative Dream Analysis: A Guide to Self-Development. I bought this book probably 25 years ago and have recommended it to many but never loaned it out because I don’t want to lose track of it. I may not pick it up for long stretches, but inevitably I drag it out again and use it to bug out what a particularly weird or interesting dream might have to say to me. It’s one of those resource books I always keep handy.

So when I’d registered for the 2010 Festival and gotten my time slot in the Author’s Pavilion, imagine my surprise to see Gary Yamamoto was going to be my tent-mate! Of course I had to pull out my Creative Dream book and pack it for the day with all my own books, and Gary was very pleased to sign it and talk with me about it. He’s a very nice, down-to-earth guy, and it was great chatting with him. Who says published authors can’t be fans, as well?

I will be there this year (March 10) to introduce my latest book, Marcia Gates: Angel of Bataan. I will be showing the book trailer on my laptop. I'd love to see many of you stop by and chat.

So if you’re ever in Tucson in early to mid-March (March 10-11 this year), come on down and join the fun. It’s a tremendous event and it’s absolutely thrilling to see so many people out in support of books--those small, ordinary, everyday books that can open up a young mind to the entire universe. How cool is that?

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