Aly and I, along with our friend Gretchen, drove down to the Tucson Festival of Books last weekend. The TFOB is a two day event that takes places on the University of Arizona campus and is free to attend. It doesn’t focus just on one genre of books (like Yallfest/Yallwest) but encompasses them all. T
The festival runs from 10AM-5PM both days and there are always a variety of things to do. Most times, I found myself having to pick between 2-3 panels I was interested in that were taking place at the same time. The best thing about this being on a college campus is that there is plenty of space so you can easily find a spot to sit and read or relax.
Festival Day 1: Saturday, March 2nd
When we arrived at the festival and headed to the first event, there was a sign pinned on the door that it was full. Luckily, one of our back up choices was close by and had just started.
New Voices, New Choices.
Daniel Gumbiner (The Boatbuilder), R.O. Kwon (The Incendiaries) and Joanna Luloff (Remind Me Again What Happened) made up the panel of authors.
I have to admit that R.O. Kwon and her novel The Incendiaries interested me the most and is now on
Razor Sharp Short Stories
Luckily, the second panel took place in the same room so I didn’t even have to leave. It featured Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black), Mark Mayer (The Aerialists: Stories), Aurelie Sheehan (Once Into The Night), and Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Heads of the Colored People).
It was interesting to listen to these authors talk about their works and how these collections came about. The only downfall for me was a personal one. At this point, my prior late night coupled with an early wake up was hitting me. I struggled towards the end to keep my eyes open, especially as the room was full and it was getting warm. It was kinda embarrassing and probably a good thing that I planned to walk around after this.
However, this did not stop me from purchasing Friday Black and Heads of the Colored People after the panel to get them signed.
(I am technically trying to be more aware and limit my book purchases. Mostly this is due to the fact that I bought way too much last year. However, most of what I still have unread at home is YA fiction so I decided other genres were ok to bend the rules for.)
We all met up afterward for lunch and wandered around a bit before splitting off again. There was a Noam Chomsky ticketed event that Aly and Gretchen were attending, while I was off to my only YA panel of the festival.
The Changing YA Landscape of LGBTQ+ Books
The room ended filling up fast so I am glad to have arrived early. Bill Konigsberg (The Music of What Happens), Anna-Marie McLemore (Blanca & Roja), and Susan Kuklin (Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out) talked about how much more diverse books have gotten in YA in particular.
The most interesting thing, to me, was hearing the authors talk about how much more open publishing is now. It is obviously not a surprise, but it’s positive to know that things are changing. It’s awesome, as a reader, to see the diverse world we live in represented more in literature.
This was my final panel for the day so I wandered around a bit more until we left. Yes, I will admit that more books were purchased. (I bought 7
Festival Day 2: Sunday, March 3
Sunday was definitely a very short day for us. I don’t think we were eager to get home late because of work on Monday. There was only one event I attended on Sunday, which was actually a workshop. I really love that TFOB also does workshops, because of course, aspiring authors are going to attend a book festival. Last year, I went to two but I think this one was my favorite by far.
Writing Believable Characters in Unbelievable Situations.
Charlie Jane Anders (All The Birds In The Sky) hosted this workshop and she really broke down how to flesh out a character. I think that the most important thing I picked up from her was to ground your character with real details. If you can make the character believable, it makes the weird situation they find themselves in a bit easier for the reader to accept. This event definitely ended up being the one I took the most notes in!
I think that the Tucson Festival of Books will be my only book festival of the year (for financial reasons) and I am glad that we went. If you live in or around Tucson, I highly recommend checking it out next year. Even though it does get crowded, it is always great to see all the people that come out to enjoy and appreciate books.
I am hoping that in the future I’m able to travel to more book festivals/conventions. Besides TFOB, I have only been to