top of page
  • Tracey Kelley

Happy Place: The Tucson Festival of Books

For years, my niece and her husband--both professors at the University of Arizona--invited me to visit during the Tucson Festival of Books. "Auntie! You love books! This is a wonderful event! And you love opportunities to leave Iowa in the winter and visit warm places!"

Absolutely true on both counts.

I would gladly spend every penny I earn to attend writing retreats, festivals, and conferences. It's sheer indulgence to simply dive into what I love with no other responsibilities. I relish the opportunity to learn from so many talented people. And I look forward to the day when I'll have the good fortune to sit on a panel or two and share aspects of this craft and journey with other travelers.

The Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB) is incredible. After 10 years, the organizers have a rhythm to logistics that's quite admirable. The cadre of volunteers help everything run with ease. And if you donate money to the organization, you support literacy programs in Southern Arizona.

In addition to enjoying an extended stay with my family (they were uber gracious to let me camp out so long!), TFOB was everything I hoped it would be. Engaging panelists who inspired solutions to my current writing dilemmas. A vibrant vendor village filled with opportunities to talk with interesting people. Numerous encounters with fellow book lovers sharing their passions for a particular author or genre.

Approximately 110,000 attend TFOB each year. So if you don't like crowds, that may be a concern. Fortunately much of the University's campus accommodates the event, so there are many places to duck into for quiet time.

I met a number of authors who were kind, thoughtful, and encouraging, including Melissa Sholes Young (Flood), Bryn Chancellor (Syamore), Jason Makansi (The Moment Before), and Brendan Mathews (The World of Tomorrow). I also had a lovely conversation with Hernan Diaz (In the Distance), who moderated one of the panels. I appreciated the way he moderated the panel with such insight and consideration to established and emerging writers, and so I purchased his book.

How amazing that just a few weeks later, he received rightful acknowledgement as a Pulitzer finalist!

There were many chances to understand the business of writing, too. I appreciated the advice from Claire McKinney about savvy book PR and marketing; Angela Bole from the Independent Book Publishers Association on the state of the industry; and Laura Stanfill, publisher at Forest Avenue Press regarding the power of building community.

I also brought home many tidbits of information, and because my book haul was so great, I picked up an additional suitcase at Goodwill to check for the trip home!

(No book addiction here. Nope, nothing to see. Move along.)

(Okay, read the list and take notes.)

(Really. Check out each one and add them to your "to read" stack.)

So if you have the chance to go to TFOB, do! I'm not sure I can make it an annual event just yet, but it is certainly worth considering.

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page