We’re back from our travels with loads of impressions and images to share in coming weeks.
Today's topic: the Tucson Festival of Books, our first stop on the trip. I wrote at length about last year's festival, and I won't repeat all the details here. (But if you're curious, you're welcome to look back at that post.)
This was my third visit to the festival, but Ray's first. In previous years, I scurried from one end of the University of Arizona Mall to the other, trying to catch as many talks on writing and publishing as I could. It was almost like being back in college (without the exams, thank goodness). This time, I took a different tack, hoping to make the weekend fun for both of us rather than dragging Ray along to talks on topics that would make his eyes glaze over. (Besides, how many more Moleskin notebooks do I really need to fill with conference scribblings?)
I scrolled through the long list of presentations and found several by mystery authors Ray enjoys, and because I'm always interested in other writers' insights, I knew I'd find their talks informative.
The festival's presentations are all free, but some require advance reservations—and those go quickly. We were lucky to snag tickets to "Setting the Bar in Mystery" by New York Times bestselling authors Greg Iles and Scott Turow. It was just plain fun to witness the interaction between the two authors, good friends who traded jibes as well as compliments. I was fascinated, too, to hear them describe their writing processes. Turow is methodical, treating writing like a day job. Iles, on the other hand, goes long stretches without writing—occupying himself with music and other interests—and then writes his books in marathon sessions, fueled by granola bars and Tab. (I hope he makes up for that with healthier habits during his non-writing periods!)
We also made sure not to miss Michael Perry, described on his website as "New York Times Bestselling Author, Humorist, Singer/Songwriter, Intermittent Pig Farmer." I first discovered Michael's writing at the 2015 Tucson Festival of Books. I had only enough room in my luggage to bring back one book, and I also wanted find a gift for Ray. When I saw Michael's memoir, Truck: A Love Story, I knew I needed to look no further. After all, memoir is my favorite genre, and Ray's all in for anything automotive.
Perry's humorous—and heartfelt—accounts of rural Wisconsin life enchanted me, and when I heard him speak at last year's festival and then read another of his books, Roughneck Grace: Farmer Yoga, Creeping Codgerism, Apple Golf, and Other Brief Essays from On and Off the Back Forty, I became an even more faithful fan.
This year, he read from his latest book, Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy. As the blurb describes it, the book is a down-to-earth look at the ideas of a philosopher "ensconced in a castle tower overlooking his vineyard," channeled by a Midwestern American writing "in a room above the garage overlooking a disused pig pen." I can't wait to read it.
As in previous years, it was heartening to be in the company of more than 130,000 book lovers, to overhear conversations about books and authors and see people browsing through and actually reading books.
But still weary and bleary from the nearly 2,000-mile drive, we could expect only so much of our brains. The festival's entertainment schedule of sixty-some performances offered restorative time-outs from nonstop literary engagement.
We applauded pint-sized musicians, whooped it up with local clog dancers, the Saguaro Stompers, and ooh-ed and aah-ed at acrobatic feats.
By the end of the weekend, we were inspired, entertained, enlightened, and ready to take on more of Tucson.
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.