Ten years ago, a group of people got together with the idea of holding a book festival in Tucson. They insisted on two things: it would be free, and money collected from donations and sales of books and festival merchandise would go to support literacy organizations in southern Arizona.
I remember going to that first festival and loving every minute of it. It’s held on the mall of the University of Arizona, with speakers and panels in various venues surrounding that mall.
It started as a pretty large event with 450 authors and 50,000 visitors, most local. I can’t find attendance figures for this year, but approximately 140,000 people attended in 2018. To say it’s grown would be an understatement.
In addition to well-known authors, it features two indie signing areas, science city with demonstrations, an area for performers including music and circus acts, a food court, a separate children’s books section, and booths from all kinds of organizations.
Last weekend, I sold and signed my books in the Tucson Sisters in Crime Booth at the Tucson Festival of Books. Once again, the weather cooperated. So did the attendees. I sold out of copies of True Blue Murder early on the second day and the two women who come back every year to buy my latest release appeared like clockwork. Hearing them gush about how their group was impatiently waiting for the books and had warned them they’d better finish reading the new ones on the plane home definitely made my day.
People who come to the book festival are mostly fans of print copies, although I did notice more this year who read ebooks. I gave them bookmarks to remember my books.
I also went to a couple of author panels, one on each day. This year, I focused on my latest interest in ranching and romance in Arizona. Well, not just Arizona. Last month I blogged about reading An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole. I read that book because she was one of the authors on a romance panel at TFOB, as we refer to the book festival. I wanted to meet her and hear what she had to say about writing romance. There were two other romance authors on that panel, Priscilla Oliveras, who is a debut author, and RaeAnne Thayne, who has published a lot of romance novels over the years. I also ran into a trio of authors from the Tucson RWA chapter, which was nice. Alyssa Cole is as engaging as her books. Of course, I bought the next book in the series and had her sign it.
The other panel I went to was titled The Ranchers Lament. This raised the question of whether ranching as a way of life could continue in the West or was it a thing of the past? I hadn’t even thought much about this, but it was an interesting discussion. I particularly liked John Branch. He’s a reporter for the NY Times based out of California, and he covers the more unusual sports, including rodeo.
In the process of his reporting on rodeo, he’d gotten to know some of the cowboys and was struck by the contrast in their lifestyle versus that of most of America. If your family is like mine, it’s scattered all over the country. I grew up in New York, but my sister and mother moved to Virginia a few years ago. My brother lives in Dallas. My son is in Portland, Oregon, now. I have a couple of cousins who still live on Long Island, but there are also cousins in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and here in Arizona.
The ranchers have a different outlook on life. Most of them come from families who have been ranching on the same property for generations. They assume they’ll live and die on the ranch and leave it to their children to continue, even though the changes in the world are making that more difficult.
In his book The Last Cowboys, John Branch focused on one family, the Wrights of Utah, who in addition to ranching, have a cluster of sons who are world champion saddle bronc riders. While most rodeo contestants don’t earn a lot of money, those who win the championships in Las Vegas do get significant cash. And the boys are reinvesting those winnings in maintaining the lifestyle they can’t imagine changing.
I also bought that one and can’t wait to read it.
Today I’m off to the Tucson chapter of the African Violet Society of America’s annual show and sale. I know I’m going to want to buy more plants, but I can’t figure out where to put them. The only way I’d be able to fit another lighted plant stand in my apartment would be to eliminate a bookcase. Somehow, I can’t bring myself to do that yet.