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Posted Mar 10, 2010, 3:09 pm
The Tucson Festival of Books is one of our city’s more unique events, featuring a panoply of children’s events, author interviews, writing workshops and panels.
In my opinion, this event is best enjoyed by skipping all the tacky panels about how to get an agent or put together a press packet (which are, frankly, pandering and useless) and experience the best this event has to offer: the opportunity for really great writers to talk about their work and the craft of writing fiction.
I’ve combed through the massive event schedule and picked out these choice events that feature the Festival’s best:
Interview with Elmore Leonard, Student Union Gallagher Theater
You can’t pass up the opportunity to see the pulp fiction master talk about his work. He’s 84 years old, by gosh!
"Unlikely Heroes: Bumblers, Fumblers, Stumblers and Why We Love Them" with Jonathan Tropper and Brock Clarke, Chemistry 111
Jonathan Tropper’s most recent novel "This Is Where I Leave You" is a hysterical, dysfunctional family epic and Brock Clarke’s "An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers' Homes in New England" is one of the best comic novels of that last few years. You shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear these brilliant satirical writers wax poetic.
"Thanks for the 'Memoir'ies" with Jerome Charyn and Brock Clarke, Student Union Catalina Room
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A double dose of Mr. Clarke can’t hurt, and it’ll be worth hearing him again as he’s joined by Jerome Charyn, author of the PEN/Faulkner finalist "The Green Lantern," and an elegant trilogy of memoirs about growing up the child of Russian immigrants in the Bronx.
"Taking Risks" with Ann Cummins, Peter Turchi, Robert Boswell and John Dufresne, UA Bookstore
This is truly an all-star panel. Ann Cummins – who teaches creative writing at NAU in Flagstaff, is one of Arizona’s treasures. Her debut story collection "Red Ant House" is staggeringly good, and her subsequent novel "Yellowcake" is a brisk and poignant portrait of American Indian and Anglo lives intertwining in the Southwest.
Robert Boswell – a graduate of UA’s Creative Writing program – has written one of the best working class family epics of the last ten years with "Century’s Son."
John Dufresne wrote the classic "Louisiana Power and Light," a wonderful absurdist work of Southern literature.
Peter Turchi writes wonderfully about the crafts and traditions of writing in works like "Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer." These four together just cannot be missed.
Interview with NPR’s Scott Simon, Student Union Ballroom South
For NPR fans. Come see the host of "Weekend Edition Saturday."
"Nuestra Raíces: Mexican American GLBT Authors" with Felicia Luna Lemus, Rigoberto González and Manuel Muñoz, Integrated Learning Center 150
The intersection of identity politics and art is a gripping one fraught with anxieties. This should be a really fascinating panel: González’ latest "Men Without Bliss" plumbs the depths of the conflict between queerness and machismo; Muñoz is an accomplished short story writer who also teaches right here at the UA, and Luna Lemus wrote the remarkable coming-of-age novel "Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties."
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11:30 am-12:30 pm
Interview with Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, Student Union Ballroom South
The Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain" screenplay scribes will be talking about their work in Hollywood and beyond. Not to be missed.
Interview with C.J. Box, Integrated Learning Center 120
Box’s Joe Pickett novels are great examples of gritty, Western mystery tales. His latest, "Blue Heaven" won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. You shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see him talk.
"Fiction Writers: Why We Do What We Do" with Daniel Stolar, Karen Joy Fowler, Barbara Samuel O’Neal and Margaret Erhart, Integrated Learning Center 140
It’s the people involved here that make this one worth visiting, because from the title, it sounds a bit painful. But the combination of Fowler’s genre-bending novels, like the lyrical "Sister Noon," Stolar’s stellar short fiction, and Erhart and O’Neal novelistic charting of the Southwest promises to transform a banal premise into an insightful and engaging discussion.
Interview with Curtis Sittenfeld, Student Union Ballroom South
Sittenfeld will be discussing her controversial Laura Bush roman á clef, "American Wife," which should prove fascinating and dishy.
Sean Bottai is a Tucson-based novelist and journalist. He teaches at the University of Arizona.