Overall shot of the Tucson Festival of Books on the UA Mall and surrounding area, Saturday, March 10, 2012. Photo by David Sanders/Arizona Daily Star. #155160.

David Sanders/Arizona Daily Star

The Tucson Festival of Books is five years old, yet it's brand new.

The family-friendly community celebration of reading and literacy taking place March 9-10 will once again gather great authors and compelling topics and raise money to support literacy.

Book festival 5.0 will have fresh, new programs that build and expand on the successful foundation of previous festivals. There will be some familiar faces and plenty of nationally known, respected authors coming to the festival for the first time.

"We keep building on the basics that we've worked so hard to put together," said Bill Viner, chief executive officer of Pepper Viner Homes and one of the festival's founders.

The festival "continues to grow and prosper, powered largely by volunteers who care about books, literacy, and making an important literary event happen in Tucson for readers of all ages," says Helene Woodhams, chairwoman of the festival's author committee and a librarian with the Pima County Public Library.

In its five years, the volunteer-driven festival quickly evolved into the fourth-largest event of its kind in the U.S.

"Publishers, authors and local vendors. I don't think people realize just how large a writers community there is here in Tucson," says Elaine Charton, co-chairwoman of the Romance committee.

Pavilions - which are, in essence, festivals within the festival - such as the popular Science City, the Culinary Tent and the children's area - will amp up with new activities, authors and demonstrations.

A writing competition and workshop expands the festival's focus to include writing.

"With every successful festival, I believe that Tucson becomes more firmly established as a reading community where people love books and authors," says Woodhams.

"From preschooler to senior adult, the festival offers something for everyone," Viner say.

Here is a handful of highlights - five in each category - of the fifth annual Tucson Festival of Books.

Festival offers first competition, masters workshop for writers

Tucson Festival of Books is adding a literary awards writing competition and masters workshop this year .

"It's always been an interest to bring a conference" or workshop to elevate the festival, says Bill Viner, a festival founder.

The contest and workshop expands the festival's focus, adding an emphasis on writing as well as reading, says Bill Finley, director of development for the UA College of Humanities, who helped establish the contest and workshop.

Creating literary awards adds prestige to the festival, says Meg Files, chair of the Pima Community College English and journalism department, who also helped create the contest and workshop.

The twofold effort began with a writing competition in three categories - fiction, nonfiction and poetry - which received 310 entries. A workshop for top contest entrants will follow the festival.

The entries were "really high-quality writing," says Files. The submissions, while primarily from Arizona, came from all over the United States.

A small group of local authors did preliminary judging, she says. The final judging is under way by authors who will conduct the workshop sessions. The winners will be named on Feb. 2.

The five members of the judging team and workshop faculty are:

• Larry Watson ("Montana 1948")

• Ann Hood ("The Red Thread")

• Bill Roorbach ("Life Among Giants")

• Thomas Cobb ("Crazy Heart")

• Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni ("The Mistress of Spices")

During the workshop, each author will give a "craft lecture," addressing a creative writing technique. For example, Cobb will discuss writing dialogue.

In addition, there will be breakout sessions during which a piece of the participants' work will be discussed. A panel with the five authors will close the workshop and faculty authors will read from their work the evening of March 11.

Viner predicts the program will continue to grow and get even better.

He hopes the Tucson Festival of Books workshop can do for books what Sundance Institute workshops and writing labs have done for film and screenwriting.

Next Sunday in Home + Life

Rhyme and rhythm. Meter and metaphor. Imagery and irony. (Alliteration, too.) There will be plenty of poetry and poets at the Tucson Festival of Books.

authors not to miss

• Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor Ted Danson - Sam Malone in "Cheers" and currently D.B. Russell on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" - grew up in Northern Arizona and he devotes much of his time to environmental causes. He is the author of "Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them."

• Jodi Picoult's page turners keep readers on the edge of their seats and touch their hearts in poignant and often painful novels about family, relationships and love. Her 2012 "Lone Wolf" explores medical science's intersection with moral choices.

• Robert Crais keeps readers guessing and nibbling their nails in his intense, fast-paced thrillers. "Suspect," his 19th novel, was released this month.

• Journalist and author Bob Spitz, who managed rock stars prior to his writing career, specialized in celebrity biographies such as "The Beatles: The Biography." The most recent of his seven books is "Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child," published last year.

• Live from the Author's Table Dinner will be TV comedy writer Alan Zweibel. An original "Saturday Night Live" writer, Zweibel has a trove of writing awards and has written for "It's Garry Shandling's Show," "Monk," PBS' "Great Performances" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." (No tickets available for purchase; however, to be put on the waiting list send an email to TheAuthorsTable@TucsonFestivalofBooks.org)

If you go

• What: Fifth annual Tucson Festival of Books.

• When: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. March 9-10.

• Where: University of Arizona campus. Attendance and parking are free.

• What: About 450 authors, book discussions, workshops and literary activities for the entire family.

• Sponsors: The UA and the Arizona Daily Star. The University of Arizona Medical Center is the presenting sponsor. Net proceeds will promote literacy in Southern Arizona through the Tucson Festival of Books Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

• Bookmark it: Go to tucsonfestivalofbooks.org for more information. You can sign up to follow the festival through email newsletters.

• Social media: Follow the festival on Facebook at facebook.com/tucsonfestivalofbooks and go to twitter.com/tfob to follow on Twitter.

• Mobile: Apps are also available for iPhone, Android devices and Kindle Fire.

• Plan it out: The best way to see the authors and participate in the workshops and other activities is to make a plan. Check the March 3 Star, which will feature a pull-out section that details the event and includes a map.

By the numbers


exhibitors are expected during the 2013 book festival.


authors, illustrators, agents and presenters participated in last year's festival. A like number is expected this year.


volunteers are needed for the two-day festival.


the estimated number of people who attended last year's event.


amount in proceeds that has gone to Southern Arizona literacy efforts since the festival's launch.


Each year an exclusive icon of a desert critter made of random letters is created for the Tucson Festival of Books by Arizona Daily Star illustrator Chiara Bautista. The critters in the series are:

• '13 - Monarch butterfly

• '12 - Sonoran green toad

• '11 - Tarantula

• '10 - Hummingbird

• '09 - Gila monster


• R. L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series - who last year released the adult horror novel "Red Rain" - will receive this year's Founders Award, which recognizes the lifetime achievement of an outstanding festival participant, Viner says. Elmore Leonard received the first award in 2011 and Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana were honored last year.

• The Lawrence Clark Powell Memorial Lecture will be revived at the festival, Woodhams says. Bill Broyles, Gayle Hartmann and Thomas Sheridan will speak about how the desert influences their writing, highlighting their book, "Last Water on the Devil's Highway: A Cultural and Natural History of Tinajas Altas," which they co-authored with Gary Nabhan and the late Mary Thurtle.

• The Western National Parks Association is celebrating its 75th anniversary and has invited authors new to the festival, such as Nevada Barr, a mystery writer who sets her books in the national parks. In addition to the association's pavilion, which will be packed with activities, it is planning a Saturday evening event with speakers, including Ted Danson.

• Pavilion-palooza - among the tents on the UA Mall, you'll find:

Science City's entertaining demonstrations that connect everyday life and science. You can get an inside look at science in progress during open houses at laboratories on campus, including last year's big hit - the UA Mirror Lab.

Top chefs and popular cookbook authors will be heating things up - literally - at the popular Culinary Tent.

Also, the festival is a family affair - the array of children's authors and activities will keep the kiddos busy, entertained and pique their interest in reading.

• A trio of U.S. Navy SEALs who've written books - Howard Wasdin, Don Mann and Brandon Webb - will be at the festival. Weston Ochse, whose most recent novel is "SEAL Team 666," also will be on hand.

things you may not know

• You can help. The book festival requires about 1,800 volunteers in areas such as venue management, information, author and moderator escort, cleanup and signage. Go to the tucsonfestivalofbooks.org website for volunteer applications.

• There's a speakers bureau. A festival representative can give your group or organization a free presentation about the festival. Go to the website for request forms.

• Catch a ride. If schools or districts have buses available to bring children and families to the Tucson Festival of Books, Casas Adobes Rotary Club may underwrite the cost. Download the application at tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/item/show/175682

• Be a pal. Actually, a Friend of the Festival. Tax-deductible donations help defray festival expenses and support literacy-focused charitable recipients. Friends receive mementos and discounts from some exhibitors, sponsors and vendors.

For information on becoming a Friend of the Festival or to make a contribution go online to - you guessed it - tucsonfestivalofbooks.org and click on "Friend of the Festival."

• Get a T-shirt with this year's critter - the monarch butterfly - and other festival gear at the website, too.

current topics

"This is probably the strongest year for current events," says Viner, noting that C-SPAN will be taping 10 live sessions held in the UA's Gallagher Theater.

"I am looking forward to hearing a group of fascinating current affairs authors - several of whom are journalists - demystify complex issues that touch our daily lives," says Terry Holpert, a festival volunteer who worked on booking some of the current-events authors.

She suggests the following:

• Iraq and Afghanistan - Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a senior correspondent and associate editor for The Washington Post and author of "Little America: The War Within the War in Afghanistan" and "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," will discuss the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and the lessons to be learned from them.

• Social Security - Eric Laursen, author of "The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan" will discuss Social Security's history and future.

• Money, money, money. William D. Cohan, a finance expert, columnist for Bloomberg News and author, will discuss Wall Street, money and power, and his most recent book, "Money & Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World."

• Politics - John Nichols, journalist and television commentator, will discuss the state of contemporary politics.

• Contemporary society - UA College of Law Professor Robert Williams, an expert on Native American law and indigenous peoples' human rights, will discuss his book, "Savage Anxiety: The Invention of Western Civilization."

Contact Ann Brown at abrown@azstarnet.com