Collection: 2014 Tucson Festival of Books news

March 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The Tucson Festival of Books will be March 15 and 16 at the University of Arizona Mall. This annual event celebrates all things literary and and attracts more than 100,000 visitors. Read all about the festival and learn more at the Tucson Festival of Books website.

1of 29
  • The sixth annual Tucson Festival of Books came to a close Sunday, but work for next year’s event is well underway.

    Organizers have already had several conversations about things that could be improved and new ideas for next year, said Marcy Euler, Tucson Festival of Books executive director.

    “I think that it’s such a dynamic system and everybody who participates is really passionate about it. So always thinking about what we can do differently and better is part of the excitement,” she said.

    Crowds Sunday were estimated between 55,000 and 60,000.

    For adults, the event provided the opportunity to hear from and chat with their favorite authors, like Dr. Andrew Weil, whose two presentations were a big draw Sunday.

    And for kids, it was a chance to snap a photo or sneak a hug from their favorite characters.

    “Curious George! Curious George!” shouted children as they tried to catch up with the mischievous monkey.

    One of the more popular tents was just south of the children’s area. It was an appropriate place for volunteer Susan Vermilyea, who is retired from a publishing company.

    She said the free-book tent gave away more than 6,000 books.

    “It gives nothing but good feelings,” she said.“You can see how excited they are.”

    The annual event, which costs around $500,000 to put on, provides a boost to local literacy programs.

    In the last five years, the festival has contributed $900,000 total to its three beneficiaries: Literacy Connects, Reading Seed and the University of Arizona literacy programs.

    Though it will be a while before official attendance numbers are released, well over 120,000 book lovers are estimated to have attended the event over its two days, Euler said.

    So many people were trying to access the festival’s website and mobile apps Saturday that they crashed the system.

    “It’s a problem, but it’s great to know that there’s that much interest,” Euler said.

  • A festival of books might as well be a festival about life. The sixth annual Tucson Festival of Books has it all — science, culture, food, fiction, art and a whole lot more. Organizations and groups from around the city show up to man booths, host activities and volunteer.

    “A trademark of the festival is the friendliness of the event,” said Marcy Euler, the festival’s executive director. “The authors say that audiences ask great questions and interact in a personal way. It is part of the charm of Tucson.”

    Of the approximately 450 authors at the festival, about one-third call Arizona home, Euler said, and this weekend on the University of Arizona campus these local authors will add their voices to the story of the Tucson Festival of Books.

  • A love of reading is something I hope to instill in my children, and thankfully, it looks like that may already be happening with my 2-year-old son.

    I did some reading to Zachary while he was in the womb, and as a newborn, I would show him pictures in books while I narrated what was taking place. Moving into the toddler years, Zachary has quickly learned the letters of the alphabet, and he points them out in various locations throughout the day.

    While he is not reading books word-for-word yet, he does recognize some words, can repeat a sentence from a book after hearing it read to him a couple times, and narrates pages in books once he is familiar with them.

    We’ve collected shelves of children’s books in the last several years, so there’s always a new adventure to choose. Often, Zachary is all for sitting down to look at books. Other times, toys, puzzles or a favorite TV show are front-runners instead. I’ve learned not to make a big deal out of it though, since I’ve noticed he has a true interest in letters, books and reading.

    Zachary and I attend Storytime at the library. While not as interested as a younger tot, Zachary now excitedly talks about Storytime on a regular basis. Once he’s at the library, he proudly walks up to the librarian and sits in front of her, fully engaging himself in the content of each book she reads.

    We sing, do fun movements and read additional books throughout the 30-minute class. It’s something my son doesn’t want to miss; he loves Storytime.

    Recently, Zachary and I were looking at books in the library’s kids’ section. I explained to him how people choose books and check them out from the library to take home to read. He looked through book after book, then decided he wanted to check out his own. He carefully sorted through stacks of books, choosing six of his favorite.

    Turns out, a 2-year-old is not too young to get his own library card. That day, Zachary got his own card, and with the help of a librarian, checked out his first set of library books. I was one proud mama, and he was one proud toddler, as he carried his entire pile of books from the library to the car. He turned down my offers to help, wanting to carry the books himself.

    I can’t count how many times we read those library books. Each night, we read one after the other. When it came time to return the books, Zachary repeated the process of choosing new ones. It makes me smile watching my son independently pick books that he wants to learn more about.

    Zachary will sometimes read several books at a time. My husband, Shane, reads with our son, I read with him, and sometimes the three of us curl up in bed to read as a family.

    We’ve read some of the same books many times, allowing for the tables to turn as our son tells his favorite stories to us. And being familiar with Storytime, he even turns books toward his audience to show the pictures.

    One evening I caught Zachary tossing several books into his crib — about 25 in all. Next, he put the step stool beside the crib and, with a little help, climbed into that giant pile of books. He made himself comfortable while he read contentedly.

    On a recent trip to the library we picked up a couple of his favorite TV shows — “Curious George” and “Super Why” — in book form. Zachary’s quite amused to see that what happens with his favorite characters on television can also happen in a book.

    We try to have a bedtime routine that includes reading before it’s time to sleep. I find it hard to tell my son that he can choose just one more book after he’s already looked at several others. Sometimes, Zachary will pull a large basket full of books onto the bed, and we go through most of them before he hits the pillow.

    It’s been helpful to me to learn from experience and to hear from other moms that kids have many phases when it comes to being interested in reading. While I used to be a little nervous that I wasn’t reading enough to him, Zachary now truly enjoys reading.

    Whether it’s toys, puzzles, books or a TV show that may pique his interest at any given point, I am happy to know that Zachary appreciates books, and I hope his love of reading continues to grow.

  • Don’t tell J.A. Jance she looks tired.

    “What you’re really saying is that you look like hell,” Jance quipped at a reading for her latest book, “Moving Target,” last month at Mostly Books, 6208 E. Speedway.

    “I am perfectly entitled to look tired,” said Judith Ann Jance, who has written 50 books in 30 years and averages two book-signing tours a year.

    Jance lands in Tucson on Friday from her “Moving Target” tour just in time for the Tucson Festival of Books Author’s Table dinner and heads into a weekend packed with panel discussions and appearances at exhibitor booths.

    You might hear Jance referred to as the “first lady of the book festival” or the “queen of the book festival.”

    “Either title seems appropriate,” said Brenda Viner, one of the festival’s founders. “J.A. was one of the top authors that we wanted to attract to the festival when we began our work in 2008.

    “That first year — 2009 — she was our keynote speaker at the Author’s Table dinner,” said Viner. “I will never forget her helping pick up signs at 6 p.m. on Sunday night after our first book festival, wearing her hat a little cockeyed telling us how much fun she had that weekend.”

    Jance has helped attract other authors, has been a featured author at each festival and was the master of ceremonies at last year’s Author’s Table dinner, Viner said. “We don’t think she has ever turned down a request to help (if she is in town). You can always find her in the author hospitality room making the other authors feel at home.”

    That work ethic typifies a woman who wrote her first three novels in the very early morning, before she woke her children at 7 a.m. to get them to school and to head to her full-time job.

    Mysteries with strong female characters that reflect Jance’s life experiences and an authentic sense of place are among the qualities of Jance’s novels that fans enjoy, said members of the audience at Mostly Books before last month’s signing.

    With an academic scholarship, She was first person in her family to attend a four-year college, but Jance was denied entry into the University of Arizona’s creative writing program in 1964 because she was a woman.She was shooed off into “more appropriate” field for women — education. The evil creative-writing professorin “Hour of the Hunter” and “Kiss of the Bees” in Jance’s Walker Family series is not a coincidence.

    She graduated in 1966 with a degree in English and secondary education, received masters in library science in 1970, taught at Pueblo High School for two years and was a librarian at Indian Oasis School District in Sells for five years.

    Jance put her writing ambitions on the back burner while married to her first husband, who died from chronic alcoholism at 42, two years after their divorce. He had told her there would be only one writer in their family — and he was it.

    But Jance wrote poetry at night when husband slept. Her collection of poems and memoirlike comments was published in “After the Fire,” in 1984 a year before her first novel. The third edition of “After the Fire,” was released last year.

    Marriage to an alcoholic helped shape her character J.P. Beaumont, a Seattle homicide detective. Likewise, her experiences as a divorced mom with two children and a full-time job selling life insurance are mirrored in her series featuring Joanna Brady, the Cochise County sheriff.

    The protagonist in the series that includes her 50th release, “Moving Target,” is former L.A. TV news anchor Ali Reynolds, who returns home to Sedona. That character was inspired by the ousting of Tucson anchorwoman Patty Weiss.

    Bill Schilb, Jance’s husband of nearly 29 years, said she works nonstop, writing at least 1,000 to 2,500 words a day.

    A retired electronics engineer, Schilb said he handles the accounting and scheduling, and helps with research and some copy-editing. They split their time between homes in Tucson and Seattle.

    Jance, who doesn’t have an office, usually writes in an armchair. She writes one book at a time while juggling the copy-editing of other books or touring. Her next Joanna Brady book is due out July 26.

    “I get energy back from readers,” said Jance, who writes a blog filled with personal storiesthat allows “readers to have a window on my world.”

    She’s written about the harrowing 24 hours that their beloved rescue long-haired dachshund, BellaBella was missing.

    Early last month, she shared an intense, poignant open letter to Dylan Farrow Dylan Farrow in which Jance shared her story of abuse at the hands of her grandfather and the significance of her father believing her story and his support sustained her.

    In a bit of poetic justice for someone rejected from the creative-writing program, Jance will offer a nine-day workshop in May at the UA on the art and business of writing. Jance said participants will write a novella during the hands-on workshop.

    In addition, she and her stepson are collaborating on a Sugarloaf Cafe (from the Ali Reynolds series) cookbook.

    “She doesn’t wind down,” said Schilb of Jance’s focus and stamina. “It would be a sad day if she couldn’t write.”

  • Here is an opportunity to hear Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, author and Southern Arizona native. In “Lazy B,” O’Connor describes her early experiences growing up on a cattle ranch in Arizona, and how the land, people, and values she learned shaped her life and made her into the self-reliant woman she is today. In her latest book, “Out of Order” she shares a different side of the Supreme Court.

    The History of the Supreme Court, Civic Engagement and our National Parks

    • When:
    • 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday.
    • What:
    • Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Milton Chen discuss the history of the Supreme Court and its implications on today’s society.
    • Where:
    • Student Union South Ballroom (seats 600).
  • Crystal Gillette is a self-declared “book nerd.”

    That’s why she wrangled two interviews with visiting authors at the Tucson Festival of Books last year.

    The Teen Author Interviews program organized by the Pima County Public Library connects groups of five or six teens with authors for audio interviews. Crystal interviewed Tamara Ireland Stone and Cinda Williams Chima at last year’s book festival.

    “I liked realizing that authors aren’t mystical beings,” said Crystal, a 15-year-old, home school student. “They’re just real people. Their job is writing books, and they love what they’re doing.”

    The library organized the first interview in 2010, involving teens plugged into library programs. This year, students will interview Matt de la Peña, Chris Crutcher, Cornelia Funke, R.L. Stine and Lois Lowry at the Teen Author area.

    “There is always a focus on children and adults when books are involved, so we wanted to make sure there were some activities where teens were included and felt like they were part of what was going on at the festival, not just as a spectator or visitor, but as an active participant,” said Pamela Park, a young adult services librarian at the Nanini Branch Library and a liaison to the festival’s teen and children’s programming.

    In 2010, Ana Noemi Verdugo interviewed Matt de la Peña after reading his book “Mexican WhiteBoy.” Not a big reader, this book hooked the Tucson High freshman. She read it three or four times. In 2012, she invited the author back to Tucson to speak at her high school, fundraising $1,000.He came despite blossoming controversy about Mexican-American studies programs in schools.

    “I love the experience of reading the book,” said Verdugo, now a 19-year-old business student at Pima Community College. “Little details about his cousins and family, I could relate to my family. … It’s like coming together and making a bigger experience.”

    Crystal’s interviews also inspired her to look at the big picture. She’s a little anxious about writing, but likes the idea of it.

    “Writing doesn’t have to be hard, and sometimes I think it would be cool if I could write,” Crystal said. “These people are unorganized and crazy too, and they get this all out on paper.”

  • Whether it starts “Once upon a time” or “Lights! Camera! Action!,” a story’s success depends more on its spirit than the method of delivery.

    Authors and filmmakers with experience in both filmed and printed stories will discuss the exchange between media at several workshops and panel discussions this weekend at the Tucson Festival of Books.

    “As a storyteller, if you can tell a good story in one medium, it’s almost irresistible for people to pick up that story and realize it in another,” said Grael Norton, the moderator of the workshop From Book to Screen with panelists Heather Hale and Philip Sedgwick. “A really good story has potential for new artists to think they can make something new and exciting from it.”

    Norton is a senior faculty member of Authors Academy, a service of local publishing company Wheatmark, Inc. The academy teaches authors methods for writing and marketing books, and Norton will participate in several other festival panels about the logistics of successful publication.

    Most authors go into writing with at least a vague hope to see their work on screen someday, Norton said. That mindset can limit the potential of a book, as most books have more plots and subplots than a typical movie, TV show or webisode. The pressure often falls to the main character to make the transition between media.

    Last year, The Loft Cinema hosted a year-long series showing seven movies with roots in literature. Program director Jeff Yanc called it a “knee-jerk reaction” when book fans disapprove of movie adaptations — especially when casting fails to match the imagination’s design of a character. Yanc has dabbled in both worlds. He owned local bookstore Reader’s Oasis until its close in 2005.

    At the book festival, Yanc will moderate a panel discussion with Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana, winners of an Academy Award for their screenplay of “Brokeback Mountain,” originally adapted from a short story by Annie Proulx. Both have extensive experience writing and adapting print stories for the screen.

    Adaptations often fall into two camps: art and pop films. Pop films, such as “The Hunger Games” or “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” often target youth markets, Yanc said.

    “People are more accepting of a film that goes in a different direction (than the book) if it keeps the spirit,” he said. “You want that same feeling, and then you can debate in your mind what they changed.”

    Yanc plans to ask McMurtry and Ossana about this preservation of a story’s essence across media. This year, “Brokeback Mountain” premiered as an opera.

    “For an author just starting out, focus on what’s in front of you and writing the best darn book you can manage” Norton said. “There are no toys, theme park rides or webisodes without a great story, which only comes from an author staring at a computer, sitting alone, with drops of blood on his forehead. That’s the magic only the writer can write.”

  • Andrew Weil remembers when the term “health food” was distasteful. Tempeh, sprouts, soy protein — all had negative connotations.

    Before he teamed up with successful Arizona restaurateur Sam Fox, 45, to open a chain of restaurants that would revolutionize the way Americans eat, Weil tended to run into trouble when he ventured out to dinner.

    “Most of the restaurants I’ve gone to that advertise themselves as being healthy are either boring or weird or both,” he said in an interview.

    Though he recently started eating fish, Weil, a bestselling author, has been a vegetarian since the 1970s and found that he could cook better, healthier meals at his home southeast of Tucson.

    You could say that Weil’s palate is broader than most, though — he developed a knack for cooking while in medical school and has since traveled extensively throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa tasting exotic foods to integrate into his now popular “anti-inflammatory” diet.

    So when business partner Richard Baxter introduced him to Fox, founder and CEO of Fox Restaurant Concepts, Weil, now 71, had a thought.

    “I proposed him the idea of a restaurant that serves food that’s delicious but also good for you,” he said.

    That sounds like a novelty now, but seven years ago it was almost unheard of.

    “Sam was very skeptical of the idea. He said, ‘Health food doesn’t sell.’ Don’t think about health food, think about good food and have it be healthy for you.”

    It wasn’t until Weil invited Fox and his wife over for dinner — curried cauliflower soup, vegetarian Caesar salad, salmon cakes and a lactose-free dessert made with cashew milk — that Fox started to come around. He realized that health food doesn’t have to mean tofu hash and spongy veggie burgers; it can mean farm-to-table fare.

    Fox phoned one of his star chefs, Michael Stebner, 40, an Arizona native who had spent a large part of his career cooking in San Diego. Stebner was known for his knowledge of seasonal ingredients and commitment to sourcing fresh produce from local farms.

    The story goes that on one of Stebner’s visits to Weil’s home, Weil took out a glass of sea buckthorn juice, an extremely sour shrub that grows on the beaches and desert sands of Europe and Asia, and asked Stebner to whip something up.

    The result: Orange vanilla sea buckthorn sorbet. Weil was enamored.

    “It’s just kind of a synergistic formulation between the three of us, and really has blossomed from there into what we have today,” Stebner says.

    “We weren’t going to let the ‘be healthy’ get in the way of us having rich flavors. And what we really discovered was, if you start with really good-quality ingredients that are in season, you don’t have to add a bunch of unhealthy stuff to make it taste good.”

    Many of the items on the menu at True Food Kitchen in Phoenix look like they could be at Wildflower in Tucson or one of Fox’s other restaurants: miso glazed black cod with bok choy and Asian mushrooms, red chili shrimp with sesame noodles and gai lan, butternut squash pizza.

    Like Weil’s new cookbook, “True Food,” the menu draws from the flavors of Asia and the Mediterranean, where nutrient-rich olive oil and miso paste are more common than butter. Aside from the option to add grass-fed steak to your street tacos (Fox’s suggestion), there is little meat on the menu.

    And it has been hugely successful. The two Phoenix-area locations have been packed since opening night, with many customers frequenting several times a week. There are seven True Food locations today, and the team plans to open up a total of 20 stores throughout the country in the next few years.

    And although Weil begrudgingly admits they need to focus on larger markets for now, he says Tucson will be store number 21.

    But to Weil, Stebner and a growing number of Americans, True Food is more than a restaurant, it’s a lifestyle choice. Weil’s newest project is working with the team at University of Arizona Medical Center to develop a healthy menu for inpatient meals and the cafeteria, thankfully putting his stellar tomato and spaghetti squash casserole into the mix.

    When Stebner isn’t working the line or overseeing the opening of a new restaurant, he cooks simple dinners from his home garden.

    “I like working in those parameters where I can’t just throw butter at something because it doesn’t taste right. I have to think a bit outside of the box. And it really gets my creative juices flowing,” Stebner said. “I don’t get a lot of freedom or joy out of cooking that way anymore. So I need to cook this way.”

  • Before you head out to the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend, download the app to your phone or tablet. It includes the schedule of lectures and events and everything else you'll need to get around.

    We have apps for Android devices, iPhone and Kindle Fire.

    You can also view the e-edition to our print guide here.

    The Tucson Festival of Books is March 15 and 16 at the University of Arizona Mall.

  • Amy Dickinson is a Big Deal.

    Her syndicated “Ask Amy” advice column — which succeeded Ann Landers after a nationwide search — is carried by more than 150 newspapers and read by an estimated 22 million people. Her New York Times bestselling memoir has piqued Hollywood’s interest. Still, she reads all of her own mail and emails and even handles her own press requests. No assistant, no secretary, no airs.

    No surprise, really, considering her upbringing in teeny, rural Freeville, N.Y., surrounded by her large, estrogen-dominant family. Her distant father walked out when she was a teen, leaving behind four kids, a wife and a dairy farm so mortgaged that even the cows got repossessed. This is a woman who thinks Kleenex is highbrow.

    “You’ve got one box of Kleenex floating around, and you can never find it,” said Dickinson, 54, from her home office tucked into an old red barn in Dryden, N.Y., where she lives with her second husband, Bruno Schickel, and the youngest of their combined five daughters. “I have a roll of toilet paper in my car — there’s always toilet paper. Or my sleeve. Ya know, a sleeve will work.”

    Her common sense, sharp wit and snappy writing are the hallmarks of her column and book “The Mighty Queens of Freeville” (Hyperion, $22.99), written as a series of essays that follow her path from a young mother blindsided by divorce to advice columnist.

    A featured author at the Arizona Daily Star tent for the Tucson Festival of Books, Dickinson will talk about the challenges of writing, publishing and selling your own book next Sunday.

    She’s in the early, early stages of a second book, this time a novel. It was author Fannie Flagg — who wrote “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” which became a movie in 1991 — who gave Dickinson the idea when they met at a writer’s conference.

    “I hadn’t even thought about it,” said Dickinson. She immediately loved the thought. “The idea, for me, of just diving into my own imagination and taking these real-life situations that are true in my own life but being able to manipulate them so the outcome can be different, you get to bring people back to life, it’s super, super liberating.”

    Dickinson was scrambling to stockpile columns to cover a month-long break so she could concentrate on the book during a solo getaway to New Orleans, which she’s wanted to do for several years.

    So even though she was busier than busy, she graciously allowed us to Ask Amy ...

    About book festivals:

    “This is a very solitary occupation, but for me it’s such a pleasure to go to festivals. I love meeting people. I spend a lot of time alone, so when I’m with readers I’m like the guest who gets drunk a little too early — ‘I love you, maaaaaaan!’”

    About people who try to weasel free advice: “That started really early on, and I very quickly figured out what to do. It especially happens at parties. People feel this genuine desire to connect, but also they get a couple of drinks in them and they want to challenge me. What I started doing is they would tell me their dilemma and I would say, ‘That would be a fantastic question. Why don’t you write it up and send it to me?’”

    About fake letters: “I feel like I can sniff out a fake letter. I’ve gotten fake letters. My big triumph was probably in the first six months of the column. I happened to recognize that it was right out of a “Simpsons” episode. Dear Abby did run the letter. … I think like the person who would write the fake letter.”

    About email: “I get a very high volume — 200-300 emails a day. That’s been really steady since I started. … The most time-consuming aspect is going through and finding good questions. The questions are what make the column sing. I love the way people write, I love the way they tell their stories. I try not to change how people express themselves. Half of it is people telling their stories their ways. If you think about it, where else in the newspaper do people get to do that? Going through email, you can go through very quickly. Half the time is responding to previous questions. I would say a fair portion has “you suck” in the subject line. And then there are the requests for advice. I answer a lot privately.”

    About her life popping up on the big screen: “The specter of movies, it’s a real huge thing, and as someone who loves movies I would love nothing more than for my little book to be a movie. Actually, I’d love it to be a TV show, an ongoing trials-and-tribs thing. A friend wrote a super-successful novel and it was made into a movie. She gave me the best advice. She told me, “Amy, it’s a total crapshoot.” If you’re offered the opportunity to write the screenplay — which she had been offered — she said you have to think about do you want to live with this one story for several years? I’m hoping for an option and then I would happily turn it over and see what happens. I’d be completely happy to turn it over to a screenwriter.”

    About casting her life story: “It’s all I do. Every night. I don’t care who you are, every single person on the planet has to spend some time casting. What’s fun is asking other people who they’d pick. I used to feel like Holly Hunter needed to play me, but she got super-edgy and I didn’t. I have been told, and I’m very flattered by this, that Diane Lane would be a good fit. Bruno would be played by Ed Harris, without doubt.”

  • In the past two editions of the ever-growing Tucson Festival of Books, TUSD’s now defunct Mexican-American Studies program has occupied a sliver of space in the sprawling two-day event at the University of Arizona.

    In 2012, the popular author Luis Alberto Urrea, whose books deal with immigration and Chicano history, gave a blistering speech at the festival’s kickoff dinner attended by many of the authors and sponsors of the event. Urrea, who returns to next weekend’s festival, took issue with Tucson Unified School District’s decision to withdraw books, including his, on Chicano history and literature from classrooms after Mexican-American Studies was squashed by state officials.

    And last year, author and publisher Santino Joaquin Rivera, who was invited to the festival and who returns this year, presented an anthology of poetry, prose and illustrations to protest the political assault on Mexican-American Studies.

    This year will be no different at the festival. This time, however, the subject of Mexican-American Studies will be presented Saturday by two of the curriculum’s key architects.

    Julio Cammarota, an associate professor of Mexican-American Studies at the UA, and Augustine Romero, TUSD’s director of multicultural curriculum, will discuss their new book, “Raza Studies: The Public Option for Educational Revolution,” a solid defense of Mexican-American Studies and a critical response to critics and bashers.

    In their just-released book, published by University of Arizona Press, the two academic colleagues and educational activists put forth cogent arguments to buttress their long-held position. They say TUSD’s Mexican-American Studies was an exceptionally successful educational program for Latino students, who scored high in achievement tests, acquired strong thinking skills and positively changed their trajectory. In addition, the book takes critical aim at the program’s critics, mainly ideologically driven politicians in the state Legislature and government, who made it their mission to undo the program.

    “The book gives the opportunity to get the truth out there ... for anyone willing to be educated,” said Romero, who currently oversees the district’s culturally relevant courses, the successor to Mexican-American Studies.

    Cammarota said the book’s main point is that education can be more than students learning reading and writing skills. What their curriculum showed was that students can learn strong communication skills to challenge injustices in their lives and communities, and to make positive changes. Students in Mexican-American Studies became engaged in education, made their community better and became better students, he added.

    “This was a successful formula,” said Cammarota, who has been at the UA for 12 years.

    The book includes 10 essays written by Romero, Cammarota and other academicians in education and Mexican-American Studies, including Andrea Romero, Anna Ochoa O’Leary, Mary Carol Combs and Nolan Cabrera from the UA. The contributors approach Mexican-American Studies from various pedagogical, political and historical viewpoints.

    The book is critical to understanding how the voluntary Mexican-American Studies was developed and implemented in several TUSD high schools with high Chicano enrollment and a long history of underperformance. The authors also detail how the high-achieving program was dragged down by the political agenda and vote-grabbing rhetoric of Republicans Attorney General Tom Horne and John Huppenthal, superintendent of public instruction.

    “The evidence is clear in what we were trying to do,” said Augustine Romero. “We were developing a sense of identity, purpose and hope.”

    Cammarota and Romero will be at the Nuestras Raíces Presentation Stage on the UA Mall March 15 at 10 a.m. with moderator Mari Herreras of the Tucson Weekly.

  • Welcome to the Tucson Festival of Books. If you have attended before, you know what a wealth of discovery is in store for you, your families and friends to enjoy. If this is your first year at the festival, be sure to attend one of the scheduled events. From performances to workshops to readings by authors from the UA and throughout the United States and northern Mexico, you are certain to find something that will inspire you.

    The festival has rapidly become one of the nation’s largest and most vibrant. Each year, it provides the opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary and diverse heritage of the Old Pueblo and the creativity of our community.

    The University of Arizona is proud to be a founding partner and sponsor of the festival. The festival brings together the love of learning, discovery and reading, all of which are central to the UA’s educational mission on behalf of the people of Arizona, and we are fortunate to have this wonderful event on our campus.

    Thank you for your support of our local community. Enjoy the festival.

  • In hindsight, Daniel Jones says he knew little about love when he started editing the personal-essay column called Modern Love that runs in the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times.

    “Now, nine years later, I apparently know enough about love to fill a book,” he writes in his introduction to “Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 Strangers.)”

    On Saturday, Jones will talk about his book and offer his own witty, wise and one-of-a-kind observations on relationships, dating, marriage and love. He will share the stage with his wife, Cathi Hanauer; the couple met while both attended the University of Arizona.

    Jones is part of a literary lineup of authors who will speak about love — love of language, love of history, love of biography, love of word puzzles — at the Star Pavilion during the sixth edition of Tucson Festival of Books next weekend.

  • Oro Valley author H. Alan Day loves wild horses so much he dedicated a significant chunk of his time and resources to live with them and sustain them.

    Day, a retired rancher who now lives in Oro Valley, took over a 35,000-acre ranch in South Dakota, which he used to create a wild mustang sanctuary.

    The 1,500 horses were previously warehoused by the Bureau of Land Management.

    Now, with the help of co-author and fellow Oro Valley resident Lynn Wiese Sneyd, he’s written the memoir “The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save Wild Mustangs” about his years on the ranch, which spanned from 1989 to 1994.

    The book, published by University of Nebraska Press, will come out Saturday.

    Day, who owned two other ranches at the time, successfully lobbied Congress to make Mustang Meadows Ranch the nation’s first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary.

    In the book, Day recalls the exhilaration and heartbreak of living on the ranch, as well as his connection to the animals. It’s not Day’s first sojourn into publishing. In 2002 he co-wrote the memoir “Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest” with his sister, retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

    We asked Day, 74, about “The Horse Lover.”

    Q: What do you think about your time with the horses?

    A: It was, by far, the most exciting and rewarding time in my professional career. Ranching and bonding with the horses. Coming up with ideas for the sanctuary and making it happen. Forming a bond with the horses and making my dream come true.

    Q: What do you want people to get out of your book?

    A: I would like people to first have a sense of enjoyment. I want the book to bring forth entertainment and elation. I want readers to get the feeling of what it would be like to be out with horses out there, dealing with them. I want to transport the reader to that place.

    Q: How did you come to write the book with Lynn?

    A: I had started the book years ago and wasn’t getting much traction. I knew Lynn. She had helped with promotion of my other book. I knew how talented she was. I knew I had a good story, but was just not telling it well enough. I asked her if she could help, and she agreed. She went through the book, paragraph by paragraph, discussing what I was trying to say with it, where we were going with it and how it tied together with the rest of the book. We found out we could work together really, really well. It was a good partnership. The end product was far better than what I could have done alone.

    Q: Why did you get out of the ranching industry?

    A: I reached a place where I didn’t have any heirs coming along. I have two daughters and a son, and they were not interested in ranching or keeping the heritage alive. I’ve seen too many old ranchers with children who became doctors and lawyers — not interested in ranching — and the old rancher kind of feels trapped.

    Q: Are you working on any other projects?

    A: My next book is outlined, but I’ve decided not to start the writing until I kind of reach a plateau with this book. This book appears to have quite a life.

    Q: What excites you about the book’s prospects?

    A: One major reviewer I can’t name because the review hasn’t published wrote, “this is an instant classic.” I am flabbergasted by the warmth and the good feeling of that review ahead of publishing. The publisher tells me this will be the best-seller it has ever published.

  • With Rick Tramonto’s help, you can make a hanger steak taste like filet mignon. In his new book, “Steak With Friends: At Home, With Rick Tramonto,” the chef grills up familiar specialties gourmet-style, illuminating the simple yet particular ways to cook each cut.

    The Rochester, N.Y., native, who will speak at the Tucson Festival of Books Culinary Tent on March 16, uses his blue-collar Italian background to inform a collection of soulful recipes.

    Although Tramonto has studied with the best and opened successful restaurants in London and Chicago, he came from humble beginnings. When he was young, a family crisis led Tramonto to drop out of high school and help support the family with a job at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant.

    In “Steak With Friends,” Tramonto shows us he’s a true family man. The book is filled with pictures of him entertaining at his home outside Chicago, where he grills year-round. The title itself actually has a double-meaning: It’s about sitting around the table with those you love, but also the “friends” that accompany a great steak dinner as appetizers or side dishes.

    Tramonto shows us how to make the perfect béarnaise sauce and iceberg wedge salad, as well as a pumpkin soup topped with seared foie gras and truffle oil.

    If you’ve always yearned to be a god or goddess of the grill but feel intimidated by your supermarket meat aisle, this is the book for you. With its unique take on backyard barbecues, “Steak With Friends” turns a hamburger night into a celebration.

  • Recently, a friend posted a link to a list of Chicano literature must-reads on her Facebook page. The list had been created by award-winning author and book critic Rigoberto González. I couldn’t contain myself! I just had to respond to her post: “Did you know that Rigoberto, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Tim Z. Hernandez, and Sarah Cortez will be part of the Tucson Festival of Books this year? Not to mention that Reyna Grande formed part of our programming last year?”

    I felt positively giddy. And with good reason: This year, the Pima County Public Library’s Nuestras Raíces program at the festival promises to be fantastic!

    Participating in the festival for the last six years, the library’s Nuestras Raíces Committee has set out to provide the community with a taste of the rich and complex world of literature by Mexican-American/Latino authors. This year’s lineup is no exception. It is dynamic, diverse, colorful and, like a delicious capirotada, every author brings his or her own signature ingredient to the festival.

    There is definitely a little bit of something for everyone at the festival. As you may have guessed, I think with my stomach. So I’m particularly excited about Recetas con historias, a presentation in Spanish moderated by Daniel Contreras, Tucson’s very own El Guero Canelo. We will hear renowned Mexican chefs talk about food, family and tradition. There will also be food for the mind provided by Julio Cammarota and Augustine Romero, who helped create the Mexican American Studies program for the Tucson Unified School District.

    Finally, I recommend catching the fabulous Nuestras Raíces Youth Mariachi Showcase, where local Tucson youth Mariachi bands show off their amazing musical talents.

    ¡Están invitados! Please come celebrate the exciting array of Latino literature and culture at the 2014 Tucson Festival of Books.

  • The Tucson Festival of Books has the community reading and is an economic bonanza, paying off with cash in coffers, exposure for businesses and improving Tucson’s image.

    Festival organizers project that at this year’s March 15-16 event about 120,000 participants — that’s about twice the number it takes to fill Arizona Stadium — will pile into the University of Arizona Mall and adjacent buildings. Now in its sixth year with about 300 exhibitors and 450 authors participating in literary activities, the festival had a meteoric rise and now is among the largest book festivals in the nation.

    The festival is pumping an estimated $4 million into Tucson’s economy annually, said Bill Viner, a festival founder, based on a 2013 study by graduate students in the UA Eller College of Management.

    The festival’s impact on Tucson’s economy is as big as or bigger than similar events, said Sam Flaim, who is with the economic consulting firm Compass/Lexecon in Tucson and is the former chief economist for the state of New Mexico.

    The festival’s economic churning has local businesses and charities seeing both qualitative and quantitative results.

    The volunteer-driven Festival of Books, developed to promote literacy, is a free-to-attend event that’s funded by corporate sponsorships, foundation grants, Friend of the Festival donations and exhibitor booth sales. It has donated about $900,000 in its first five years to local literacy efforts, said Viner. The Star is a major sponsor of the book festival.


    Likewise, the book fest gives local businesses a boost.

    Even though March was already one of the busiest months for Main Gate Square, “since the inception of the book festival, total sales have risen approximately 5 percent per year in March,” said Jane McCollum, general manager of the Marshall Foundation and the shopping and dining area immediately west of the UA.

    “We certainly notice increased foot traffic over the weekend and breakfasts are more brisk due to the festival’s early start,” she said. And some merchants are directly involved with the festival, such as Gentle Ben’s Brewing Company, which hosts an authors dinner the Saturday night of the festival.

    The long line snaking out from the Frost, A Gelato Shoppe, booth in the festival’s food court tells the tale of the till. Jeff Kaiserman, who owns Frost with Steve Ochoa, said the company, one of the original festival vendors, became involved with the festival for the exposure, to let people know Frost has a catering cart.

    The added value of the festival is that customers from all over Tucson — people who didn’t know Frost existed — have come to the stores, Kaiserman said. Frost has added a second cart serving a festival exclusive — bars that are not available in Frost’s stores.

    “Audience reach” is among the benefits for food vendors at the festival, said Shelby Collier, who owns Beyond Bread with his wife, Randie. The couple served on the festival’s steering committee for the first five years.

    Mobilizing Beyond Bread for the festival is a lot of work — preparing food at the stores before the event so it can be served quickly at the festival, transporting the food and equipment, and staffing, Collier said. Combined with an attempt to keep prices reasonable, the festival isn’t a cash cow for Beyond Bread.

    Collier said he sees the exposure to the sheer number of people, as well as the related advertising, public relations, goodwill and the marketing partnership with the event, as invaluable.

    It is difficult to determine the return on investment of book festival participation, said Tricia Clapp, who has owned Mostly Books with her sister, Bobbe Arnett, since September 1988.

    “We have increased the size of our booth at the festival since it started, and it is expensive,” said Clapp. “Plus, we order a ton of books and have to pay for shipping back if they don’t sell.

    “Still, it is worth it for the chance to meet authors, get new customers and meet book people in general,” she said. “It is a massive marketing opportunity for us as it puts our name in front of thousands of people. After 25 years, there are still so many people that don’t know we exist, and this has helped.”

    The festival gives Mostly Books staff the chance to talk with publicity people from publishing companies and bring in more out-of-town authors at the festival and in the store. The store sells signed books after the festival to its regular customers, Clapp said.


    The recurring benefit of exposure also extends to the region and the state.

    Events like the book festival and related television coverage bring positive attention to a state that often struggles with its national reputation and has lost conventions and meetings due to legislative actions, said Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of Visit Tucson, formerly the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    The book festival is one of the events that improves the perception of sophistication of the Tucson area, especially among those who may have an outdated or unrealistic view of the region, said Laura Shaw, senior vice president for marketing and communications for the area’s industrial recruiter, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc.

    “Large events with national and international media coverage, such as the Festival of Books and Match Play, present a ‘place branding’ opportunity that we as a community could never afford to achieve with paid advertising budgets,” said Shaw.

    “It means Tucson gets positive exposure to millions of viewers over a concentrated time period — that kind of earned media reach is just not available to many communities of Tucson’s size,” Shaw said.

    Last month’s World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship had 405 registered media members in attendance, representing 192 outlets and 10 countries, said Judy McDermott of the Tucson Conquistadores, the local volunteer group that works with and sells the tournament. She estimated that 733 million households outside of the United States receive the broadcast of the tournament.

    CNN will be taping book festival events in the Gallagher Theater.

    “In addition to broadcast exposure, many authors and out-of-town attendees experience a very professional, world-class event that they typically see in much larger communities such as Los Angeles and New York City,” said Shaw. “They leave with a very good impression to return — for business or pleasure.”


    The Tucson Festival of Books is a strong asset for Tucson and Southern Arizona, said DeRaad. “It’s one of those unique events that has the capacity to really grow” and generate more economic impact.

    The metrics show that the best way to grow tourism is events that get regional and national attention, DeRaad said.

    Tourism-related income is considered true wealth creation to economic developers because visitors spend and leave their money here but have little impact on infrastructure or effect on permanent residents and businesses. An estimated 70 percent of what a Tucson visitor spends goes to local, sales-tax-generating businesses like restaurants and shops.

    The golf tournament accounts for a minimum of 2,900 room nights for media, sponsors and TV production crews, said McDermott. Those room nights mean cha-ching for the tourism industry as a whole.

    DeRaad said he would like to see the book festival’s marketing expanded to entice visitors from Phoenix and the region to spend a few days and their money in Tucson.

  • It’s hard to miss the persimmon — sliced in half and lying on a table — that graces the cover of Suzanne Goin’s “The A.O.C. Cookbook.” A sort of cross between a tomato and a peach, the fruit symbolizes the freshness and simplicity of California cuisine.

    But this book contains something much more complicated and eccentric than your typical Alice Waters spinoff. A.O.C., also the name of one of Goin’s successful Los Angeles restaurants, is a reference to the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée standard that assures products are made in a traditional way. (Why Champagne can come only from the region of Champagne.)

    Goin, who will be speaking at the Tucson Festival of Books’ Culinary Tent on March 15, is enamored with the history and the essence of artisanal products. She dedicates more than 50 pages to a glossary of cheeses.

    The recipes themselves are ingredient-centered, with Spanish and North African influences mixing with the French countryside. Look for an heirloom tomato salad with marinated balls of labneh yogurt and a green harissa sauce spiked with cumin and caraway.

    This book is not for the casual home cook. The comprehensive recipes — you know, the ones that have you spending a half-hour putting together the black-olive aioli that goes on the side — often contain more than two dozen ingredients and a grandiose preface of personal stories. (Love the one about Aunt Gladys’ kumquats.)

    Not to mention restaurant partner Caroline Styne’s intricate wine notes.

    Example: The best pairing for a “frozen meyer lemon meringue tart with gingersnap crust and blueberry compote” is a Coteaux du Layon from the Loire Valley of France.

    What you’re left with after all this is an incredibly vivid, sometimes idiosyncratic, portrait of a woman and a restaurant.

    Even when Goin geeks out about capers, you’re hooked on her enthusiasm. Like the persimmon, “The A.O.C. Cookbook” reveals a lush ensemble of complex flavors under its basic exterior.

  • When James W. Johnson met the lover of the late artist Ted DeGrazia in a parking lot, he knew little about the man or his art.

    Johnson first visited the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun four years ago for a concert by Spanish guitarist Domingo DeGrazia. By accident, he, along with his wife, Marilyn D. Johnson, arrived two hours early. It was enough time for DeGrazia’s reputation to capture the Johnsons’ attention and inspire the book “De Grazia: The Man and the Myths.”

    “We were roaming around out in the parking area, and this woman came up to us with this straight, long, gray hair wearing what looked like a house dress, a turquoise men’s suit jacket and Nikes,” Marilyn said. “She started telling us all these stories about DeGrazia that were just charming, how he could take anything and turn it into art.”

    That woman was Carol Locust, the mother of Domingo DeGrazia and Ted DeGrazia’s lover for the last decade of his life. She swept them into the gallery, pointing out her beloved’s handiwork. Her anecdotes about the eccentric artist fascinated the Johnsons.

    Curiosity honed by a career in journalism, James Johnson, 76, wanted to know more. As he paged through the two coffee-table books at the gallery gift shop, he found the beautiful images of DeGrazia’s work eclipsed stories of the man behind the art.

    No stranger to tracking down facts to weave a story, James decided to tackle a biography himself. In the fall of 2012, after more than two years of work, this longtime newspaperman finished the manuscript on DeGrazia, his seventh book.

    Marilyn and James, a University of Arizona journalism graduate and former professor at the school, will discuss DeGrazia’s legacy on March 16 at the Tucson Festival of Books. The book, published by the University of Arizona Press, comes out on Thursday.

    Before teaching at the UA, James Johnson spent 18 years at the Oakland Tribune in the San Francisco Bay Area. Later, during the teaching years, the couple spent summers at newspapers across the country, where he (and occasionally Marilyn) worked as a copy editor. In Tucson, he has worked part time as a copy editor for the Arizona Daily Star for 17 years.

    In piecing together the story of DeGrazia — a man known for telling tall tales to reporters — Johnson relied heavily on his background in journalism, sifting through court records for divorce papers and thumbing through old city directories for addresses.

    “I know where to go, I know what to do and I know what questions to ask,” he said. “That helped me. You’re telling a story. What’s the story? The story was, ‘This guy is a character.’ ”

    Johnson calls DeGrazia a “Renaissance man” and notes in his book the tangible artistic legacy left behind: more than 20,000 paintings, ceramics and sculptures, more than 20 books, a dozen films and the design and construction of sites such as the Gallery in the Sun and the Mission in the Sun.

    Never an artist to receive much critical acclaim, DeGrazia crafted an identity that appealed to his fans, many of them tourists. His paintings depicting Southwestern culture and Native Americans were mass-produced and often labeled “kitsch,” inspiring DeGrazia’s fixation with the future preservation of his work.

    “I think the thing about DeGrazia is the layers in his personality,” Marilyn Johnson said. “He was driven to be a successful artist. ... People were just catching on that the way to become well-known was to be outrageous, and I think that’s what he was trying to do. I think also because he was an artist, he was trying to find his authentic painting style.”

    The levels of DeGrazia’s identity, built on quirky mannerisms and far-fetched stories, made capturing the essence of the man nearly impossible. He embellished his drinking habits and how many wives and children he had, among other exaggerations about his personal life.

    “I think most biographers walk away wondering if they really got in to know the man,” James Johnson said. “How do you ever know a person that closely? Who knows that person really well? His two wives and his lover, and they weren’t very forthcoming.”

    Even in interviewing people who knew and remember DeGrazia, Johnson encountered an unwillingness to disclose details. In other books on his art and in his dealings with the press, DeGrazia controlled the information, sharing both truth and lies.

    “To write a book about DeGrazia while DeGrazia was alive would have been impossible,” Marilyn said.

    “He wouldn’t help,” James added.

    Still, the amount of sources available for research forced Johnson to make decisions on what information to explore and what to skip. At the Gallery in the Sun, the DeGrazia Foundation made available to the Johnsons about 50 oral interviews, newspaper clippings, old Arizona Highways magazines and DeGrazia’s private papers, including mundane documents such as bank statements. He also did research in public records, at the Arizona Historical Society and in the archives of the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen.

    “When you’ve been around as long as I have, you can almost sense what is a line and what is truth,” he said. DeGrazia "said he used that to protect his own privacy, so people didn’t pry into who he really was. He just threw a lot of junk out there, and they don’t know if he was real.”

    It was this intrigue that first engaged the Johnsons when they met Carol Locust. She told them about a man who could make art out of copper pieces from toilet tanks and showed them flooring where DeGrazia had added slices of cholla cactus to stretch the concrete across more area.

    “I found this whole thing just intriguing and fun, because not only was he interesting, but we RV so sometimes we travel and we’ll run into people who knew him,” Marilyn said.

    This is their retirement. James Johnson did not spend long, disciplined hours on the book, but the subject matter still crept into table conversation and accompanied him on his morning bike rides — an hour ideal for marshaling the facts.

    Although Marilyn edited her husband’s three books on coaches and teams in football, basketball and baseball, this biography on DeGrazia fascinated her as other projects did not. When the time for editing came, she knew DeGrazia well.

    “I tend to write too much like a journalist,” James said. “Marilyn has taken creative writing, and so she can put that kind of style into my writing.”

    They decided early in the process to leave any assessment of DeGrazia’s art to the critics — this would be a biography on the man. His legacy, they found, came more from his following outside of Arizona and the accessibility of his work than any elite reputation.

    “He’s an important stop in this town,” James Johnson said of the work on display at the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. “You pick up all the tourism books and what to do in Tucson, and DeGrazia is always there. You can’t miss him. He helped bring people to Arizona.”

  • Tens of thousands of literature lovers will descend on the University of Arizona Mall March 15 and 16 for the sixth annual Tucson Festival of Books, a smorgasbord of author talks, performing arts and family activities.

    Of the festival’s hundreds of events, the Culinary Tent is one of the most popular, featuring local and nationally known cookbook authors dishing about their books and doing cooking demos, with local chefs and culinary specialists acting as assistant chefs.

    If you go to one of the 10 presentations planned at the Culinary Tent, arrive early to get a seat.

    Here’s the schedule, which is subject to change:

    Saturday, March 15

    Masters of ceremonies: Lupita Murillo, KVOA NBC and Barbara Fairchild, journalist, consultant and former editor-in-chief, Bon Appétit Magazine

    10-11:30 a.m. — Hugo Ortega, author of “Street Food of Mexico,” with Maria Mazon, owner/chef of Boca Tacos y Tequila, and moderator Celestino Fernandez, University of Arizona Distinguished Outreach Fellow.

    11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. — Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, author of “La Cocina Mexicana: Many Cultures, One Cuisine,” with executive chef Alan Eduardo Mota Tafoya from Azul/Condesa and Azul y Oro in Mexico City and Mario Diaz de Sandy Jr., culinary specialist, Pima Community College; and moderator Felipe Garcia, executive vice president of Visit Tucson.

    1-2:30 p.m. — Sandy D’Amato, author of “Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer,” with Janos Wilder, owner/chef, Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails.

    2:30-4 p.m. — Jeff Michaud, author of “Eating Italy,” with Massimo Tenino, owner/chef of Tavolino Ristorante Italiano and moderator Barbara Fairchild.

    4-5:30 p.m. — Suzanne Goin, author of “the a.o.c. cookbook,” with Virginia “Ginny” Wooters, executive chef of The Abbey, Gio Taco and Poppy; with moderator Donna Nordin, retired owner/chef of Café Terra Cotta and culinary chef of Donna Nordin Cooks.

    Sunday, March 16, 2014

    Masters of ceremonies: Bobby Rich, 94.9MIXfm, director of community partnerships, Tucson Journal Broadcast Group; and David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star cartoonist and columnist.

    10-11:30 a.m. — Ryan Clark, author of “Modern Southwest,” with Justin Morrow, Canyon Ranch executive chef, and moderator Manish Shah, manager of St Phillip’s Farmers Market.

    11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. — Rick Tramonto, author of “Steak With Friends” and “Scars of a Chef,” with Antonio Rodriguez, executive chef of Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa, and moderator Barbara Fairchild.

    1-2:30 p.m. — Liz Neumark, author of “Sylvia’s Table: Seasonal Recipes From Our Farm to Your Family,” with Kevin Fink, director of operations at Zona 78 and moderator Manish Shah.

    2:30-4 p.m. — Jeff Michaud, author of “Eating Italy,” with Massimo Tenino and moderator Vicki Gilbert, owner of Pizzeria Mimosa in Hereford.

    4-5 p.m. — Andrew Weil, co-author of “True Food,” with True Food Kitchen Executive Chef Michael Stebner and moderator Michael Luria, executive director of the Children’s Museum Tucson and overseer of the Children’s Vegetable Garden.

  • Several years ago, acclaimed Houston chef Hugo Ortega — originally from the slums of Mexico City — traveled 4,000 miles across Mexico with his father and his brother Ruben.

    Their collection of tastes, personalities and stunning photographs conjure a vibrant portrait of a national cuisine.

    Part cookbook and part travelogue, “Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico” is full of exotic yet familiar recipes: a citrusy ceviche with fresh blue crab and a sour prickly pear called xoconostle; a chunky auburn salsa of peanut and pumpkin seeds from the state of Michoacán; tortillas the color of wine.

    Ortega, who will speak at the Tucson Festival of Books Culinary Tent March 15, came to the United States at 17 and worked his way from dishwasher to executive chef of Backstreet Cafe in Houston.

    Many of the recipes in his book draw from Ortega’s time living on a family farm in Puebla, Mexico, a colonial city southeast of the capital. A highlight is the cilantro-spiked crawfish and cactus-paddle salad Ortega would eat from a plastic bag as he walked through the market with his mother as a child.

    A large section of the book also is dedicated to the colorful ceviches of Baja California and the southern port city of Veracruz. Many recipes from Mexico City, such as the tacos and fried masa cakes, called antojitos, can be a little labor intensive, requiring you to shape the dough and prepare the frijoles a day in advance. The heavily detailed process is a testament to the traditions and work ethic of Mexican street vendors: the tireless nation of workers who form the backbone of Mexican cuisine.

    Ortega will speak at 10 a.m. March 15 (see “About This Series”).

  • As a librarian for Pima County Public Library, the part of my job I enjoy most is readers advisory – talking books with patrons, finding out their interests and suggesting other books they might enjoy.

    That’s why I’ve found it so exciting and fulfilling to chair the Tucson Festival of Books Author Committee for the past five years. I’ve come to know a lot about what people like to read, so it doesn’t surprise me that mystery panels are plentiful at the festival. This year there are 36 of them, not including nonfiction “true crime” panels. Tucson readers love mysteries almost as much as they love the Tucson Festival of Books.

    This year I co-chair the Mystery Author Committee with Christine Burke, owner of Clues Unlimited, Tucson’s mystery bookstore.

    It takes an enormous amount of work to organize and stage a major book event like this, but the payoff comes in seeing how people have embraced the festival, and how they look forward to it avidly every year. I feel it demonstrates that Tucson is a town that cares about books and reading, and that’s the best kind of reputation to have; that’s the face that you want the world to see. The festival is a gift to literacy in Tucson, and as a librarian I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

  • He grabbed Tucson by the horns with his oxtail sugo. Now everybody’s talking about Ryan Clark, the three-time winner of Iron Chef Tucson and rising culinary star.

    As the executive chef at Agustín Kitchen inside the Mercado San Agustin, Clark, 29, brings the flavors of Southwestern cuisine onto the world stage. His recent book, “Modern Southwest Cooking,” meshes French and international technique with local ingredients to create innovative hybrids such as Bacon + Truffle + Mole Popcorn and hush puppies made with rattlesnake meat.

    We sat down for a chat with the Tucson native, whose restaurant is at 100 S. Avenida del Convento.

    Q: What do you find most exciting about Sonoran cuisine and where we live?

    A: The vegetables that we have here. When you think about Southwestern cuisine, you think about chiles, dried corn, things like that, mesquite. You don’t think about the fact that we grow great lettuces here, we grow great herbs, amazing tomatoes, squash, everything that’s in season … to be able to see purple spinach come out of the ground. Different types of asparagus, heirloom squash. I think that’s pretty exciting.

    Q: What’s one go-to spice that you always have in your cabinet?

    A: I love annatto. It gives great color to sausages and spice blends. If you think of Spanish-style chorizo, it gives that crazy bright red oil color to the pan … you can get it at Native Seeds/SEARCH, or there’s a couple spice stores in town that have it. It’s slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg in it. I think that’s a really cool spice.

    Q: Do you think Southwestern cuisine can be a little bit more spicy than other cuisines in the gourmet food world?

    A: The thing is, you have to think about the region that people live in. In India, the food’s very spicy; in Jamaica, the food’s very spicy; in the Southwest and Louisiana and the Southeast, the food’s very spicy. It was created that way to cool people off. When your body becomes really hot when you eat spicy foods, you sweat and it cools your body down. But it’s really about balancing the flavors too. You want to balance that spicy with the sweet, a little bit of salty in there. Be able to round it out, that’s what makes it taste good.

    Q: I’m on a hunt to try the chiltepín pepper …

    A: “I have a chiltepín bush in my house. It’s probably my favorite bush to have around the house because when they come into season and they’re ripe and you dry ‘em out, you can use them in anything, just a little bit. It adds this amazing heat and has great flavor. You just crush them up and put them right in.”

    Q: In your book, there are some advanced techniques, like sous vide and using a handheld smoker.

    A: The tools that we use help create perfection. You can still make really great food without it but (with the right technique) you’re trapping all that flavor and you’re making a really moist, tender piece of meat or vegetable. It’s a cool way to cook. I use tea (in the smoker) to create a black tea or green tea smoke. You just put it in dry, you light (the smoker) and it has a little fan that pulls air through it, and it pulls the smoke right through it.

    Q: Did you learn that technique from culinary school?

    A: I learned that a little bit later … as a chef I come into work every day wanting to become better. When I go home every night, I’m reading books, I’m watching videos online, watching television shows, just to keep learning and progress. That’s kind of how I got into modern cooking: watching that stuff and becoming better each and every day.

  • Maybe it’s just because I’m a giant book nerd and a librarian, and maybe I say this every year, but I’m really looking forward to the Tucson Festival of Books.

    I’ve had the privilege to serve on the author committee for five years, and I’d like to share a sneak peek of what’s in store for this year’s science fiction and fantasy programming track.

    Flying in from out of state are science-fiction legends Ben Bova and Kim Stanley Robinson; multiple Hugo award winner Elizabeth Bear; and Brandon Sanderson, who has been contracted to finish the “Wheel of Time” series. There’s also Jonathan Maberry, bestselling author of the Joe Ledger novels; and Isaac Marion, whose book “Warm Bodies” was made into a movie last year.

    In deference to all the hardcore fans out there, I’ve tried to schedule as many of the science fiction, fantasy and horror programs as possible in the University of Arizona’s Integrated Learning Center . It’s a nice, newer building, wheelchair-accessible, and you won’t have to run across the UA Mall from one author to another too much, I hope.

    The best tips I can give you to get the most out of the science fiction and fantasy programming are to arrive early so you can find parking and to try a book by a new author. You’ll have an opportunity at the festival to meet a lot of authors you don’t know, along with the ones you came specifically to see. We all know the names of the bestsellers, but we have some really fantastic authors living right here in Arizona, too.

  • Richard Russo writes everyman stories.

    Gloversville in upstate New York, where he grew up, is the inspiration for his working-class communities left blighted after the major industry or economic driver has fled or dried up. Russo weaves with humor and heart the stories of the hardscrabble lives of the interesting, albeit flawed, characters that populate his small towns.

    The multilayered, richly detailed tale of one such town, “Empire Falls,” won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

    Russo will add another award to his trophy case when he receives the Tucson Festival of Books Founders Award, which recognizes the lifetime achievement of an outstanding festival participant, at the March 14 Author’s Table dinner. He will also participate in three presentations during the March 15-16 event that is expected to attract an estimated 120,000 participants to the University of Arizona campus.

    He probably won’t need directions to the UA Modern Languages Building for his session on the impact of Charles Dickens. Russo spent almost 15 years at UA, earning a bachelor’s in English and then a Ph.D. in American literature in 1980 and a master’s of fine arts in creative writing in 1981. He splits his time now between homes in coastal Maine and Boston.

    After leaving the UA, he taught fiction at the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and creative writing at Colby College in Waterville, Md. Russo wrote his first book, “Mohawk,” while teaching, and gave up the classroom for full-time writing after “Straight Man,” a novel about academic politics in the English department of a small college in rural Pennsylvania. (Bet you can figure out his inspiration.)

    “Nobody’s Fool” was made into a film starring Paul Newman, who received an Oscar nomination for his role as ne’er-do-well “Sully” Sullivan.

    Russo deviated from his novelist path a few years ago and ventured into nonfiction, writing a memoir, “Elsewhere,” about life with his parents in upstate New York and the relationship with his mother.

    Several critics said Russo paid tribute to the ink-and-paper book in the digital age with “Interventions: A Novella & Three Stories,” illustrated by his daughter, Kate. The four individually bound volumes are in a slipcase and not available in electronic format.

    Then he turned around and gave techies a tidbit. You won’t find his latest, “Nate in Venice,” in bookstores. You can read it only on an e-reader.

    Russo is now traveling another literary road he hasn’t taken before, writing a new book called “Everybody’s Fool,” that is a sequel to “Nobody’s Fool.”

    “First time I’ve done that,” he says. “Too soon to tell if it’s a good idea or, well, foolish.”

    Russo broke away from writing “Everybody’s Fool,” to respond to our questions by email.

    What are your feelings about receiving the Founders Award?

    “Well, of course, (former Founders Award recipients) Elmore Leonard and Larry McMurtry are particular heroes of mine. I had the chance to meet both in Tucson a couple of years ago at my first festival.

    “Sometimes people tell me they’re nervous meeting me, a famous author, and I always try to reassure them by saying there’s no need to be. But meeting the author of ‘Lonesome Dove’ and ‘Horseman, Pass By,’ I was barely able to speak, to tell him who I was and how many hours (weeks? months?) of pleasure his books have given me, after which I bolted before I suffered a nervous breakdown.

    “So the Founders Award puts me in excellent company, for which I’m very grateful. And to receive a literary award in Tucson is especially gratifying. I learned to be a writer there, and it remains a special place for that reason.”

    How (or has) winning the Pulitzer Prize changed things for you? Do you feel “Empire Falls” was/is your greatest literary achievement?

    “More than anything, winning the Pulitzer has made me want to be worthy of it. The year ‘Empire Falls’ won the prize it could have gone to a couple dozen other novels that were every bit as worthy, which means you have to be lucky.

    “Is it my ‘finest literary achievement?’ I don’t know. Writers are notoriously bad at judging their own work. My affection for the book has more to do with the people in it. I wrote it when my daughters were young and I was coming to understand that there were things going on in their lives that they’d never tell me about, just as I never let on to my parents when I was troubled. The world can be cruel, and it might be cruel to them, and there’d be no way for me to protect them, as Miles learned when he tries to protect his beloved daughter Tick.

    “I like all those people a lot, and it was a fine four years I spent listening to them tell me all about themselves. They broke my heart and made me laugh. That’s the achievement, I think.”

    Is there a panel in which you are most interested in participating?

    “The panels all look interesting, but I’m very excited to be in conversation with Luis Alberto Urrea, who’s become a good friend and who I admire both as a writer and as a human being. Actually, as a favor to the audience, I think I’ll just let him do the talking.”

    Tell us about your views on hard copy vs. electronic books. How you made the decision to make a book print-only or only electronic. Also, your views on bookstores and their future.

    “Actually, ‘Interventions’ was sold online. There was just no electronic version. The reason was that my daughter and I thought of it as an art book, a beautiful object that simply didn’t translate into ones and zeroes.

    “I don’t have anything against e-books. I have a reader and use it a lot, especially when I travel. And I had a very good experience publishing ‘Nate in Venice’ at Byliner, a digital magazine. Its novella length would’ve made it a tough sell at the magazines. I’ll probably use it to anchor a collection of short fiction, sometime, so it will probably have a second life on the printed page.

    “I’m cautiously optimistic about independent bookstores. Those that have survived everything thrown at them over the last few decades (chain stores in malls, big-box stores, and now Amazon) have come out of the experience leaner and stronger, and they’re teaching another generation of booksellers how it’s done.

    “The threat posed by Amazon is real, but it’s part of something much larger than just books. We all buy things online from time to time, and we congratulate ourselves that we saved a couple bucks. But as physical stores disappear — stores that employed our friends and neighbors and paid taxes that funded our schools and repaired our roads — the true costs of shopping online are beginning to reveal themselves.

    “I just hope Joni Mitchell’s wrong when she says, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.’”

  • The Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance is presenting two events in the coming weeks that give Tucson’s culinary scene a chance to shine.

    First up is this weekend’s inaugural Savor — Southern Arizona Food & Wine Festival. If it unfolds in real life as it’s presented on paper, expect Savor to become Tucson’s gold standard for future food events.

    The event lets you sample food, desserts, cocktails, wine and craft beer from as many as 40 chefs, breweries, vintners and food purveyors gathered at Tucson Botanical Gardens. Local First Arizona is also one of the organizers.

    With a focus on local talent, there will also be demonstrations by chefs who include Albert Hall of Acacia Real Food + Cocktails; Maria Mazon of Boca Tacos y Tequila; Angel Fabian of Vero Amore and Noble Hops; and Scott Rackliff, Gringo Grill + Cantina at La Posada Lodge.

    The festival is a bit of a culinary road trip.

    While most of the restaurants are spread throughout Tucson, the lineup does include Café Roka in Bisbee, which recently opened a wine bar.

    Liz Stern, one of SAACA’s event organizers, said she was very excited that the Southern Arizona landmark was taking part.

    Roka Chef/Owner Rod Kass said that he always tries to support Local First Arizona and was also looking forward to meeting some of the new faces in Tucson’s restaurant scene along with the winemakers who will attend the festival. “It’s exciting for us,” he said.

    Participating vineyards span the state, with Arizona Stronghold, Aridus Wine Co., Coronado Vineyards, Keeling Schaefer Vineyards, Dos Cabezas Wine Works, Grand Canyon Winery, Golden Rule Vineyards, Pillsbury Wine, Callaghan Vineyards and Sand-Reckoner Vineyards.

    The brews on tap will come from Four Peaks Brewing Co. in the Phoenix area, along with Humboldt Brewing and Historic Brewing Co. from Flagstaff, with Speakeasy Ales & Lagers from San Francisco and Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery.

    Stern said organizers would love to grow that area of the festival and bring local breweries on board in coming years.

    More than 600 guests are expected to attend, and as of Tuesday afternoon the event was close to being sold out.

    In March, as part of the Tucson Festival of Books, nine top chefs, including Tucson’s own Ryan Clark (Agustín Kitchen at Mercado San Agustín) and James Beard winner Jeff Michaud of Philadelphia’s Osteria, will showcase their prowess in the 2014 Celebrity Chef Showcase at Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa.

    The chefs — all published cookbook authors who will also appear at the book festival — will prepare signature dishes for guests to sample alongside craft cocktails, wine and beer.

    They will also sign copies of their books at the showcase; cookbooks may be available for sale.

    The notable chefs and foodies expected to participate include Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts, whose Phoenix-based restaurant empire was born in Tucson; celebrated Houston chef and restaurateur Ricardo Muñoz Zurita; and LA farm-to-table advocate and chef Suzanne Goin.

    This will be a more intimate affair, with about 300 guests expected.


    Read more about some of the featured chef authors in the Star’s Food section starting Feb. 12 and continuing each Wednesday leading up to the Tucson Festival of Books, which is March 15-16 at the University of Arizona.

  • Where in the world would you go to celebrate a 20th anniversary? An Albuquerque book group picked the sixth annual Tucson Festival of Books.

    One member tossed out the idea of the group’s venturing off to Paris (France, not Texas) to celebrate the milestone, says Judy Judkins, a member who has been to two previous Tucson book festivals.

    A trip to Paris was a bit of hyperbole to inspire the group to do something special to mark the date, explains Diane Fisher, founder of the all-woman reading group that meets monthly. The group homed in on the book festival because of Tucson’s geographic proximity and the fact that the festival was all about the group’s purpose and favorite thing — books.

    James Cooney, 92, also will be headed to Tucson from Des Moines, Iowa, for his sixth book festival and to visit his daughter Mary Cooney, a Star copy editor. He says he makes it a point to visit during the book festival.

    “I’ve never been disappointed,” he says.

    Here is a peek at some of the things that they and about 120,000 other bibliophiles, casual readers and curious can expect at the sixth annual Tucson Festival of Books, March 15-16 on the University of Arizona campus.

    Star power

    Cue the “Downton Abbey” theme song and let images of Highclere Castle, dazzling early-1920s costumes and the English countryside play in your mind.

    Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of PBS’ “Masterpiece Theatre,” which includes the wildly popular British period series, will be the keynote speaker at the Author’s Table dinner, held the evening before the two-day festival. Emmy award-winner Eaton wrote the recently released memoir “Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS.”

    Also at the dinner, the master of blue-collar, everyman realism, Richard Russo will receive the festival’s Founders Award, which recognizes the lifetime achievement of an outstanding festival participant. Russo earned his degree trifecta — bachelor’s, master’s in fine arts and doctorate — at the University of Arizona, and received the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for “Empire Falls.”

    Russo joins the heady company of previous Founders Award recipients: the late Elmore Leonard, who received the first award in 2011; Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana and R. L. Stine. Festival stalwart Leonard, who died last year, will be acknowledged during the dinner, says Bill Viner, a festival founder.

    Presenting authors are selected by festival’s Author Committee’s genre subcommittees, Viner says. The committee tries to gather a diverse group of first-time and best-selling authors in a variety of genres. Importantly, Viner says authors must be willing to share their knowledge and experience, which includes taking part in workshops.

    Eaton, for example, will participate in three sessions — a discussion on making “Downton Abbey,” the “Aftermath of the Great War” and “Making Masterpiece” — during the festival. Likewise, Russo will team up with Craig Johnson and Anne Perry for “A Little Dickens,” to talk about the impact of Charles Dickens, the father of the modern novel. Russo will also discuss memoirs and join Luis Alberto Urrea for a conversation with an audience.


    An especially strong cadre of authors will add insight and challenging perspectives on current events and news, Viner says. Some of these authors and their recent titles include:

    • Dan Balz
    • , Washington Post correspondent, “The Battle for America 2008” and “Collision 2012.”
    • William D. Cohan
    • , “The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, & the Corruption of Our Great Universities.”
    • Bill Dedman
    • , who received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.”
    • David Finkel
    • , who won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting, “The Good Soldiers” and “Thank You For Your Service.”
    • Kenneth Stern
    • , former CEO of NPR, “With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give.”
    • Michael Weinstein
    • , chief program officer of the Robin Hood Foundation, “The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving.”
    • Alan Weisman
    • , who taught journalism at UA, “The World Without Us” and “Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth.”

    In addition to authors selected by the festival’s author committees to appear in the festival’s workshops, panel discussions and presentations, many of your favorite and ready-to-be-discovered authors participate in the Authors Pavilion, a shared space where authors have a block of time to chat with readers and sell and autograph books.

    The Authors Pavilion has expanded to about 240 spots — up almost 100 slots over last year — for authors to meet the public.

    In addition, many authors will be signing books at some of the 300 or so exhibitors.


    The festival builds on its reputation as a family affair with an array of authors, storytelling and activities to keep the kiddos entertained and to inspire lifelong reading habits.

    The children’s area will host 62 authors/illustrators and three activity tents, says committee member Kathy Naylor. Some of the highlights:

    • Story Town, perfor
    • med by early-literacy resource Make Way for Books, brings children’s characters and stories to life in the Tent for Tots, one of the three children’s activity areas. The other two tents will have hands-on activities.
    • There will be a Storytelling Stage with professional storytellers and the Story Blanket, where authors and illustrators will meet with small groups.
    • Teens will interview authors in the Teen Author area.
    • Children’s illustration/writing contest awards will be presented at 10 a.m. March 15 in the children’s Entertainment Stage. Writing winners’ works will be published in an anthology and the winning illustrators pieces will be displayed in the Friends of Western Art tent.
    • Looking for the free-book tent? It has a new location: West Patio of the College of Education.

    University of Arizona BookStores will hold a breakfast with book characters March 15 and an American Girls event with Jessie Haas, the author of the Saige series, March 16.

    If you miss the events — both are limited to 300 and always sell out— the storybook characters will be at the festival children’s areas both days, says Debby Shively, UA BookStores director. Tickets are $20 for each session. Registration begins Monday at

    Haas will discuss “Chapter Books for Emerging Readers” and “Writing Groups: Challenges and Rewards” at the festival.


    The UA Confluencecenter for Creative Inquiry, which is charged with establishing cross-cultural collaborations between the university and Mexico, brings the “Voices across Border” Author Pavilion to the festival for the first time. It’s set in the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre and Studio.

    Javier Duran,  center director, says the venue will cater to the Spanish-speaking and -reading members of the community. Duran, who has a background in cultural literature, says he hopes the venue and the program will motivate young people to see literacy as a multilingual activity.

    There will be one session entirely in Spanish, he says. Other sessions will be in English or bilingual and authors have the choice to read in Spanish or English. Among the panelists and key authors:

    • Carmen Boullosa
    • , Mexican poet and novelist.
    • Norma Elia Cantú
    • , postmodernist writer and a professor of English at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
    • Briceida Cuevas Cob
    • , Maya poet.
    • Carmen Duarte
    • , Arizona Daily Star reporter and author of “Mama’s Santos.”
    • Cristina Rivera Garza
    • , a Mexican writer who has won several prestigious awards.
    • Alberto Rios
    • , Arizona’s first poet laureate.
    • Ofelia Zepeda
    • , Tohono O’odham poet and UA linguistics professor.

    The Science City universe is expanding. It is adding more space on the UA Mall east toward Campbell Avenue and accommodating more than 80 participants this year, up from just under 70 last year, says Lisa Romero, Science City spokeswoman.

    Science City also will have a more visitor-friendly layout that will include neighborhood themes like the Science of Everyday Life, the Science of Tomorrow, the Science of You, and the Science of Natural World, as well as more hands-on activities, talks, authors, and demonstrations for science lovers of all ages, Romero says.

    There will also be some festival newbies that include UA colleges and clubs that host talks and open houses to “showcase the amazing cross-section of science and technology happening right here on the UA campus,” says Romero.

    Boldly going where no man has gone before at the festival, André Bormanis, the science consultant on three “Star Trek” series, discusses “Life on Other Planets” on the Science City main stage Sunday afternoon. (Vulcan ears or Klingon forehead ridges are not required to attend.) He will also be a guest the UA Physics Department open house.

    Get updated information at the Tucson Festival of Books website and the Science City website,


    Organizing and managing this bustling swarm of activities requires planning and people. Plenty of people.

    Approximately 175 people serve on various committees that work throughout the year, says Bimi Huebner, a festival steering-committee member.

    For the two big days, about 1,500 volunteer-time slots need to be filled with people helping out with author events, assisting at information booths, acting as food-court hosts, setting up before the festival and cleaning up afterward, transporting authors, helping with the various entertainment activities.

    “Volunteers are the lifeblood of this event, says Huebner. “There would be no festival without them.”

    Sign up to volunteer on the festival’s website where there are three tabs — Main Mall, Children’s Area and Pre-Festival — to guide you to a volunteer spot.

    • Follow your nose to the
    • Culinary Tent
    • where top chefs and popular cookbook authors will be heating things up — literally. (
    • Read more about the Culinary Tent and its participants in the Star’s Food section beginning Feb. 12.
    • )
    • If all those books and activity make you hungry, there’s no need to pack a lunch — there will be about 20 food vendors with snacks, sandwiches, sweet treats, drinks and other things.

    Be a friend of the Tucson Festival of Books and you will get invitations for member-only events several times each year and you could rack up mementos and discounts from some exhibitors, sponsors and vendors. Tax-deductible donations help defray festival expenses so it can remain free and support literacy.

    For information on becoming a Friend of the Festival or to make a contribution go to the festival website and click on “Friend of the Festival.”

    An annual membership is $30 for an individual or $50 per household.

    • A festival representative can give your group or organization a free presentation about the festival. Go to the website to request a speaker.
    • Bus scholarships to help get students to the festival are available to schools and children’s organizations. Go to the website for more information and an application.
  • A recent graduate of the University of Arizona’s master of fine arts poetry program is one of three writers who captured top prizes in the 2014 Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards writing competition.

    “All of this is pretty fresh,” said Emelia Reuterfors, 27, who won the poetry competition with “Anti-Kill and Other Poems,” a selection of her work. “I’m kind of free-falling right now, and it feels pretty good,” she said. “It’s very validating to win this award.”

    Luke Tennis of Baltimore won top prize in fiction and Michelle Chikaonda of Philadelphia was the nonfiction winner.

    Each will receive a winner’s prize of $1,000 as well as invitations to take part in a Masters Workshop and in a panel discussion in the Arizona Daily Star Pavilion at the festival, which takes place March 15-16 on the UA campus.

    This was the second year the book festival sponsored a writing competition, which expanded the festival’s focus to include writing as well as reading.

    Organizers received 310 entries last year. This year’s contest attracted 552 submissions from as far as India, Australia and Scotland, in addition to nearly every state in the country and throughout Arizona.

    “Like the Book Festival itself, the writing competition has caught on in a significant way,” said Tucson Festival of Books Chairman John M. Humenik, group publisher for the company that owns the Arizona Daily Star. “The number of entries and the quality of the submissions are pretty amazing.”

    Meg Files, chairwoman of the English and journalism department at Pima Community College West Campus, coordinated the competition and said she was impressed by the entries.

    “The judges were all blown away by the quality of the submissions,” said Files, who recruited a team of eight local authors to do the preliminary judging. Final judging was done by authors Kevin Canty, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Rae Armantrout, who are also presenters at the book festival.

    The UA College of Humanities is a partner in the competition and the workshop.

    Armantrout, whose 2009 book, “Versed,” won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle award, said of Reuterfors’ work: “Spare and elegant, these poems are subtle explorations of the vexed borders between self and other, attraction and aggression.”

    Reuterfors said she looked forward to meeting Armantrout. “I’m a huge fan of hers,” she said.


    Literary Awards are given in three categories: fiction, nonfiction and poetry.  Second-place finishers receive $500, and third-place finishers take home $250. The top 50 entrants are invited to participate in the Masters Workshop.

    The top three finishers in each category:


    1. Luke Tennis, Baltimore: “Go Long”

    2. Jill Rosenberg, Montclair, N.J.: “Everything Nice”

    3. Jack Wang, Ithaca, N.Y.: “The Night of Broken Glass”


    1. Michelle Chikaonda, Philadelphia: “AIDS: A Family Topology”

    2. Melani Martinez, Tucson: “Making a Manda”

    3. Claudia Ellquist, Tucson: “When Brown Bats Fall From Safety”


    1. Emelia Reuterfors, Tucson: “Anti-Kill and Other Poems”

    2. Heidi Johannesen Poon, Charlottesville, Va.: “The Problem of the Forest and Other Poems”

    3. Heather Winterer, Medanales, N.M.: “Poems from Zoon”

  • Fans of Merl Reagle’s crossword puzzles know the crafty wordsmith loves challenges of clues and deduction.

    In addition to 50 new puzzles, his newest book, “Merl Reagle’s 100th Anniversary Crossword Book,” includes the sleuthing that Reagle and his better half, Marie Haley, started in 1998 to find the grave of Arthur Wynne, the man who invented the crossword.

    Wynne was an editor at the New York World when he was tasked to create a game for the paper’s Fun section.

    His “word-cross” debuted 100 years ago — Dec. 21, 1913 — with white squares arranged in a diamond-shaped grid, above a list of definitions. He instructed readers to fill in the squares with words that matched the definitions.

    It was a hit. Yet despite the puzzle’s popularity, the newspaper declined to copyright it — calling it a fad, Reagle said.

    In 1921, Wynne stepped down as crossword editor and the job went to Margaret Petherbridge, who gradually came up with rules for creating crosswords. Every letter had to be part of a word going across and one going down. Puzzles had to use English words that were at least three letters long. And the mix of blank squares and filled-in squares had to be symmetrical.

    Reagle’s book contains lots of crossword history in addition to information about Wynne, who was born in Liverpool, England, played the violin and wanted to be a newspaper man. He emigrated to the United States in 1891 at the age of 19.

    “We found out a lot of stuff about Arthur Wynne we didn’t know before,” said Reagle, including that Wynne, who died in 1945 at the age of 74, is survived by a daughter, now in her 80s and living in Florida.

    The book also includes drawings by Jim Borgman, who illustrates the nationally syndicated comic strip “Zits.” One depicts Reagle talking at the Arizona Daily Star authors tent at the Tucson Festival of Books, where he and Borgman met several years ago.

    Reagle, whose crosswords appear in Caliente on Thursdays, will sign copies of the book ordered through his website, . He will also sign copies at the next Tucson Festival of Books, which is March 15-16.

    As to what Reagle learned about Wynne’s eternal resting place, crossword fans will have to read his book to find out.

1of 29