The 7th Annual Tucson Festival of Books is going to rock.
A writers’ rock ’n’ roll band is joining the lineup of the two-day, family-oriented community celebration of reading and literacy set for March 14-15 on the University of Arizona campus.
The event again gathers great authors to discuss compelling topics, complemented with food and entertainment, to raise money to support literacy.
The Rock Bottom Remainders, an oldies rock cover band whose members are best-selling authors, kick off the festival on March 13 with a concert that replaces the Authors Table dinner this year.
The band lineup is filled with authors whose books are probably on your shelves — Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Scott Turow, Ridley Pearson, Alan Zweibel and Greg Iles. Among them, they’ve published more than 150 titles and sold more than 350 million books.
The authors will be aided by a couple of ringers — drummer Josh Kelly and saxophonist Erasmo Paul — says organizer Brenda Viner. Albom’s singer/actress wife, Janine Sabino Albom, is also expected to join the group for the concert.
Band members Stephen King, master of the macabre, and Matt Groening, “The Simpsons” co-creator, are not expected to perform at the Tucson gig, says Viner, a festival founder who has been chatting up the festival to anyone connected with the group for the past seven years to get the band to play in Tucson.
The switch from the dinner to the concert is for only this year, Viner says. There will be ample opportunity to meet favorite authors during a reception at the University of Arizona BookStores in the Student Union Memorial Center and at the concert, which has a crowd capacity of 2,000. The dinner audience maxed out at about 1,000.
Viner envisions an atmosphere that’s similar to the Authors Table — plenty of mixing and mingling — with a more relaxed tone. She expects some folks to be dressed in jeans, rather than dressed to the nines for dinner. There will be hors d’oeuvres to nibble, drinks to sip and souvenirs at the concert.
The band has raised $2.6 million for literacy in the more than 22 years it has played together, says Viner. It took a hiatus in 2012 after the death of founder Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Barry’s sister-in-law.
“They don’t spend much time talking about being authors — they just want to do something fun to help literacy,” Viner said.
You’ll also see them at the festival: Each of the Rock Bottom Remainders will be presenting at the festival on March 14.
In addition to the concert, Viner says that the Rock Bottom Remainders will receive the festival’s Founders Award, which recognizes the lifetime achievement of an outstanding festival participant and is usually presented at the Authors Table dinner.
The band will join previous Founders Award recipients: the late Elmore Leonard, who received the first award in 2011; Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana, R.L. Stine and Richard Russo.
A DIFFERENT FESTIVAL
“No festival is ever the same,” says Marcy Euler, the festival’s executive director. “The goal is to always improve and be interesting and compelling.”
While the number of authors remains steady, the festival attracts a larger audience every year. The committee has worked to improve the experience, she says. Some changes include:
- A second food court will be added to alleviate the lines.
- Advance, complementary tickets will be offered electronically for some of the larger venues.
- “We heard the complaints about the necessity of waiting in lines for long periods and missing other events,” Euler says. There still will be queueing at the venues. Information about the tickets will be available on the festival website.
- The UA library Special Collections will open as a new venue with a focus on Arizona history, which will be an opportunity to introduce the community to this resource, Euler says.
- Two entertainment stages have been added as respites.
IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR
Amid the attention-getting aspects of the all-author band and the big-name authors, “We don’t want to lose the family aspect of getting people on campus,” says Viner.
The book festival brings an array of authors, storytelling and activities to keep the kids (and their parents) entertained and to inspire lifelong reading habits.
Among the authors, Rita Williams-Garcia is the New York Times bestselling writer of nine novels for young adults and middle grade readers. She’s raked in awards for young people’s literature and is acknowledged for her realistic portrayal of teens of color.
Katherine Paterson, whose children’s books have won two Newbery Medals and two National Book Awards, will also be at the festival.
A BIG SLICE OF PI
March 14 is Super Pi day, says Elliot Cheu, who heads the Science City committee.
“That’s because the first five digits of the mathematical symbol pi are 3.1415 (i.e. 3/14/2015),” says Cheu. “So, in Science City we are going to have a Science of Pi venue.”
Super Pi Day will be celebrated with hands-on activities related to this important milestone in fields of science to include mathematics and physics, says Lisa Romero, Science City committee member.
After 3.1415, the next digits of pi are 926. The committee plans to have a kickoff event at 9:26 a.m. on the first day of the festival, Cheu says.
Science City has a visitor-friendly layout that offers five science neighborhoods packed with activities, talks, authors and demonstrations for science.
“There will be about 80 participants this year, with some exciting new groups joining Science City for the first time,” says Romero. “This will include over 60 UA college/departmental/club/faculty participants that will host talks and open houses to showcase the amazing cross-section of science and technology happening right here on the UA campus.”
Get updated information at the Tucson Festival of Books website and the Science City website, sciencecity.arizona.edu
EATING IT UP
All that talk of pi and books make you hungry?
The festival sizzles with top chefs and popular cookbook authors. A few to put on the front burner:
- Jackie Alpers
- , an award-winning photographer who writes, cooks, styles and documents food and travel adventures on location should appeal to your sweet tooth with “Sprinkles,” full of recipes and dessert ideas.
- Jean-Pierre and Denise Moullé
- present their cooking and lifestyle in “French Roots: Two Cooks, Two Countries, and the Beautiful Food along the Way.”
- Steven Raichlen
- , called the “Gladiator of Grilling” by Oprah Winfrey, will serve up ideas from his best-selling books and his popular TV shows like “Primal Grill.”
BEHIND THE SCENES
About 2,000 volunteers pull the book festival together.
The book festival’s committee works year-round to shape and improve the event. It focuses on the small details and long-term, overarching actions like visiting book publishers in New York, says Viner.
In addition, volunteers are needed at the festival to help with author events, assist at information booths, act as food court hosts, set up before the festival and clean up afterward, transport authors, help with the various entertainment activities and help address the needs of the 250 exhibitors and the estimated 130,000 book festival attendees.
Being a volunteer also brings a new perspective and deeper involvement in the festival.
“I love being part of this community event that celebrates reading and books,” says Cheryl Stein House, who has volunteered at the festival for five years, first in the Reading Seed booth and then in author venues.
“I have met authors who are famous and up-and-coming, and it’s fun to talk with people waiting in line who are so excited to see their favorite authors,” she says. “I volunteer with a couple of my friends, so it’s a fun way to spend time together and discuss new books and authors. It’s also fun to get a little bit of an inside look at how such a big festival is put together.
“The festival is a positive event for Tucson and I am happy to do my part to promote the love of reading,” says House.
If you’re interested in volunteering, the early-bird volunteer registration begins Wednesday. Go to the festival website for information or email volunteers@TucsonFestivalofBooks.org with questions.
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND
Be a friend of the Tucson Festival of Books and you will get perks — like getting first priority when signing up for the complementary tickets to the large venues — and invitations for member-only events. You could rack up mementos and discounts from some exhibitors, sponsors and vendors. Tax-deductible donations help defray expenses so the festival can remain free and support literacy.
And book-festival donors can double down: The Stocker Foundation is providing a dollar-for-dollar match for all Friend of the Festival donations made through March 31, up to a maximum of $10,000, according to the festival website.
For information on becoming a Friend of the Festival or to make a contribution, go to tucsonfestivalofbooks.org and click on “Donations — Become a Friend.”
TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS
Viner says a festival representative can give your group or organization a free presentation about the festival. In addition, there are materials available for schools and businesses.
You probably figured this out — go to the website to request a speaker to festival promotional materials.