With 350 presenting authors and a sea of white tents filling the University of Arizona Mall for the Tucson Festival of Books, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 11-12, deciding what to see, do and experience can be overwhelming.

Here are 10 ideas you won’t want to miss — and an event that happens after the festival. Find information about these events and activities at tucsonfestivalofbooks.org or with the apps available for iPhone and Android devices.

Sing the national anthem

A live performance of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at 9:15 a.m. at the USS Arizona Memorial Plaza will get each festival day off to a patriotic start.

This is also an opportunity to check out the memorial, which was dedicated in December, before the midday hustle and bustle of the festival.

Discover an author

Emerging authors and some local favorites will share space in the authors pavilion, meeting and greeting present and future fans, and signing and reading their books during 2¼-hour slots. Some are also offering 10-minute tent talks. You might discover your new favorite author.

Meet authors

There are more than books in some of the exhibitors’ tents. Regional and best-selling authors — think Craig Johnson, Susan Lowell and Luis Alberto Urrea — sign books in some of the exhibitor tents. So if you miss an author at a presentation, check out other spots they may be.

Say you saw them when …

They were in school. The winners of the festival’s young authors and young artists competitions will be acknowledged at 10 a.m. Saturday on the Main Entertainment Stage. Who knows, these young authors and artists may be presenting authors at future book festivals.

Witness oh-my-gosh science

Step into a life-sized camera at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. See the largest telescope mirrors in the world at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab Tour. Check out some of the 2 million specimens in the UA insect collection. You can see science happening when some of the UA centers and institutes, departments and colleges open their doors during the festival.

Some tours require free tickets, which are available at the Science City Visitor Center.

Try something different

Look into something you know little or nothing about. Learn about petroglyphs at the National Parks Pavilion or hear Sam Gralla discuss the recent breakthrough discovery of gravity waves in the UA Physics Department.

Teens can learn to make paper or a zine at the teen lounge (and parents may be able to find out what a zine is).

Hone your writing skills

Have a novel or screenplay you want to write, a memoir for your family, or just want to improve your writing? Workshops on writing fiction, poetry, science fiction, creative nonfiction, and sessions on finding an agent and getting published are among the festival’s offerings.

Teachers can earn professional development credits at some of the workshops and author sessions.


Sit down. Relax. There are musicians, dancers, a Cirque du Soleil-style circus performance, taekwondo and BMX demonstrations among the two days’ entertainment.


Among the exhibitors and vendors you can find books, collectible books, hardback books, paperback books and book-related items.

And you can also find summer camps, classes or schools for kids, games, musical instruments, clothing, jewelry even Navajo rugs from the Hubbell Trading Post.


Several of Tucson’s favorite eateries are serving several styles of barbecue, brats, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, roasted corn, tamales, kabobs and vegetarian and organic dishes.

No need to pack a lunch. For snacking, there will be ice cream and gelato, popcorn, mini donuts, glazed nuts and cotton candy, plus coffee, and lemonades and slushy drinks.

Find the menus and prices at tucsonfestivalofbooks.org and pick “Food & Beverage Vendors” from the list on the left.

Go to a movie

After the festival, The Loft Cinema will screen “I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel” at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 12. Directed by James Franco, the film is loosely adapted from festival author David Shields’ book of the same name. Shields will speak and sign books afterward.

Shields and failed artist Caleb Powell debate about what matters more, life or art. On the first day of shooting, Shields and Powell throw out the script when a real-life, real-time argument erupts. Franco is dragged into the scene to both mediate the quarrel and, ultimately, help to save the film.

The Loft is located at 3233 E. Speedway. Regular Loft admission prices apply.