Tucson Festival of Books

Illustrator Jim Borgman, who draws the cartoon “Zits,” entertained an audience during the 2018 Tucson Festival of Books.

The cancellation of the Tucson Festival of Books in March felt like one of the first coronavirus dominoes to topple locally. 

Organizers called off the festival after more than 100 authors canceled their appearances. It was the beginning of a spring full of canceled events

In non-pandemic years, the Tucson Festival of Books takes over the University of Arizona campus for a weekend. Usually, more than 100,000 people show up to attend author panels, meet their favorite writers and browse books. 

And while the gathering itself did not happen this year, festival organizers took the author discussions online. Because it's 2020. What else are you going to do? 

In May, the festival began hosting its live Authors in Conversation series via Crowdcast, a live video platform. For about an hour a week, a moderator chats books, writing and more with one or two authors. Festival fans can tune in, ask their questions and pretend they're sitting in a UA lecture hall on a breezy spring day. 

"We just realized that we wanted to provide people with content and bring some of the authors we had planned to bring to the festival," says Meghan Reinold with Tucson Festival of Books marketing. 

Festival organizers started the Authors in Conversation series in May and plan to host conversations weekly for the rest of the year, Reinold says. And while it started with authors scheduled to appear in Tucson in March the series has widened to include those who are now promoting new books. 

"It's been a great opportunity to get people we wouldn't have been able to get," Reinold says. 

Several of the participating authors so far have books we've listed in our 2020 Summer Reading Challenge for Grown-Ups. Those include "Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona" by Jackie Alpers, the bestselling novel "Such a Fun Age" by Kiley Reid, and another bestseller, "Inland," by Téa Obreht. 

Reinold told us that Reid, who grew up in Tucson, should be back for another conversation in September, this one with Kevin Kwan, the author of the bestselling "Crazy Rich Asians" series. 

Later in the year, #ThisIsTucson's Andi Berlin will be moderating a conversation with Carolyn Niethammer about her new book "A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson's Culinary Heritage." 

"It's been a good opportunity for me, as someone who works the festival, I wouldn't be able to see all of these things," Reinold says. "It might open you up to things that you might not have been able to go to at the festival." 

Registration for the conversations opens first to Friends of the Festival — donors and sponsors — and then a few days later for the general public. The conversations are free to enjoy. 

To learn about upcoming discussions or listen to past conversations, visit the Tucson Festival of Books Crowdcast website. You can also sign up for the festival newsletter to get reminders about upcoming conversations. Learn more or sign up at the Tucson Festival of Books website

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