It was a busy weekend in Tucson. The Wildcats were playing softball and basketball on campus, even though it's Spring Break and the kids are supposed to be gone. That's the premise behind scheduling the Festival of Books for this weekend; the campus and the parking garages are supposed to be empty. It's also supposed to be warm and sunny; it's March in Tucson, after all.
The best laid plans, as they say.... the kids and I headed out through sprinkles, wearing sweatshirts and polar fleece, parking much further than my achy hip appreciated. We were there before the festivities officially started at 10am, which is how we could be up close and personal with the Mad Scientist
After trips through booksellers and book givers and bookmark makers, we took a rest at the circus stage, where the world's most flexible sisters
I asked how the panel members, authors and screenwriters all, handled the movies changing the ends of their stories. I had Bernard Malamud's The Natural in mind, and was appropriately ecstatic when Sayles used it as his exemplar. The whole thing was delightfully serendipitous.
We heard Alice LaPlante talk about fiction writers needing to be great liars, after Craig Whitney shared absolutely nothing new in his talk on "A Liberal and the Second Amendment." I questioned his membership in the NRA, an organization whose public posturing reflects not the sentiments of its membership but the paid for beliefs of the gun and ammunition manufacturers who fund group. He couldn't talk his way out of it. Perhaps I was expecting something different; I was looking for a reasoned response to a gun-totin' interlocutor. Then, again, I bring a certain perspective and bias to the issue.
By that time, we were frozen to the core; we skipped the last two sessions and ran for home.
Sunday was a sunnier, warmer, lonelier day for me. Elizibeth took sick in the cold; I went alone. From ten til five I lumbered across the mall at the University, climbing steps and fitting myself into uncomfortable folding chairs while my brain was transported to its own happy place.
Mary Doria Russell and Ann Kirschner talked about Wyatt Earp.... after leading a sing-along of the tv show's theme song. They took such joy in sharing their work, their habits, their philosophical bents; it was uplifting to sit in the audience. What happens when the law fails you? How do you deal with fanatics who live on Planet Earp, who take issue with every deviation from the canon? These are things I will ponder in the coming days.
Then, it was on to Family Matters, where the Nivens's
Stephen Pastis writes my least favorite-yet-I-read-it-every-morning-comic-strip, Pearls Before Swine. I was glad to know that the abuse his character takes for writing puns is there because he knows I hate them; I admit to reevaluating my opinion of the strip over oatmeal this morning..
He was on a panel with Alex Rex and R. L. Stine, childrens' authors extraordinaire. The room was filled with young readers, all of whom had questions. We learned that R.L.Stine types with one finger, that Stephen Pastis writes with a "Music To Kill Yourself To" playlist blaring from his computer's speakers, that Alex Rex has a portfolio of "cute animals in waistcoats" just waiting to be put to good use. The youngsters were beside themselves; it was fun to watch.
Then, I took my expanded brain power to the last session of the last day: Epic Novels. Though the conversation started out with The Iliad, Patrick Rothfuss, pictured, went straight to the heart of the "intimate epics" he and Diana Gabaldon and Sam Sykes write. This was nerd heaven.... just look at the man and dare to disagree with me. The conversation started fifteen minutes before the session officially began, and was full of in-jokes and the laughter at the arcane jokes appreciated only by the initiates. I missed Big Cuter by my side; I needed an interpreter.
Diana Gabaldon told us that she is "not the God in (her) story; (she is) just the spectator," and I went back in my head to the other panels, the other authors, the other brilliant, successful humans who took time out of their writing to talk about the process with us.
This is the fourth largest book festival in the United States, if their publicity can be believed. All that was missing was you. If you're looking for a vacation for next spring, why not include Tucson, the second weekend in March, in your planning. I promise it will make you smile.