Monday, March 15, 2010

Smiling at TFoB

I went to the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend, and I am a happy girl.

There were many many people on the mall at the UofA and in the classrooms and ballrooms

and we were all wearing shit-eating grins.  There's no other way to describe it.  Here were thousands upon thousands of people who liked to read.  Who loved to read.  Who lived to read.  Who had read what I'd read or things I wanted to read now that they'd told me about them and we all were smiling.  Every one of us, from the middle school girl questioning Alice Hoffman and Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Charles de Lint about their motivation and plot structure

and sparking a conversation between panelists and audience that left us all feeling satisfied.  And smiling.  We were sitting around in a small auditorium, with authors holding their pony tails back with a scrunchie and recommending Matt the Electrician as music to write to.  They gave advice - I write what I'd like to read.....always pay the witch - and took our questions seriously.  They were as glad to see us as we were to see them.

I sat in a room with Elmore Leonard

telling Bill Buckmaster that Hemingway didn't have a sense of humor and talking about writing books because he liked the names of places (Djbouti, Tishimingo) and selling a 4500 word story called 3:10 to Yuma for $90 and it was when I began to think about his oeuvre that it came to me in stunning clarity: this is a really special event.

There was no admission fee, parking was plentiful and free, vendors were fabulous local restaurants and book stores and book clubs and literacy programs and there wasn't enough time to see it all because there were only 30 minutes between programs and the programs were not to be missed.  I was hungry on Saturday because there was no time to dine; 5 programs .... one in each time slot.... from 10am til 5pm... and while my belly was empty my brain and my heart were full.

"Adolescence is a backbreaking job with no vacation" was the explanation Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

 gave for the sympathy with which they write the character of Jeremy

in Zits. They laughed with each other as if hearing the other's jokes for the first time.  I was sitting in the front row as a Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist worked on the stage in front of me

while being heckled by his partner, who also writes Baby Blues.  Watching them enjoy each other's company, the audience was, once again, smiling.  It was nice of them to share their space with us.

I walked past Janis Ian and J.A. Jance hanging out in the sunshine, being amazed that I was amazed that I was standing next to them, just hanging.  I was a little starstruck, and they were amused.  And they understood, and allowed me to revel in the experience, enjoying my enjoyment.  

I had to run, though, because Robert Crais had flown in from LA that morning to talk about Joe Pike and Elvis Cole and there were front row seats to be had.  Not only is he drop-dead-gorgeous, he is very funny.....he also has great taste in shoes and socks

The pink stripes on the socks just slayed me.  He was as amused by his stories as we were, and he encouraged us to "continue to tell me how fabulous I am" during the question and answer period, which had elicited such comments as "You are a god" and "I dreamed I did Elvis's laundry".....comments to which no one in the audience groaned.  We laughed in agreement. We understood.  We loved him as much as we loved his characters and as much as he loved hearing from us.  He was a famous author, friends with Jim Patterson and Mike Connelly and Steve Cannell and Lee Child and he was sharing their stories with us as friends, too.

And it wasn't that much of a stretch, because we all love books and that makes us members of a very small and wonderful group of people.  And we were all together loving books and there was Robert Crais right in front of us, sporting very cool socks.

I didn't have to leave the room to hear Scott Simon read from his love notes - to Sarajevo, to Chicago, and to his wife and daughters.  Elise, his 6 year old, wandered onto the stage and watched us watching her eat her kettle corn as her dad read about adoption and it felt like we were in his living room, sharing his story as friends.

Merle Reagle

writes cross-word puzzles and has index cards in every pocket of every piece of clothing he's wearing. He can anagram everything and anything and even though my teammate and I didn't win the "Stump Merle" contest we sure had fun trying.  And there I was, smiling again.  

Because, seriously, how can you not laugh when you hear that Sis Boom Bah is the the sound of a pig exploding.

Janice Kaplan is exactly what you'd imagine the editor of Parade Magazine to be - bright, light, witty and on the exact right wavelength for a Sunday morning.  She introduced  

whose work I adored even before I found out that he attended Georgetown.  An investment banker turned author, he's been incredibly lucky and he knows it and he loves it and enjoys it and shares it with us and, again, I am smiling.  

Robert Crais summed it up nicely, I think.  Listen:

R.C. : Are you all from Tucson?

(the crowd claps and calls of YES and YOU BET are heard)


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