Came, saw, enjoyed.
Although manning the booth for the Southwest Festival of the Written Word and keeping my 6-year-old occupied at the same time, I managed to sneak away to some sessions at the massive Tucson extravaganza (100,000 punters, apparently).
Highlights for me: the brilliant, courageous, and decidedly humble journalist Alfredo Corchado presented his new book Midnight in Mexico, which is causing a stir both sides of the border. I’d met Alfredo at a book launch in February; he was every bit as good, and as charming, here.
I also enjoyed a panel involving three debut novelists: Tim Johnston, Mary Kubica, and Edan Lepucki. Tim really needs to Eastern-European-ify his name in that company, but I found him an engaging speaker. His novel Descent looks rather interesting, too, as does Kubica’s and Lepucki’s work.
I also went along to support Denise Chavez and Ana Castillo, writers who’d come to our inaugural Southwest Festival of the Written Word, in 2013. They didn’t disappoint. Castillo talked eloquently about feminism providing the common thread in her diverse output. Denise was Denise: funny, moving, irreverent.
Regrets? I have a few. Chomsky was there, presenting. I was desperate to see him, but it would have required three hours of queuing for a ticket. I wasn’t quite that desperate.
I also wanted to see Amy Tan, but her session coincided with a children’s circus performance which my son was rather keen on. No competition.
Logan Phillips was performing “Sonoran Strange,” his rabble-rousing bilingual spoken word piece on the final afternoon, but I only saw about ten seconds of it (I was needed at the booth and at the kids’ science fair). We’ve booked him for the Southwest Festival of the Written Word in October, which might just be a coup for us.
I attended a couple of sessions for authors. As usual, these were a mixed bag. I’m probably not the target audience – I’m too gnarled for the rookie advice that was on offer – but I wanted to hear more insider secrets and innovative ideas.
One thing I did enjoy while working at the booth was meeting hundreds of book-lovers. I’ve never seen so many grey beards and sandals in one place. It really was Revenge of the Nerds and I was happily nerding along with them. All in all: a tiring but terrific weekend. A giant, Arizona-sized ‘thank you’ to the organizers.