One of the Biggest Festivals of Books Comes to Tucson

Calling all book worms and aspiring home librarians. This weekend, Tucson is hosting the sixth annual Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB) on the University of Arizona Mall.

The festival, held March 15 and 16 in Tucson, Ariz., has more than doubled since its debut in 2009 from 50,000 visitors to more than 100,000 visitors in 2013, making it one of the top book festivals in the U.S.

This year’s festival will host nearly 450 authors and presenters including some of the biggest names in adult, teen and children’s literature. Authors, illustrators, literary agents and scientists will present from every type of genre including nonfiction, science fiction, biography, graphic novel and even paranormal romance. There will also be book signings at the Author’s Pavilion throughout the weekend.

Some exciting events at this year’s festival include two children’s events: Children’s Storytime Character Breakfast and Tea Time with An American Girl Author. Some noted authors include former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, best-selling writer Scott Turow and Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo. Many Arizona authors also will be in attendance for readings and presentations such as Arizona’s and Tucson’s poet laureates, Alberto Rios and Rebecca Seiferle, fifth-generation Arizonan and journalist Tom Zoellner, who wrote about the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Tucson, and J. A. Jance, an award-winning mystery author.

This year, TFOB is also providing an author grid, which lists locations, times, topics and presenters/authors. Visitors can create personalized agendas by starring their favorite events and make their ideal schedule. Holly Schaffer from the University of Arizona Press explains that in previous years many panels were so full that they had to turn people away; however, with the author grid this year, visitors will be able to see alternative panels and create back-up plans so they do not miss a minute of the action.

This year will also be the second year that TFOB sponsored a writing competition. Submissions were received from all over the world and increased significantly from the 310 entries in 2013 to 552 entries in 2014. Steering Committee Chairman, John Humenik, states, “Like the book festival itself, the writing competition has obviously caught on in a big way. To see the number of entries, and the quality of submissions, is pretty amazing.”

Along with the more literary aspects of the Festival, the University of Arizona’s College of Science and BIO5 Institute are partnering with the Arizona SciTech Festival to host Science City, which will be sponsored by Helios Education Foundation. Science City will include hands-on activities, lab tours, science talks, demonstrations and performances. Schaffer states, “Science City is like a world within a world. They are taking it outside of the science books to hands-on activities that are interesting to all ages. It has grown a lot and they really stepped it up a notch this year.”

TFOB also focuses on Arizona topics, businesses, and exhibitions. There will be mariachi bands and a showcase of local youth groups as well as an exhibition of low-riders, local organizations such as Friends of Western Art, Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance and the local news and media outlets. There will also be panels about the borderlands and social justice issues.

To round off this exciting event, TFOB also supports literacy services in Tucson and southern Arizona. The Festival has donated $900,000 since its launch in 2009 to literacy programs such as Literacy Connects, Reading Seed Children’s Literacy Program and the University of Arizona. Co-founder and President of TFOB, Bill Viner, states, “Giving back to promote literacy is the real success of the festival. Literacy is the foundation of building a strong, vibrant community, and the Tucson Festival of Books is proud to play a role in ensuring vital literacy programs are available.