Tucson was fabulous, in a number of different ways.
Other Jill (the blogger known as Rhapsody in Books, but who I call Other Jill, because, well, I’m Jill. Ergo, she’s Other Jill) was kind enough to host Alyce and I for the Tucson Festival of Books. This was pretty darn close to a spur of the moment trip, and I’m ever so grateful to OJ (and Jim!) for taking care of me for the weekend. This was the view of the sunrise from my bedroom (I miss this house and it’s views):
Unfortunately, Billy stayed home. Which is too bad, since Sheep in the Basement was looking forward to meeting up:
What surprised me the most about Tucson were all of the cacti. But Jill, you say…it’s the desert. There’s supposed to be cacti. Well, yeah. But these are some serious cacti. Ginormous, prickly fellows hanging out everywhere. As well as cute little fuzzy cacti tucked in small corners. In fact, there are cacti of all shapes and sizes and colors EVERYWHERE YOU GO, especially in the foothills. It was beautiful. I literally stood at the windows on a number of different occasions and just stared at the landscape. It was enthralling.
Those holes are from woodpeckers, who like to build little homes inside the saguaros. After the woodpeckers leave, other birds move in. Good for the birdies, not so great for the saguaros. This is what one of the birdie boot-condos looks like when it’s been removed:
I never knew the desert was so interesting!
And then there was the Tucson Festival of Books. I may be shunned from LA for saying this (and won’t that break my heart…not), but the TFOB beats the LAFOB hands down. Free parking, free panels (LA charges a modest processing fee for the tickets, which can add up, especially if you’re unsure of what you want to go see), flat campus (major bonus when you’re there all day, for two days), a separate kid’s area (no dodging the strollers!), friendlier people, a less zoo-like atmosphere, and better panels made this the more enjoyable experience. And okay, so I’ve only been to two LAFOBs, but I’d fly to Tucson any day over driving down to LA (especially since I’m still bitter over the fact that LA moved the FOB from UCLA to USC just as I was figuring my way around the UCLA campus).
So who all did I see? I’m glad you asked!
Susan Casey (author of The Wave), spoke on the Farallon Islands (subject of her first book, and weirdly close to where I live…why have I never heard of them??), as well as giant waves and the crazy guys who ride them (subject of her second book). I’m currently reading The Wave, and it’s quite interesting, in a “holy shit are they ever crazy” kind of way. And bonus, she’s a really engaging speaker AND she had slides (I love me some visual aids). This was a great start to the day!
Ilie Ruby, Sarah McCoy, and Naomi Benaron: Kind of an odd trio, I thought. I’ve read Ilie Ruby’s book (The Language of Trees) and Naomi Benaron’s Running the Rift, and have been meaning to read McCoy (I just might have come home with The Baker’s Daughter). The subject for the panel was writing about a sense of place, which all three authors do well. Otherwise, though, the authors didn’t seem to have much in common. Sarah McCoy has a sparkling (seriously, there’s no other way to put it) personality, and the other two seemed withdrawn in comparison, although I know that’s unfair. I saw Benaron the next day on a completely different panel, and she fit in way better with that group.
Tayari Jones, Victor Lodato, Lisa Tucker, and Diana Abu-Jabber: This group had some interesting things to say about the writing process. Not that I want to be a writer, but I’m always fascinated by how they work. That wasn’t the topic, though. It was really Fractured Families, but they talked about a whole bunch of stuff. Tayari Jones has a beautiful voice…I’d go listen to her talk just for the pleasure of listening. And I haven’t rad her book, but I liked what she had to say about her characters and her writing process.
Tiffany Baker, Joshilyn Jackson, Amy Stolls: Although Joshilyn Jackson stole the show (she’s funny!), I ended up buying the recent releases for all three of the authors (Baker’s The Gilly Salt Sisters, Jackson’s A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, and Stoll’s The Ninth Wife). So you might say this was the most successful panel.
Saturday evening we (Jill, Jim, Alyse and I) met up with another J-blogger, Jessica of Quirky Bookworm, and Liza Bakewell, author of Madre:Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun (which is a fun book), for dinner at Blue Willow. Liza brought along her daughter, and let me tell you, that kid was the best conversationalist. She obviously takes after her mother. They were great fun!
Kathryn Bertine, Naomi Benaron, Amy Snyder: All three authors are serious athletes and have written books featuring athletes or extreme sports. It was an interesting discussion (the subject was Going to Extremes), especially the stuff on the Race Across America, a non-stop 3000 mile bike race. Just the thought makes my thigh muscles seize up.
Sam Keen: OJ said a lot of his talk was from his book, The Disappearing Spoon, which I haven’t read…yet (I bought this one, too). Dude looked like he was both 12 and a younger version of my eldest cousin, which was a bit disconcerting. Still, he managed to make the periodic table interesting, which is saying something.
I also tried to listen to a guy who takes pictures of outer space, but I got turned off by his geekiness and the geeky chatter of most of the people in the audience (geeky being defined as shit I didn’t understand), so I left. Honestly, I was just there for the pictures.
Except for the next morning we went and had breakfast at a local park and walked around to look at all the cacti. I was in heaven. Then we left for the airport and home.
Really the end.
Oh…and I have some quotes that I wrote down from some of the panels…more on that another day.
Now I’m really leaving.