Reporting from the Tucson Festival of Books 2016

This isn’t my first Tucson Festival of Books. Or TFoB, as people abbreviate it. This year the event took place on March 12 and 13, as previously, on the U of Arizona campus.

Arriving from my home 90 minutes away, the first challenge is to find a parking spot. And, for the first time, many of the parking garages near the main activity area are charging. Although $5 doesn’t seem like a big fee, it marks a change in tone. Many people stay for the weekend, so they walk to the event and parking isn’t important to them.

Attending TFoB requires preparation. The extensive schedule has many speakers, panels, events and exhibitors that happen simultaneously. Choosing what to see requires weeding through many tracks of topics from the business of writing to specific genres. Popular authors can attract throngs that very few spaces can accommodate, hence this year’s effort to cut down on the long, long lines to land a spot the day of the event.

This time, attending headliner talks required tickets. Opening up the ticket order function on the TFoB website began the Monday before the festival. The free tickets attracted so many eager attendees that—you guessed it—the website’s ticketing system crashed. With patience and perseverance, my husband stuck around until he landed tickets for the two of us to one particular speaker we wanted to hear.

That one particular speaker was/is Alan Zweibel, alumni writer of Saturday Night Live and, if there could be a royalty in American comedy of the 20th century, he would surely be knighted. His talk Sunday morning was hilarious. His anecdotes included speaking about his first encounter with Gilda Radner at Saturday Night Live, where she saw him standing behind a plant at their first meeting. They both admitted to being new to TV. And, she asked him to write dialogue to help her be a parakeet. He shared several other stories about SNL characters, including his developing Roseanne Roseannadanna and other characters for Gilda.

A full house of appreciative audience members heard him share a story of how his misbehaving young daughter was defended in a restaurant by Frank Sinatra until Sinatra learned Zweibel’s daughter had been in the wrong and made her apologize for her misbehavior. At the time, Zweibel had not previously met Sinatra.

Since I’d decided that I’d focus on attending sessions on book business, which included usage of social media, I spent many seminars meeting several of the same presenters and attendees. One gentleman who seemed to pop up in half of the sessions I attended is Ron Hogan. He’s everywhere! Also, his background in starting the literary blog Beatrice.com in 1995 provided stellar credentials for authenticating his social media knowledge. Ron emphasized that authors need to be on social media, but as a person who loves books, not someone constantly entreating people to buy theirs.

Another noteworthy speak is Katherine Sears of Booktrope. Besides being a dynamic speaker and an author, she shared information to help the SRO crowd develop client profiles to reach their book’s audience.

The weekend flew by, but the stellar weather, great speakers and happy crowds created a great event. Kris Tualla, of Desert Dreams, said that they’d had the best event in four years. She’s thinking of reserving a bigger booth next year!

For me, it was exciting to see so many people who love books all in one concentrated area. Even e-books count!

Book publishing is not dead. The message has been received loud and clear.

Note: Starting next week, I will be publishing my blog on Tuesday mornings. Stay tuned! If you have any feedback on whether you’d like/dislike that, please let me know.

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