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350 authors expected for books festival at UA

Citizen Staff Writer



Western outlaws, serial killers and mythological beasts will be invading the University of Arizona campus next week – and everyone is encouraged to attend.

No, these creepy creatures and convicts won’t be running helter-skelter across campus with bloody teeth and knives held high. They will be safely contained in the books and imaginations of the more than 350 authors on hand.

The first Tucson Festival of Books runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 14 and 15. Admission is free.

Presentations and readings run the gamut from horror to romance, humor to how to turn a novel into a screenplay.

“There is going to be something for everybody,” said Bill Viner, CEO of Pepper Viner Homes, and a founding member of the Tucson Festival of Books.

“People might think this is like an old time book fair – it’s not,” he added. “It’s a very unique thing coming to the community. People can really enjoy something that’s different, educational and fun. They don’t have to be intellectuals or avid readers.”

Some of the headliners at the event include Stedman Graham, better known for his relationship with Oprah Winfrey but who will be speaking on the importance of education, America’s Poet Laureate Billy Collins and southern Arizona’s own best-selling author, J.A. Jance.

“I agreed to be part of this event because anything I can do to promote reading is good for all of us – readers and writers alike,” Jance wrote in an e-mail.

Jance has three degrees from UA: a bachelor’s, a master’s of education, and an honorary doctorate.

“Being on campus for an event like this is a homecoming of sorts,” she said.

Jance’s favorite part of such events is interacting with her fans. She’ll have plenty of opportunity for that, as she’ll be signing books at various venues on March 14 and giving a presentation at 4 p.m. on March 15 in the Student Union’s South Ballroom.

Several children’s areas will have storytelling stages and activities for youngsters.

Parents who need to focus on slightly older kids can attend lectures like “Zits and Other Ways of Coping with Your Teenager.”

Romantics might want to sit in on “Turning up the Heat: The Spicier Side of Romance.” Artists may find it interesting to “Laugh and Learn with Picture Books.”

“We were pretty much driven by the desire to benefit the community and literacy and literature,” said Viner, who co-founded the event with his wife, Brenda, and local businessman Bruce Beach of the accounting firm Beach, Fleishman & Co.

They fashioned the festival after the largest in the country, held annually on the campus of UCLA.

Unlike Los Angeles’ festival, Tucson’s version is nonprofit, with all proceeds going to help literacy in southern Arizona.

About 50,000 people are expected to attend.

Editor’s note: Tucson Citizen staffer, artist and poet Ryn Gargulinski will read from her poetry at 4 p.m. March 14 on the main stage of the UA BookStore (next to Starbucks).

If you go

• What: Tucson Festival of Books

• When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 14 and 15

• Where: University of Arizona campus

• Cost: Free

• More info: www.tucsonfestivalofbooks.org

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