Why I like the Tucson Festival of Books
by Katrina Shawver
I first attended the Tucson Festival of Books four years ago. I now count it as an annual “don’t miss” event. Everything about it is a winner. Last year, attendance reached 135,000 people over the two-day event, so I am in good company.
The Festival exists as a community-wide celebration of the written word. All proceeds raised are used to sustain the event and support local literacy programs. Through 2017, the Festival has raised more than $1.6 million for literacy causes.
I firmly believe writers should be regulars at book festivals, regardless of whether you have a published book to market, are attending as a reader, or both. As an attendee, there are workshops, author presentations, events, and enough vendor booths to peruse for a few hours.
The Tucson Festival of Books takes place every March, on the campus of the University of Arizona. In the spirit of supporting a great event, here are my top 10 reasons for attending. Most should apply to many other books festivals as well, but I am most familiar with the Tucson event.
10. The entire weekend is free, except for a minor parking fee and personal travel costs. All proceeds raised support local literacy programs.
9. Festivals are a great opportunity to meet your favorite authors. The bigger the event, the bigger the names. Some authors choose to launch their newest books there. Attendees can meet favorite, and famous, authors who live across the country.
8. You can discover new authors. I have not met an author who does not love to talk about their book. I have attended sessions of authors I did not know, but who intrigued me. A few became new favorites I would not have discovered otherwise.
7. Network. Network. Network. Fellow writers and authors attend these events. Readers attend. When you sit next to someone you do not know, strike up a conversation. Are they writing? What genre? Or are they primarily readers? Promote your blog and books to new readers. I have met some interesting people I would not otherwise have met.
6. Be prepared to take notes. In almost every presentation, I discovered new websites, Facebook pages, and other helpful references I had not previously known about. Festivals and conferences are part of my perpetual learning curve as a writer.
5. There are usually one or more sessions on finding an agent, or an agent panel discussing their likes and dislikes. Sometimes you can pitch your book. Some agents only accept queries from people they have met at events, so ask for their cards.
4. The weather is usually perfect and makes for a great day to be outside. The TFOB is a two-day event, with five free sessions each day. Each year I try to attend nine and pick a time slot just to browse the hundreds of booths. I stay all day, both days, and go home re-energized about writing.
3. It’s an ideal place to have fun, and enjoy the festive spirit. At the TFOB, there is something for everyone, beyond just books. Past festivals have featured a science pavilion, national parks area, culinary stage, children’s area, food vendors, performers, and more. I got to see one of Shakespeare’s first folios, on loan from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. Very cool.
2. You have the chance to learn the business of writing. Attend panels on how to publish, working with an editor, how to get your book reviewed, marketing, building a social media platform, or whatever other topic is of interest.
1. Support other authors. Meet them, ask them questions, and buy their books.
Katrina Shawver is the author of Henry, A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America, officially released on November 1, 2017. The book is published through Koehler Books and is available in hardback, paperback, and ebook formats on most book sites worldwide. Visit KatrinaShawver.comwhere she blogs regularly.