I’ve had the great good fortune recently to attend two outstanding and very different literary events; the first was the Galiano Literary Festival, and the second was the Tucson Festival of Books.
Galiano provided a wonderful combination of a very intimate and beautiful setting, and a real chance to mingle with both new and legendary Canadian authors, as a writer myself, but also as a worshipful reader. The opportunity in a setting like that to meet and mingle with proper writers, to be called “Iona” by the great Mary Walsh (Canada’s own politician-harrying warrior princess) at dinner in the evening, simply because she remembered me from a very likely inane comment I made in the morning is exciting enough. But to earnestly discuss writing and story building with thriller writer Elle Wild with whom I presented, and Sam Wiebe, the great Vancouver ‘noir’ writer over a glass or two of wine was actually thrilling. It is perhaps not surprising that endless discussions about writing is enthralling to writers, but it is clearly of interest to readers as well, who had really engaging questions to ask about our books, our characters and our process.
Being able to engage in that intimate way really helped me to both learn more about my own process, by having examine it more closely, and to articulate it. In fact, it helped me to prepare for…The Tucson Festival of Books!
This is a fantastic free-to-the-public event with literally hundreds of authors in every genre. It has been held every year for the last ten years and gets upwards of 300,000 visitors to the vast complex set up on the University of Arizona campus. Here is everyone you’ve ever worshipped as a reader! For an author it is very generous; the events are set up as moderated panels, and some of the questions are emailed in advance, so that you don’t really have to create a special presentation, and are given an opportunity to sound intelligent and amusing to a large room full of complete strangers. Of course I came away with piles of author-signed books, (Francine Mathews, Charles Todd, Rhys Bowen, to name a few and, oh joy, Billy Collins!) and with any luck, other people came away with piles of my author-signed books.
Honestly, especially gratifying at the Tucson festival, is that just when you think reading is disappearing over the horizon like civilized discourse in our political life, you see the hordes of children and teenagers crowding in to sessions with their favourite children’s and YA authors. I felt hope coursing through me like a good hot toddy on a winter’s day! Congratulations to both events!