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Tucson Festival of Books celebrates 10-year anniversary

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Jen Pimentel | The Daily Wildcat

An overview of the tents on the UA Mall. 

The Tucson Festival of Books turns 10 this March.

Brenda and Bill Viner, the founders of the festival, were inspired by the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and wanted to create a large event for the Tucson community. In 2008, they turned this inspiration into a reality.

“My husband and I wanted to create a large event here in town that focused on education," Brenda said. "We started studying the LA Times Festival of Books and doing research as well as going to see it and then we decided that we wanted to hold our book festival on the UA campus. From there, we just started making contacts with publishers and the UA Bookstore to make our dream a reality."

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Planning for the festival is a full-time job. Committees start as early as April before the next year’s festival to start reaching out to authors and publishers to secure the lineup for the following year. 

“Our author committee starts looking at the most popular and most well-read authors as well as authors who have new books coming out before the festival as soon as a month after the previous festival is over,” Brenda said. “We do a lot of research and contact publishers, because we prefer published authors from a national publisher, and we make the arrangements to get them here to get the highest turn out percentage as we can.”

Over the last 10 years, technology has opened new doors into the world of reading and made access to information regarding the festival much easier. But, according to Viner, she has seen an unexpected trend over the years. 

“We have an app through the Arizona Daily Star that allows people to look at the authors and their speaking times as well as other events throughout the festival," Brenda said. "We also will have C-SPAN here doing a live podcast with various authors throughout the festival. We used to have a eBook tent, but over the years, the increase in the popularity of Young Adult novels brought an increase in hard copy book sales with it.”

While this event is founded on the basis of education and a love for literature, books are not the only thing you’ll find at the festival.

“We have food trucks, as well as beer and wine vendors so patrons don’t have to leave the event for any of that," Brenda said. "And we are also featuring some free live entertainment at the festival which I think really adds to the appeal of this event."

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While the event is mainly about encouraging the Tucson community to read, the festival also serves as a nonprofit and all money raised at the festival goes towards literacy programs and agencies that help kids and support education.

“Tucson and Southern Arizona’s high school dropout rate is extremely high and we want to teach kids how to read earlier so they have a better chance of staying in school and succeeding,” Brenda said. “A lot of what we do it geared towards children and it is one of our motives with our profits that come out of the festival to support the Tucson and Southern Arizona community’s education system.”

The festival is held on the UA Mall on March 10 and 11. Featured authors will include Jenna Fischer, Amy Tan, R.L. Stein and Veronica Roth. 


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