Local authors share the spotlight at TFOB

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Valentina Martinelli | The Daily Wildcat Valentina Martinelli/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Local author Pamela Keyes talks about her new novel "The Jumbee."

The Tucson Festival of Books is one of the largest book festivals in the United states that invites over 350 authors from all over the country to participate, but for local authors being a part of the festival has a different meaning. 

Here are some of the local authors that will be speaking at the festival this year. 

AJ Flick 

AJ Flick is an author and a former crime reporter for the Tucson Citizen. Flick has attended all but one of the previous festivals and said she is excited to be part of a panel for the first time this year. 

Flick said she enjoys going to the festival because she can get inspired by and learn from other authors. She appreciates having the opportunity to go to an event where she can be around others who also recognize the value of words.

“It was a dream of mine not only to have a book published but to be invited to the Festival of Books,” Flick said. “I was thrilled when they asked me.”

Flick’s novel is titled “Toxic Rage: A Tale of Murder in Tucson” and is based on a murder trial Flick covered. It details the 2004 murder of Brian Stidham, a children’s eye surgeon. Brad Schwartz, a fellow surgeon, was accused of hiring a hitman to kill Stidham and stood two trials. 

“I was a reporter in town, and I covered the case from the very beginning. That’s why I motivated myself to write the book,” Flick said. 

Flick will be speaking at two true crime panels this year. The first is “Motivation for Murder” with fellow presenters Shanna Hogan and Billy Jensen on Saturday, March 2 at 1 p.m. in Koffler Room 218. On Sunday, March 3 at 1 p.m. she will be on the panel “Obsessions and Consequences” along with Matti Friedman and Paige Williams in the Integrated Learning Center Room 130. 

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Adam Rex 

Adam Rex is an author and illustrator who works mostly on children’s picture books. 

He has been a part of the festival every year except one. He said he is impressed the festival has become one of the biggest in the country in such a small amount of time and encourages other Tucsonans to have pride in it. 

“I’ve been to dozens of book festivals in a number of different states, and I really think we have one of the best in America, so I want to do my part to help keep that going as much as I can from year to year,” Rex said. 

Rex will be a part of the panel “Star Wars: May The Force Be With You” with fellow Star Wars authors Rae Carson and Daniel José Older on Sunday, March 3, at 11:30 a.m. in Education Kiva 211. His book, “Are You Scared, Darth Vader?” explores the notorious villain’s biggest fears. He will also give a presentation on the book on Sunday, March 3, from 2-2:30 p.m. at the Story Blanket Tent. 

Rex will be hosting the Illustrator Draw-Off, where different illustrators will compete based on ideas given to them by the audience and Rex. It will take place on Sunday, March 3 at 4 p.m in Education Kiva 211. This is Rex’s favorite part of the festival, and he said he is excited that the event will be in a bigger venue this year.

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Kristyn Merbeth

Kristyn (K.S.) Merbeth is an author who writes young adult science fiction novels.  

Merbeth presented at the festival last year but has also attended all the previous festivals, due to her love of reading. Once she became a published author, she knew being featured at the Festival of Books was something she wanted.

“I’ve always loved the festival, and it’s been something I’ve dreamed about for my whole life, so it’s just so cool being there as someone who has gone so many times before,” Merbeth said. “It’s also just a wonderful opportunity to connect with other local authors and local readers.” 

Merbeth will be a part of two science fiction panels, where the discussion will focus on dark futures and apocalyptic worlds. “Nightmare Futures” is on Saturday, March 2, at 11:30 a.m. in the Integrated Learning Center Room 150 and also features Charlie Jane Anders and Peng Shepherd. Her other panel, “Wastelands and Social Entropy”, is with Lilliam Rivera and Drew Williams on Sunday, March 3, at 2:30 p.m. in the same room.

Merbeth said she grew up feeling not very represented in a male-dominated genre but is noticing the number of female science fiction writers growing. She said she makes an effort to write strong female characters. 

“It’s a little intimidating, honestly, but I think things are changing for the better, and I hope they continue to do so,” Merbeth said. 

For more information on these authors or other presenting authors, you can visit the Tucson Festival of Books website.


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