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Book Fest a Heaven for All

Attendance Grows Annually, Hits 100,000 +
(Video: ‘Fourth Annual Tucson Festival of Books‘ by Matt Lewis on Vimeo.)

TUCSON, Ariz. – The recent festival of books is one of my favorite times of year; more specifically the Arizona Daily Star’s “Fourth Annual Tucson Festival of Books,” held on the March 10-11, 2012.According to theStar’s story there was more than 100,000 in attendance, up 15 percent from last year. This festival is something that has grown organically since 2009 when it started with about 50,000 participants. Internationally renowned authors, journalists and scientists (yes scientists) were at the festival over the weekend. There were more than 450 authors, journalists and panelists who gave 300 presentations. Also there were businesses vying for book-lovers attention with food, T-shirts and other products and advertisements. This well-oiled steam engine of a book fair is forging ahead and was a smashing success with about 1,500 volunteers.

R.L. Stine, a horror/fiction author for pre-teenage and teenage youths, spoke to a crowd at the fourth annual Tucson Festival of Books. He spoke to a crowd of about 100 people at The University of Arizona’s College of Education on Saturday, March 10, 2012. (Photo by Matt Lewis/Copyright 2012)

The story’s side bar had a ranking of other book fairs across the nation and compared them to Tucson to see how it stacks up. Well, it ranks number four in the nation. An interesting fit considering it is the fourth annual festival. The three that ranked higher were the Miami; Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles Times Book festivals. Together those three festivals bring in more than 500,000 people who are interested in the written and spoken word. To me, as a future educator, this is a promising figure. Technology continues to transform our society, but books or the written (and typed) word are more vibrant than ever. Even if books in their physical form disappear, e-readers will carry on the tradition of literature.
I feel in love with this festival a few years ago when I went to a panel discussion led by Mort Rosenblum, a professor of practice in the University of Arizona School of Journalism. I was filming the academic conversation for an academic endeavor of my own – to gain experience with videos and multimedia journalism.
Although the final tallies have not been released yet, the festival has raised about $500,000 over the first three years of the festival. In case you missed this year’s festival or are already looking forward to next year’s event – the dates will be March 9-10, 2013.
For those looking for a personal experience story from the festival need look no further. This year I volunteered with the World of Words (W.O.W.) booth. This outreach program that is an arm of the UA’s College of Education sends kits of international texts – books in Japanese, Spanish, Russian and many more.
I got a few moments each day to roam around and explore other booths and even attend two panel discussions. No surprise here, but I went to a panel moderator by Mr. Rosenblum again this year. I also went to a storytelling session with R.L. Stine, a teen and children’s author who writes mostly horror and science fiction. I grew up reading his books and was one of the reasons a kid who liked to climb trees and run around outside would actually stay in some days and read a book. I filmed his talk and also took photographs. He was dressed in all black which suited him well. He reminded me of the South African professional golfer Gary Player; Johnny Cash, an American singer-songwriter, actor, and author and a crypt-keeper all rolled into one. His ability to create an engaging story on the fly with some help from the imagination of youths in the audience. That was Saturday, March 10. My plan was to get an autograph at some point. It was only the first day of the festival so I wasn’t too worried about it. I went back to the booth I was volunteering at and finished out the day there. The next day I got an earlier start simply because there is so much to see and do. Again I tried to get his autograph but was unsuccessful – at least for most of the day.
Finally, after I had given up hope of course, did I get that ever-elusive John Hancock. Richard (not sure what his last name is), the man in charge of the WOW booth, knew a Phoenix woman who wrote a biography about Mr. Stine geared towards his demographic, children. She was Mr. Stine’s handler this past weekend. She got the signature I so coveted. There’s more stories from my time there, but you should go read other news – like articles about Afghanistan and the presidential primaries.

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