The Tucson Festival of Books has been and remains deeply invested in improving literacy and promoting the love of learning.

Since its inception in 2009, the Tucson Festival of Books, or TFOB, has contributed about $700,000 to literacy initiatives across the Tucson community.

And with an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 people expected to attend this year from throughout the region and across the U.S., the festival – March 9-10 on the University of Arizona campus – continues to have a broad-reaching impact.

"This is an event people look forward to all year," said Bill Viner, festival chairman and co-founder, noting that 50,000 people attended the festival in its first year."The festival continues to grow, and there continues to be a lot of excitement around it each year."

Considered one of the largest book festivals in the country, the TFOB acknowledges that books touch upon most every single experience and domain in our lives.

"The event provides added recognition for the University of Arizona, the Tucson community and the entire state of Arizona," said Frank Farias, associate vice president of student affairs and executive director of the UA BookStores, one of the initial major sponsors of the TFOB. 

Also, festival organizers affirm that the love of reading extends beyond connections with stories only in book form.

"Five years ago, a group of people who are all committed to literacy came together with the idea that books and authors could be celebrated in Tucson and benefit the community," said Helene Woodhams, the literary arts librarian for the Pima County Public Library who chaired the TFOB's authors committee.

"This is about connecting every reader," Woodhams said about the volunteer-driven festival.

"What you want to do is to connect people with what they love to read and connect the authors with their fans. You're introducing a level of reality there," Woodhams said. "The focus is by no means narrow. To me, that's very exciting."

To promote experiential learning and literacy, Science City, coordinated and managed by the UA's BIO5 Institute and College of Science, includes engaging tours, exhibits, open houses, activities and talks led by UA faculty members – all in the areas of science and technology.

Science City provides a hands-on way to connect a love of science and learning with activities and information appealing to people of all ages. Visitors to Science City will experience the connection between their daily lives and advances in science, as well as hear about the ground-breaking research being done right here at the UA.

A culmination of a year-long, collaborative partnership with the Arizona SciTech Festival, Science City involves participants from UA units and disciplines that include - among others - Insect Discovery, both the Colleges of Agriculture and Optical Sciences, Biosphere2, the School of Mind, Brain and Behavior, the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, MESA Botball, and the College of Engineering.

Another highlight of the festival this year is the new Masters Workshop. “Being on the UA campus, we thought it would be good to have a conference similar to Sundance for film writers," Viner said. More than 300 submissions were received and judged for admission into a conference, which provides slots for 50 entrants to work with festival authors in an intensive writer’s workshop.”

"Being on the University campus, we thought it would be good to have a conference similar to Sundance for film writers," Viner said.

With more than 400 authors, nearly 300 exhibitors and a range of local restaurant offerings, highlights will include:

  • March 9: 2013 Founder's Award Winner R. L. Stine will provide a solo presentation from 10-11 a.m. in the South Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center.
  • March 9: "Best in Film and Fiction," a panel discussion, will be held 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the UA Mall Tent with John Sayles, Thomas Cobb and Stephen Harrigan with Peggy Johnson from The Loft Cinema moderating.
  • March 9: In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Western National Parks Association, actor Ted Danson and author Eric Penner Haury will speak during "Generations of Stewardship, Parks and the West," from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the South Ballroom of the student union.
  • March 9: "100 Years of Solvitude: The Crossword Puzzle and Its 100th Birthday" will be held from 10-11 a.m. at the Arizona Daily Star Pavilion on the UA Mall.
  • March 9: The panel discussion, "Laugh A Lot: World Class Comedy Writers" at 11:30 a.m. with comedy writer and author Alan Zweibel, one of the original writers of "Saturday Night Live," and author Kevin Bleyer to be moderated by The Arizona Daily Star’s David Fitzsimmons.
  • March 9: Chuck Klosterman in conversation with Mike Sager at 4 p.m. in Koffler 204.
  • March 10: Bonnie Marson ("Sleeping with Schubert"), Nancy Turner ("These is My Words") and Jennifer Lee Carrell ("Haunt Me") will speak on historical fiction during a panel to be held 10-11 a.m. in Room 130 of the Integrated Learning Center.
  • March 10: "A Conversation with Writer/Director John Sayles" at 1 p.m. in Room 111 of the Chemistry Building.
  • March 10: Jodi Picoult, best-selling author of 18 novels, will give a solo presentation from 1-2 p.m. in the South Ballroom of the student union.
  • March 10: "Food Trucks: The Best Kitchens on Wheels" will be held from 1-2 p.m. at the Culinary Stage on the UA Mall.
  • March 10: A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and author of the bestselling "Devil's Highway," Luis Alberto Urrea will offer a solo presentation from 1-2 p.m. in Room 120 of the Integrated Learning Center.
  • March 10: Jen Lancaster, the New York Times best-selling author of seven memoirs and two novels, will give a solo presentation at the UA BookStores from 4-5 p.m.

Woodhams said she and others hope that visitors will arrive with open minds, receptive to learning about authors and genres that are brand new to them.

"I hope that people will leave with knowledge they didn't have before; do something they have not tried before," she said. "Expand your horizons – that's what the festival does."

Viner also said the TFOB is a great way for those in Southern Arizona to learn about and celebrate local authors and talent. Likewise, Farias also noted that it is important to support local independent bookstores.

And the benefits are abound.

"All of the work that goes into helping put this event together is well worth it," Farias said.

"There are a multitude of benefits that are realized from this event including but not limited to the following; opening the campus to our guests in itself is a huge benefit, but it also includes promoting the importance of literacy and bringing book authors and book lovers together," he said. "The event creates a positive economic impact as each year we see an increasing number of out-of-town guests traveling to Tucson in order to attend the event."

And given the broad range of offerings and areas of focus, the festival urges attendees to not only think of books in the traditional format.

Festival organizers encourage people to consider books and storytelling much more broadly than in just the traditional print format. They are shown many ways to learn, communicate, connect and engage to suit their lifestyle and means.

"The thread that binds the festival together is literacy, education and a love of learning," Viner said. "We want people to come, enjoy themselves, learn about different authors and books so that they can read and educate themselves."

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