My Time at the Tucson Festival of Books



Kat and I headed toward the University of Arizona campus for the start of the Tucson Festival of Books–a free two day event with workshops, panels, and author signings.

I had author parking because I was signing books in the author pavilion that afternoon.

Unfortunately,  a 15 minute ride became a 45 minute ride in bumper-to-bumper traffic as cars swarmed that sweet parking garage.

It also involved a harrowing left turning across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic on a yellow blinking arrow.

We arrived to tons of people milling about campus.

Our aim was the Brandon Sanderson panel on building a mythology. We had a small little cushion of time to get the map of events, locate the building, and find the event room on this massive campus.

We got there 15 minutes before the panel began, but the room was already at capacity. Because my author signing stretched across 3 panels in the afternoon, Kat and I split up so I could get to attend a panel.

I had ranked my top 5 panels for each session and raced over to the closest one, which also happened to be my #2 choice.

I managed to snag a seat inside the workshop: Writing the Body from Ecstasy to Distress with Gina Frangello.


Gina talked about how sex is such a universal experience–it’s one of the few things every writer is qualified to write about.

In literary fiction, sex does not have to be erotic. It should illuminate something about the character because in fiction only trouble is interesting.

Sex scenes should have a few purposes–raise lots of complicated emotions and have contradictions.

She also touched on the importance of making death ugly. Because in real life it is really ugly stuff.



I made my way to my next panel on “What Next? Your Book A Year After It’s Published” with Patricia Barey, Therese Burson, and Roberta Grimes.

How you market depends on how you are published. Grimes touched on how much you can do a year after with indie books.

Grimes stressed the importance of finding your market. It might be a niche group who will love your book and then reaching out to them and offering free talks where you can sell your book.

With  traditional publishers, there seems to be a 3 month period where the PR and marketing machine of your publisher is focused on you, but then they move on to the next author.



I grabbed Chick Fil A for lunch–how have I never had this before? Best chicken sandwich and waffle fries ever.




At 1:15 pm, I headed to my car to get my suitcase of stuff for my author signing.

I made it to the Author Pavilion West and set myself up. The volunteers were super helpful.

Hands down, this was one of my best experiences in author signings.

People came up to me to talk about my book.

They were nice and genuinely interested. They even thanked me for talking with them. Wow. Such great readers.

I ended up talking to several dozen people, getting over a dozen entries for my raffle, and even selling a few books.



Kat and I headed back to the hotel for R&R. We also got me a nice Moscato to toast in the room to a successful signing while we watched Red, which was a terrific example of how great characters can hook you when the premise didn’t.


The next morning, we had a free hot breakfast at our hotel and then headed out super early. So early, I was 45 minutes early to the first panel and second in line.


Clearly, I was super excited to hear Illsa Bick, RL Stine, Rich Wallace, and Xavier Garza talk about “Thrills and Chills: Spine Tingling Tales”.

RL Stine is hilarious by the way. He talked about how he never intended to be scary. He wrote joke books until he wrote horror and it became a NYT bestseller. Then he stuck with horror.

Wallace talked about how his book is inspired by an urban legend from his own childhood.

Stine mentioned how he was called the “literary training bra for Stephen King”.

Xavier talked about how important it is to get boys to read and boys seem to be drawn to scary stories.

An interesting thing was that none of the panelist are scared by books. How is that possible?

RL Stine will be starting up his Fear Street series again. His favorite book is Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.





The next panel was “World Building: Creating Imaginary Worlds”. The panelists–Cornelia Funke, Aprilynne Pike, Janni Lee Simner, and Chuck Wendig–were absolutely fabulous.

Funke talked about how every new book is like a labyrinth. She never knows the end of the stories before she writes them.

Aprilynne loves worldbuilding and can spend hours on it, hours not writing her story.

For Jani, she plays in her first drafts, the second draft is where she culls things out.  Worldbuilding is a journey of discovery.

Chuck likes challenges. He was playing around on his blog saying we need a new -punk. What about corn punk? He thought about his own suggestion and called dibs and wrote the story. For Chuck, the world builds itself through the book and he rewrites until he has it all right.

Jani gives herself permission to write bad drafts so that she can get to the story.

Aprilynne prefers to write quick and then take two days off and then start massive rewrites.

Funke is a quick drafter. She is a discovery writer. “The story writes us,” she said. She went on to mention how stories love to fool and trick us.

For Chuck, worldbuilding is like combat training. He has to get it done sort of like building a parachute as he drops to the earth. He works through world building in the draft and find doors and heads down pathways.

Funke mentioned how in Europe agents sell, but never edit.

Editing in Europe is very different. An editor will take a month to edit her book in Germany as opposed to a week here in the U.S.

Europe also has many small publishing companies that don’t need to sell so many books. A Swedish publisher mentioned being pleased to sell 2o00 books. The expectation in the US might be a minimum of 15,000.

Chuck said to write the book inside your heart–people respond well to that. We remember the pioneer, not the tenth iteration of it.

Jani shared how she wrote the book she wanted to write and the market shifted and it became something the market was interested in.




My final panel was on Writing for the YA Market with Nicole McInnes, Chuck Wendig, and Page Morgan.

Chuck talked about the need to write bad books to write good books. He wrote screenplays and learned to write books from that. In 3 years, he’s published 10 novels.

Page talked about how YA is about firsts. There are many realizations. Lots of discovery happening.

Chuck talked about being online as though no one is interested or paying attention to you. Don’t aim to grab followers. Build and earn followers.

All three panelists warned about dating yourself. Talking about specific brands or bands or movies.



Kat and I ended our day at Ihop in Casa Grande for dinner on our drive back to Phoenix.  The driver needed her fried steak and eggs.

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