Tucson Festival of Books: So Worth Not-Sleeping-In For

I've been meaning to post about the Tucson Festival of Books, which was really just awesome all around. I keep putting it off, because there's so much to write about, and I'm lazy and tired and should be doing other things. I have S. here visiting me this weekend, she's asleep in the other room, so I thought I'd squeeze in at least part of what I mean to say about the festival.

I started out at the poetry reading by Alison Hawthorne Deming and Luci Tapahonso (see the original post for more links.)

The wonderful Prof. Deming was my creative nonfiction undergraduate thesis advisor---she encouraged me to throw in a few poems, too. I learned so much from my time working with her, and she's really such a generous teacher and person, not to mention an immensely talented writer. I so enjoyed seeing her read and having the chance to chat for a bit.

She read from her new collection of poems (her fourth), called Rope. It's coming out through Penguin in September 2009. You can download the catalog entry for the book on her website. Here is the description offered there:

Alison Hawthorne Deming's fourth collection of poems follows the paths of imagination into meditations on salt, love, Hurricane Katrina, greek myth, and the search for extraterrestrial life, all linked by the poet’s faith in art as an instrument for creating meaning, beauty, and continuity—virtues diminished by the velocity and violence of our historical moment. The final long poem “The Flight,” inspired by the works of A. r. Ammons, is a twenty-first century epic poised on the verge of our discovering life beyond earth.

Later that afternoon I went to the "Writing Life" panel given by Jason Brown, Manuel Muñoz, Ander Monson and Kevin Canty. At first it looked like it was going to be just me and Prof. Deming (who happened to show up) and one other person in the audience---Canty took a picture of the sad little spectacle. The panel didn't make the general schedule, otherwise I'm sure there would have been plenty of people. Thankfully, a cadre of current UA MFA students and a few others showed up just in time.

Jason Brown mentioned that Aimee Bender once told him she "finds it painful to write," and that she sometimes actually ties her leg to her writing chair for two hours a day, to make sure she can't roam the house finding ways to avoid the writing. I love that.

I was going to just buy one book, I told myself I wouldn't spend more than that (I make $7.50/hr, so one new book = two hours of steaming milk, wiping tables and serving bacon) and I decided on Jason Brown's Why The Devil Chose New England for His Work, since I didn't have one of his books yet, and he's UA fiction faculty and I'm leaving. Long story short, I ended up buying a few.

Okay, I'm running out of time here. I want to jump in the shower before S. wakes up.

I have lots more to write about, but I want to add that Kevin Canty suggested a book for me called Art and Fear (because I asked the panel about writing and fear, and then turned a hot-lobsterish shade of red for the rest of the day---more about this later) and left me a very nice note when he signed my copy of his most recent book of stories, Honeymoon.

Ander Monson (new nonfiction faculty at UA, Wikipedia somehow describes him as "an American novelist, poet, nonfiction writer, and charming douche," no joke) left some encouraging words when he signed his Other Electricities for me, and he added a delightfully cryptic footnote.

Brown thinks Muñoz might "make it big time" (if he hasn't already), and Muñoz talked about how he often composes in his head, a habit he picked up during his no-time-to-write time in a publishing house. I do that too, probably most of us do, don't we? He said the fear never goes away.

Brown told it like it is, in a too-comical-to-be-depressing-really way. "Some people just don't have the stomach for the fear," he said, amongst other things. Gulp?

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