Published 03-15-2008
By Valerie Vinyard

Imagine a free festival, full of authors, readings and most of all, books.

In one year, that will be a reality. The first Arizona Daily Star Tucson Festival of Books with The University of Arizona will take place March 13-15, 2009, at the UA.

The Tucson Festival of Books will promote a region-wide public celebration of reading and literacy.

“For several years, we’ve been aware of the L.A. Times Festival of Books and the impact it’s had on the community.” said Bill Viner, CEO of Pepper Viner Homes and one of the founders of the festival. “We wanted to bring that same type of event to our community.

“We’re reaching very far to try to get the best authors we can for this inaugural event.”

Viner’s wife, Brenda, Bruce Beach and Frank Farias also helped found the event.

“I wanted to have a fun celebration for the whole community to engage in literacy,” said Beach, CEO and chairman of Beach, Fleischman & Co. “We hope to raise the awareness of the literacy opportunities we have in this community.”

“There’s nothing like this in Arizona, nothing of this maqnitude,” Viner said. “It crosses all age ranges.”

Viner visualizes 15 to 18 different venues and stages at the event. Many of them will be at the UA mall and inside nearby buildings. A large food court will be centered on the mall.

Viner said the committee is hoping for 300 authors, vying for local, regional and national names.

“There are some very big names being tossed around/ said Viner, declining to name any authors yet.

“We’ve been talking about this for over a year/ Viner said. “The enthusiasm is terrific, people are excited about literacy and reading, and hopefully this will encourage people to read more. There’s nothing like reading.”

The group is planning to make the festival an annual event: “It’s too big just to do it one time,” Viner said.

Festival activities will include lectures, interviews and signings with local, regional and national authors; workshops for aspiring authors; poetry readings and contests; book reviews and panel discussions; kids author appearances, interactive stage presentations, storytelling and arts and crafts activities; and book

Proceeds will benefit local literacy groups and programs. Exhibitors will include booksellers, publishers and literacy and cultural organizations.

“We are thrilled to be among the lead organizers largely because reading is central to our mission,” said John M. Humenik, publisher and editor of the Arizona Daily Star. “It’s a logical fit for our newspaper, which celebrates daily the craft of communicating with words and images.”

In addition to the Star and the UA, the Festival of Books Steering Committee includes Pepper Viner Homes; Beach, Fleischman & Co.; Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau; Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities; the Metropolitan Tucson Chamber of Commerce; Pima County Public Library; the Literacy Leadership Coalition/ Community Foundation of Southern Arizona; local author groups; children’s literacy groups; Clear Channel; and Tucson Pima Arts Council.

Visit the website for Tucson Festival of Books