2 Apr


Before we start talking about delicious books, please mark your calendars for two Saturdays in Corvallis:  June 15 and June 22.  Linda Elin Hamner and I will team-teach fiction basics:  characters, dialogue, plot, and fantastic beginnings.  If you know of someone who might be interested, please let them know.  More details later, or e-mail me.

The Tucson Festival of Books

On March 9 and 10, Book Heaven came to town in the form of the wonderful festival held on the U of A campus. Completely organized and run by volunteers, this is the fifth year for this amazing festival.  With more than 100,000 attendees, 450 authors, and over 300 exhibitors, the annual Tucson Festival of Books   is one of the top five book festivals in the U.S.  with author signings and presentations, writing workshops, vendor booths, and more.  Sounds like heaven?  YES!

I studied the massive schedule and chose to attend five panels. The first one featured Chang-Rae Lee, Korean-American novelist and Pulitzer nominee, whose writing is described as lush, sensuous.  His latest book is The Surrender.  He’s fascinated, he said, by accents and voices, perhaps because when he came to the U.S. at the age of five, he could not speak English, had to listen hard to learn the language.  He loves seeing his characters persevere in the face of adversity.  To him, endurance is triumph.  Mary Doria Russell, author of Doc, which Jerry and I read and enjoyed last year, said she loves expressing the strength of family.  She wanted to present a picture of the Doc Holiday who was formed by his very strong Southern family — not the gambler we think of.

I went to the next panel to see Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife,  and enjoyed her account of how her own life echoed the life of her main character (impending divorce) at the time she was writing.  Also at the table was Chitra Divakaruni, Indian-American author of Oleander Girl, Sister of my Heart, and The Mistress of Spices.  The third author was Alice LaPlante, who wrote a book I loved, Turn of Mind, told from the amazing viewpoint of a woman who is accused of murder, but who has Alzheimers.  All three talked about sisters, friendship, and women in changing cultures.   They love it, they said, when readers attribute deep meanings to their writing — meanings they themselves didn’t realize were there.  Chitra observed that she thinks the text may have its own intelligence, its own life, and the author is only part of it.

The next panel featured Ann Hood, author of 13 books, the latest one, The Obituary Writer, which I just finished reading on my Kindle.  I recommend this book, beautifully written as sort of a mystery, but full of compassion for all those who grieve. When she was asked where that seemingly endless compassion comes from, she told us about her daughter’s death and how she fully recalls the pain of the years that followed.  When she was finally able to write again, she wrote The Knitting Circle in which the characters are facing grief.  Her latest book, not out yet, is an edited one, Knitting Yarns, with essays contributed by Jane Smiley and many other well-known authors

Finally, I went to see Susan Vreeland who wrote Girl in Hyacinth Blue,  but the star of that panel was actually B.A. Shapiro, whose book, The Art Forger, I immediately downloaded onto my Kindle. Her knowledge of the details of fine art, painting, and forgery are fabulous.  As I read, I was right there dabbing paint alongside of the very likeable protagonist.  This tense forgery story is based on the actual 1990 art heist from the Gardner Museum in Boston — a mystery that’s just now beginning to be solved according to an AP account of March  19 (

The pile of books in the photo above includes a mystery, Burn, by Nevada Barr who was also at the Festival, ( I liked it, even though it was creepy); a dated, but fun book — Sea Jade by Phyllis Whitney;  a mystery by Louise Penny; and Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.  Also, I just read two new-to-me memoirs:  Ruth Reichl‘s Not Becoming My Mother and Joan Dideon‘s Blue Nights in prep for a memoir workshop I’ll do on April 18.

Happy reading to you! 


5 Responses to “GOOD BOOKS”

  1. mfrances stilwell April 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    Go, Anne!

  2. Ann Marie Etheridge April 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Count me in for the Saturday workshop, and yes, do send me the details! I am absolutely thrilled to be able to take a class from you again, Anne!

  3. Robin Koontz April 2, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Sounds like a great event, and so glad you are sharing more of YOUR knowledge of fiction writing. I’ll be sure to share once we have more details!

  4. Linda Audrain April 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    You’re going to be teaching again! Hurray! Even though I’m not a fiction writer, I’m tempted to sign up for these two Saturdays just because I love your classes so much.

    The Tucson Festival of Books sounds marvelous. Mary Doria Russell is one of my favorite authors; I loved *Doc*, but my favorite of her novels was * Sparrow*, aka Priests in Space. Last night I started Cheryl Strayed’s *Wild * on my Kindle. I was immediately sucked into the book and can tell that it’s one I’ll go through quickly.

    Hope you’re doing well –

    Best wishes, Linda

    • Anne Warren Smith April 4, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      Hi Linda.,

      I’ve studied Strayed’s writing to try to figure out why it instantly draws us in and carries us along. Is it the active verbs? The willingness to share everything? Let me know what you think.

      I’ve just started Sonia Santamayor’s memoir — so far, really good. She’s departed from the usual celeb memoir by being honest about her family and how hard it was to grow up in a family where the dad was an alcoholic. Also, she’s limiting it to her formative years — not doing her whole life.

      I’d love to see you in the class. Of course, it’s for fiction writers, but so many of the fiction techniques are used in memoir — I imagine you’d find something of value.

      We’re on our way to Grand Canyon tomorrow, where Jerry intends to go down to the river and back up in one day. Sigh.

      We’ll be back in Corvallis around May first. It would be great to see you. Thanks so much for your comments on the blog. I intended to respond, but it didn’t happen. –Anne.

      *Katie Jordan’s latest adventure is out! Look for “Bittersweet Summer” at your favorite bookstore. See more at and at my blog:



Comments? Yes, please.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: