Thank You, Green Bay; Thank You, Tucson


I’ve been crazy busy recently–teaching my undergraduate courses, working with my soon-to-be-graduating MFA students on their theses, doing all that it takes to put together next year’s new class of MFAs, doling out advice about the writing world to students and alums, plus a million other UW-Madison Program in Creative Writing-related things–and so have been remiss in expressing my thanks for some of the more recent book events I’ve been invited to do.

mainImageSo a belated thanks to Green Bay’s The Readers Loft and its vibrant community of readers who came out to hear me talk and to talk to me about the writing of A Reunion of Ghosts on March 8. We had a full house and everyone had already finished the book, meaning It was the first time I could talk about the ending without worrying about spoiling it.

And another belated thanks to the Tucson Festival of Books. TFoB is one of the 5 biggest book festivals in the country with over 400 writers and over 150,000 visitors. It’s free to the public, but still manages to raise huge sums for area literacy programs. And as large as it is, there is but one paid employee; everything else is handled brilliantly by roughly 300 volunteers. In short, it’s a true labor of literary love. I was delighted to be invited and to experience the excitement firsthand.

Overall shot of the Tucson Festival of Books on the UA Mall and surrounding area, Saturday, March 10, 2012. Over 100,000 people were expected to attend the Festival. Photo by David Sanders/Arizona Daily Star. #155160.

My weekend in Tucson began on Friday, March 11 when two volunteers, Bruce and Lucy Thurston, scooped me up at the airport as if I were someone important. That night, I attended the annual kick-off event, the Authors’ Dinner. My table was sponsored by the Marshall Foundation which supports educational, health, and youth-oriented charitable organizations in the Tucson area. The Board members and staff of the Foundation who I got to dine and chat and drink wine with were absolutely lovely…as was the evening hosted by Alan Zweibel, one of the original writers of SNL and, therefore, a personal hero. At the end of the meal I screwed up my courage and chatted him up, summoning forth my semi-dormant Long Island accent so he’d know I was mishpocha.

The next day I sat on two panels, “Ghosts of Our Pasts” with Aline Ohanesian and Jan Ellison, and “Dangerous Histories/Dark Secrets” with  Adrienne Celt, Erika Swiler, and Mark Ferguson (we’re pictured below at our post-panel booksigning session). And that night–one of the best parts of my trip, though not at all Festival related–I got to spend some time catching up with my former MFA student, Kasey Erin Phifer-Byrne.


On Sunday, the final panel with Joshua Mohr and Pen/Faulkner nominee Julie Iromuanya was on “Dark Comedy.” And then Bruce and Lucy came and whisked me to the airport.

In short: an exciting whirlwind.

And then it was right back to work at the university–which is always very fulfilling and gratifying, but I still have to admit that, when spring break comes next week, I won’t object to having a plate that is slightly less full than it is right now.

Meanwhile, in honor of my weekend in Tucson, here’s a link to some of the aforementioned Kasey Erin Phifer-Byrne’s poetry.