Air date: March 6, 2016
We’re previewing next weekend’s Tucson Festival of Books! Novelists Jennifer Lee Carrell, G. Davies Jandrey and Elizabeth Evans visit the set, along the UA physics professor Elliott Cheu, who gives us the lowdown on the festival’s Science City.
Here’s a rush transcript of the show:
Hello, everyone. I’m Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel, and we’re here to talk Zona Politics. Today, we’re taking a break from public affairs to talk about the Tucson Festival of Books, which will be taking place next weekend, March 12 and 13 on the UA campus. The festival, now in its eighth year, brings an estimated 130,000 book lovers to meet authors, learn about science and eat some great local food. Joining me to talk about the festival is Jennifer Lee Carrell, an organizer with the festival and an author in her own right of three novels. Jennifer, thanks for joining me here on Zona Politics.
(Carrell) Thanks for having me here.
(Nintzel) The eighth annual festival coming up. How big a deal has the festival become since its launch in 2009.
(Carrell) I think to everybody’s surprise, it’s now the fourth largest book event in the country. And it’s something we’re very excited about, and I think all of Tucson can justly be proud of. We have authors who really want to come now. We used to have to, you know, sort of go out and say, “Would you please come?” And now we’ve got publicists and authors asking to come. And it’s just it’s a really exciting time.
(Nintzel) It’s an incredible range, I mean, mysteries and literary fiction, fantasy and science fiction and history and nonfiction of almost every topic imaginable. Really, something for everyone at this thing.
(Carrell) We really try to have a great range so that it will be good for anybody from kids to the grownups, and from anybody who likes politics, who likes, as you say, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, serious fiction, all kinds of things There’s a cookbook area, a culinary stage where there’s actually cooking happening. There’s something for everyone.
(Nintzel) You’re on the author committee. You have hundreds of writers coming to Tucson. I know it’s like choosing between your children, but what are you really excited about this year?
(Carrell) We’ve got a number of really, really exciting panels. Dianna Gabeldon is coming back. She’s going to be on a couple of panels talking about her work with “Outlander” and taking it from page to stage and screen. She’ll be on the stage once with Chuck Wendig and Harry Brooks on a great science fiction panel about going to the TV screen and the big screen.
(Nintzel) Going Hollywood.
(Carrell) Yeah. And let’s see, we’ve got some great political commentary coming up with Ari Berman, who writes for The Nation, with Teresa Duncan, who is one of the lawyers for the prisoner in Guantanamo who had published “The Guantanamo Diary.” That should be of great interest. We’ve got some really fantastic military panels with veterans and scholars of American wars from WWII to Afghanistan coming. The Kellermans are coming, Faye and Jonathan, the great mystery writers.
(Nintzel) And we’ve also got J.A. Jance, a Tucson favorite and Tucson author.
(Carrell) Yeah, we’re really excited to have her. She’s going to be debuting her newest novel the week of the festival. So, she’ll be talking about that, and, in fact her book actually mentions the Tucson Festival of Books, which we’re …
(Nintzel) Is the murder set at the Festival of Books?
(Carrell) I’m not going to reveal the story! Well, that it is portrayed in the book, which we’re very excited about. We have a number of authors who are debuting the week of the festival, and coming to celebrate that with us. Douglas Brinkley, John Nichols, C.J. Box, T. Jefferson.
(Nintzel) So you’ll be able to get the book at the festival and get it signed and you have that sort of going on. Another Tucson favorite, Luis Alberto Urrea, he’ll be back this year?
(Carrell) We have a great panel in the ballroom with him called, “Growing up Latino Coast to Coast and Border to Border” with Luis and Sonia Manzano, who played Maria in Sesame Street, and Lalo Alcaraz. I’m really looking forward to that event.
(Nintzel) And speaking of Sesame Street, my daughter was very excited when she saw Daniel Tiger last year on the mall.
(Carrell) The kids’ area is fantastic and we’ve got some super authors coming this year. R.L. Stine is coming back with the Goosebump series. We’ve got Chris Gall and Dinotrux. So there’s just going to be a lot of great stuff.
(Nintzel) Tucsonan Adam Rex will be there?
(Carrell) Adam Rex, exactly.
(Nintzel) And Science City is also something kids and adults both enjoy. We’ll be discussing that later in the show with Elliott Cheu, but that’s a big part of this whole thing.
(Carrell) And there are some great authors coming there as well. We like to do some crossover with that. One of my really, my favorite personal panels that’s coming up is called “Genius: Lives of Science,” and it features a number of authors talking about great scientists.
(Nintzel) And you are an author yourelf. You’ve got two novels based on Shakespeare scholar Kate Stanley. Where did this character come from?
(Carrell) It’s sort of “the road not travelled.” When I was leaving academics, I kind of had to make a decision. Did I want to be a writer and really pursue that? Or did I want to go into theater? I became a writer, but I ended up writing about Shakespeare. So I made my heroine do all the things that I didn’t end up doing.
(Nintzel) You’ve had a lot of adventures, though in researching this book, haven’t you?
(Carrell) I have had some great adventures researching these books. One of my favorites was for the last one “Haunt Me Still,” where I went and found a loch deep in the Scottish Highlands where, once upon a time, a woman who may have been one of the contributors to the character of Lady Macbeth actually hid out in the 16th Century on an island there with her husband. I was there in winter, it was snowing, I had this guide that was going to help me find this place, and we took off in a four-wheel-drive vehicle through the forest and we came over these hills and you could see no evidence of modern civilization As far as the eye could see, there were no buildings, no lights, no electric poles, nothing. Just the Scottish Highlands, all under snow, and this dark storm and a lake that was black and flat as glass. It was very spooky and really wonderful, and it went into my book.
(Nintzel) You know a lot about Shakespeare. Did he actually write those books?
(Carrell) Read my books.
(Carrell) No. It’s one of the great mysteries, and, so the way I like to say it is that he almost, almost certainly did. But it’s really, the way I like to think about it, and I know that scholars have disagreed, if you put Shakespeare, the man, from Stratford on trial: If you were in a civil court and you were talking about preponderance of evidence, I would judge him guilty. He wrote the plays.
(Nintzel) All right. We’re …
(Carrell) You’re out of time.
(Nintzel) We are out of time, but thank you so much for coming on by and letting us know what’s going on with the Festival of Books, and we will be right back with Elliott Cheu to talk about the Science City at the festival.
(Nintzel) Joining me on the set, now, is Elliott Cheu, a professor of physics and associate dean at the UA College of Science. Dr. Cheu is one of the organizers of the Science City at the U. of A. Festival of Books. Dr. Cheu welcome to Zona Politics.
(Cheu) Thank you, Jim. I’m really happy to be here.
(Nintzel) So tell me about some of the fun stuff we’re going to have over there at Science City
(Cheu) Well, Science City, we started in 2011, so this will be our sixth year that we’re doing it. It covers the mall from Cherry almost all the way to Campbell, so it’s almost a full city block of activities. We have six different “neighborhoods,” so we’ve kind of clustered activities based on the type of science. So one of them is Science of You, which is about the science of the human body and things like that, so there might be a demonstration on how the lung works and stuff like that. There are other things. There’s Science of Tomorrow, Science of Everyday Life. So Everyday Life is things that intersect you from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. There’ll be a really cool exhibit about how spinning objects maintain stability, so, like, drones are really big these days, so there’ll be a little demonstration of that. Science of Tomorrow, we’ll talk about rockets and also the OSIRIS REx mission, which is going to be launching next September, and UA played a big part in that. So in addition to the open house, we’ve got the neighborhoods, we also have live open houses. Many of you probably know that there is a big mirror-casting laboratory right underneath the football stadium, which is where we build the biggest astronomical mirrors in the world They’re about 8.4 meters across, and that will be open for tourists all day long.
(Nintzel) So folks will actually be able to go down beneath the football stadium and see these enormous mirrors you guys are casting down there. I’ve taken that tour. It’s really eye-popping to realize really what has been built down there.
(Cheu) Right. They’re just big enough to go underneath the bridges to go to the ports to be shipped out across the world. I think we just finished the fourth one for something called the GMT, the Giant Magellan Telescope that could turn on some time in the 2020s.
(Nintzel) And that’s going to be where?
(Cheu) That is in Chile.
(Nintzel) In Chile. Okay. And you said OSIRIS REx, that’s the big space project—you guys are actually building this probe that’s going to go out, fly out to an asteroid, circle around it and take some pictures and then sneak up and grab a sample, and fly on back here to Utah.
(Cheu) I believe that’s correct. They’re also going to have, in one of the neighborhoods called Science of Tomorrow, a demonstation showing how that’s going to work and what they’re trying to do. What many scientists believe is that we actually may be Martian. That life originated from something that ejected from Mars and actually landed here. So they’re going to be looking at this asteroid and trying to find evidence of the amino acids, which would be kind of the first building blocks of life.
(Nintzel) Are you guys going to blow anything up?
(Cheu) We always have to blow something up, so we have, usually, a big volcano. Now it’s not your everyday science-fair volcano. This is a volcano with a huge garbage trash can, and the debris and everything that ejects from it shoot about 20 or 30 feet up in the air.
(Nintzel) You’re a physicist at the UA. Your work focuses on the search for super symmetry and new phenomena at the Large Hadron Collider. Anything new since you switched that thing on last year?
(Cheu) Well, yeah. We started kind of in 2010 and discovered this Nobel Prize-winning particle called the Higgs Boson and now we’re looking for other types of particles that could be the precursors for telling us why there’s 25 percent of the matter is dark, we don’t know what it is, and we might for a few months during the winter breaks, we take a little bit of a break, too, and after that, we’re going to start up for another two years. Hopefully that data that we’ve taken, which is showing a little bit of a hint of something, might actually be the precursors for that.
(Nintzel) And, you know, we just heard—I think ASU is involved in this, so there’s a little bit of rivalry there—about these gravity waves. What is that all about?
(Cheu) So, it’s basically a new type of radiation that we haven’t seen before. The radiation you see is called electromagnetic wave, and that’s basically the sunlight or light from your lightbulb, and that really powers, basically everyday life. Gravity waves are based on a different type of radiation that might be permeating the universe, but it’s incredibly small and the way they measured it was, they basically looked at a map, and gravity waves actually shrunk space in the region of that map, on a scale the size of a proton, so it just barely moved.
(Nintzel) Pretty massive objects collided?
(Cheu) Right, so there were two—they believe that there were two black holes that collided together and became one and when they did that, they let off an amount of mass which is equal to like, three suns.
(Nintzel) A ripple in space?
(Cheu) A ripple in space-time
(Nintzel) You do work with matter and anti-matter. I’ve seen my share of Star Trek episodes, and I’m familiar with what matter is. I’m not quite clear on what ant-matter is. You’ve got a minute left in the show, so let’s do it!
(Cheu) Well it’s actually relatively simple, at least for us, but they think matter and anti-matter are the same thing but they have an opposite kind of charge. So the proton has an anti-proton, that goes with it, and something called the positron, they are the same mass, and everything else is the same, but they have the opposite charge. And the thing that you probably heard from Star Trek is that, when they meet they actually annihilate and create a burst of energy.
(Nintzel) And so are you doing that in the lab?
(Cheu) What we’re doing is trying to figure out why there’s more matter than there is anti-matter in the universe, and that’s a big question that people have been trying to pursue for years.
(Nintzel) Alright, we’ll have to leave it there but thanks so much for coming in and telling us what’s going to be happening at the Science Cities, Dr. Cheu, and we will be right back with G. Davies Jandrey.
Joining me now on the set is G. Davies Jandrey the author of two novels. Her most recent book is “Journey Through Arid Land.” Ms. Jandrey will be among the authors at this year’s Festival of Books. I think your friends call you Gayle.
(Jandrey) They do.
(Nintzel) Gayle, welcome to Zona Politics
(Jandrey) Thank you for inviting me. I’m happy to be here.
(Nintzel) So what is “Journey to an Arid Land” all about?
(Jandrey) Well, it’s about a rancher a woman rancher, who encounters an immigrant on her property who has just given birth and, although, she doesn’t have any great love for immigrants because they trash her property and cut her fences and sometimes start fires that could endanger her ranch, she is taken by this woman. She decides to help her, and in doing so her very well controlled, tightly controlled life begins to spiral out of control.
(Nintzel) What inspired the book?
(Jandrey) Well, I have to say that most of my books are not really inspired by plots. I get a little couple of lines of dialog between two characters that kind of needle me and then I can’t let the characters go, and then I have to give them something to do. But in addition to that, once I decided this is a rancher and it was going to be set in the southeastern part of Arizona, then of course border comes into it. Immigration comes into it. And I have friends in all the camps. I have friends who are ranchers, I have friends who are Samaritans. I have taught Mexican nationals in Tucson High School for many years. I have a Border Patrol friend. But what I wanted to do as I got into it is, I wanted to take that whole topic of immigration out of the political realm. It’s been such a political football for years, and I wanted to tell it from the point of view of the actual players. And I do. I have a rancher. I have a Border Patrol agent. I have an immigrant. I have real bad guys who are human traffickers.
(Nintzel) So, it had to be the human side of it, not the political side of it. You have a place in Cochise County, and do you face trouble with border crossers?
(Jandrey) We have in the past There was a fire, a terrible fire that burned over, I don’t know, over 230,000 acres in the Chiricahua Mountains, all across the mountains, and in 2010, I think it was. It was believed it was caused by drug traffickers who wanted a diversion. And so that was a real issue. And then there have been break-ins, and there was the murder of the rancher Robert Krentz. And so, yeah, there are issues, but most of them are probably not real heavy-duty issues with immigrants. It’s the drug traffickers.
(Nintzel) The criminal element.
(Jandrey) The criminal element, yes.
(Nintzel) And, uh you worked as a tracker for the Sky Island Alliance What did you track? Tell us about this.
(Jandrey) Well, we had key animals that we were supposed to watch out for, but I have to say the little section that was our transect was in the Granite Pass area. And we were to look for black bears. Well, there are no black bears in that area, and jaguar, of course, there are none, wolf, there are none, coati, there are none, but there are mountain lions, which are on our list, and bobcats, which were on our list, and we were supposed to keep our eye out for bighorn sheep because they had reintroduced bighorn sheep in that area. The purpose of that whole things was to see what animals were using what corridors, because there has to be a healthy passage of these animals from Sky Island to Sky Island and so Sky Island Alliance is using trackers to see what’s actually passing through this corridor.
(Nintzel) Your first book was “A Garden of Aloes” about a victim of domestic violence who had run and ended up living on Miracle Mile. What was the inspiration behind that?
(Jandrey) There were two people at lunch and they were having a conversation and that became a short story. And these voices would not let me go, and I really had to give them something to do, and they became two of the five point-of-view characters in “A Garden of Aloes.”
(Nintzel) You were a high-school teacher—you mentioned at Tucson High for many years. How did that influence your writing?
(Jandrey) Well, several of my short stories are written from the point of view Mexican-Americans or Mexicans coming to the United States, and so the conversations that I heard in the in the hallway was Spanglish, very rapid, rapid, back and forth between Spanish and English, and it always, really engaged me. Let’s put it that way. As did my students, and working with their parents as well, and so I’m …. I had a lot of experience with kids having significant trouble in their lives as a special-ed teacher, unfortunately. So I’ve yeah, it’s affected how I think my whole worldview.
(Nintzel) How did you enjoy teaching?
(Jandrey) Can you tell, I loved it. I liked it. I taught for 28 years. I had retired shortly after my husband did, mainly just to take care of my mother who at that point was dying of cancer, so, I probably would’ve gone on for a few more years. I had the energy but, I picked a good time to retire.
(Nintzel) About a half-minute left. You have a new book coming out, “A Small Saving Grace,” set in Tucson. What’s that all about?
(Jandrey) Also set in Tucson. Takes place in the downtown parking garage. A woman is beaten, left for dead, and she ends up in the hospital. She has a terrible brain injury, and her parents, who are divorced, decide that they’re going to bring her home, where she can continue to recover in her own home, with her own children. The problem is, as I said, her parents are divorced. Mother is an alcoholic and the father is gay. So there are a bunch of conflicts there. So, It’s about that whole domestic situation.
(Nintzel) And that’s coming out when?
(Jandrey) That’s coming out in 2016.
(Nintzel) Alright. Well thank you for joining us here, and we look forward to your appearances at the Tucson Festival of Books.
(Jandrey) Thank you very much.
(Nintzel) Alright. We will be right back with author Elizabeth Evans
(Nintzel) Joining me now is Elizabeth Evans, a professor emeritus at the U. of A. Creative Writing Department, and the author of four novels and two collections of short stories. Her latest book, just been released, “As Good As Dead,” a suspense thriller that examines how long-buried secrets can extract quite a price. Elizabeth, welcome to Zona Politics.
(Evans) Thank you. Glad to be here.
(Nintzel) So tell us a little bit about the book.
(Evans) Well, when it begins we’re in Tucson, it’s 2008 and the main character, Charlotte, goes down to the door and there is a woman standing there who turns out to be a friend she hasn’t seen in 20 years, and they were very good friends when they were in their early 20s but they had some real envy and competition between them. Charlotte is not quite sure whether to be happy to see her friend who knows some secrets about her, or whether to be afraid. And that’s kind of where things took off.
(Nintzel) And, what got you interested in exploring this theme about how secrets affect people. Not only in this book, but in other of your books you’ve looked at that kind of thematic approach.
(Evans) Yes. Well, I think that there are choices that people make that they don’t always serve their own interests, sometimes. They’re made on the basis of very strong emotions, and then it seems that it becomes necessary to cover up those secrets and then the covering up the secrets causes other problems. So, in this book, Charlotte’s married. She wonders if her husband finds out some of these secrets, will that destroy her marriage? So it seems like a big issue in a lot of people’s lives.
(Nintzel) A source of conflict, which, of course, drives all good stories.
(Evans) That’s right.
(Nintzel) This was originally a short story but you were encouraged to expand it into a novel, and what did that revision let you do with the story?
(Evans) Well it was a very long short story, and it ended up being published at 60 pages, and the editor, her thought was “You know, I think this is a novel,” and I said, “I think it probably is because I kept taking things out of it as I was writing it.” I just got to know more and I just got to know more about the characters, and I think that is one of the features of a novel that makes it different from a short story. You get to know characters over time, and you see more of the consequences of their choices and so, it was kind of like it got to really bloom when I let it be a novel and I got to know more about both of the female characters and the men they’re involved with, and more about their history, back at the University of Iowa writers’ workshop. where they had all known each other.
(Nintzel) You talk about getting to know these characters better. Is that part of the process for you is actually meeting and learning about and introducing yourself to these characters as they develop in your own head.
(Evans) Absolutely. I’m very, very interested in character-driven fiction that, as you say, the plot is important because the plot brings up things that further elucidate who the characters are. But they, I get to know them, I tunnel and tunnel into them and try to be as true to who they are as I possibly can be and not distort who they are in order to satisfy you know, some idea of how characters should behave. So they do what they will. They do what they will.
(Nintzel) Do they do things that surprise you?
(Evans) They do. Yeah, they do
(Nintzel) You set this book in Tucson. Your narrator is a creative writing professor at the UA, a job you held as well. What made you set the story so close to home?
(Evans) Well, I liked the idea of these very two different places. One being Iowa, one being Arizona. I know both very well, so that made it easy for me to write about both of the places, and I’m really big on setting, and you know, I want to get setting just so nailed down, because I really believe you have to have a place that’s solid, in which your characters can move and breathe and live, so those two places seemed perfect for me
(Nintzel) You published three other novels, two collections of short stories. What do you find is the difference between crafting a short story and a novel?
(Evans) For me it’s, they’re not terribly different, but I think it’s—well it’s often said, you know, that a short story is sort of like a love affair. The novel’s like a marriage. Or, I think of the short story is more like a song. The novel’s more like a symphony. You have to keep more balls in the air when you’re writing a novel and, there are different satisfactions I think for both of them. The big effect in the novel is great, but I think you can get a lot of resonance from a short story as well.
(Nintzel) Did you always want to be a writer growing up? Were you a big reader?
(Evans) Yeah, I really started having, I think, aspirations to write when I was a little kid. I loved the feeling I got from reading, and I loved the idea of giving that experience to other people, that wonderful feeling that I got from reading. The idea that you could create something, that you can give that kind of experience to someone else.
(Nintzel) You’ve worked with many, many young writers and, what advice would you give somebody starting out? today.
(Evans) Well, read. Reading is the big thing, and I once was asked in an interview, “How do you know when a story is finished?” And I think that you know because you’ve had this experience of reading really fine things. So you have to read really good things, and then you have to write all the time, all the time, you know. Every day, probably.
(Nintzel) That’s our show for today. Next week we’re back to catching up with current events. My thanks to our media partners at Tucson Weekly, Tucson Local Media, and KXCI Community Radio 91.3 FM where you can hear the show at 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. If you missed any part of today’s show, you’ll find all our episodes at zonapolitics.com, and be sure to follow us on Facebook. I’m Jim Nintzel. Thanks for watching. We’ll see you next time.