All posts by Vera Marie Badertscher

Vera Marie Badertscher

About Vera Marie Badertscher

Travel and lifestyle writer, wife, mother and grandmother. Publisher of A Traveler's Library and Ancestors in Aprons>. Also co-authored a biography of Navajo artist Quincy Tahoma.

Tucson Book Festival 2014, Where the Authors Are Part I

SATURDAY, March 15

2014 Tucson Festival of Books logo


At 10:00 on March 15, 2014, in the Student Union, I waited to see three authors who were entirely new to me talking about memoir.  It turns out that only one of the three thought of the book she wrote as an actual memoir. It was interesting to see how many forms a more-or-less non fiction book based on one’s own life could take.

Katie Hafner

book cover: mother daughter me
Being an experienced journalist (she writes about health and technology for the New York Times), and writing other non fiction books, Katie Hafner said, did not mean she was ready to write about her own feelings or explore her own motivations. Her book Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir relates the year when she brought her aging and alienated mother to live with her and her teenage daughter.  While the relationships are fraught and sometimes very dark, the portions that Hafner related and her own presentation was very funny. I am looking forward to reading this highly lauded book.

Brent Hendricks

Book Cover
In a very different approach, Brent Hendricks, a poet and professor, started by writing poems about a dramatic family event.  He had never written anything as long as a book, but realized that he needed more space to tell the story.  Thus he wrote A Long Day at the End of the Road.

He said since he had started with poetry, he had the imagery, but the challenge to him was to keep a story line going. A road trip became an organizing factor.

The family event? Do you remember the story about the funeral home owner in a southern state who had lied about the disposition of remains? Instead of cremating bodies, they were scattered around his rural property.  Hendricks father was one of those bodies.

A Long Day at the End of the World tells the story of the desecration, which he calls a disturbed landscape. To tell the full story, he explores the past in his family. It could only happen in the South, he said at the TFOB.  A Gothic horror story must be set in a Southern State. And the South, of course, becomes a prime character in the book as well.  This one may not go at the top of my must read list because it sounds so horribly sad, but I am intrigued by his use of language and courage to jump into telling this real-life thriller.

Justin St. Germain

book cover
Justin St. Germain teaches writing and writes fiction.  His book, Son of a Gun: A Memoir, his first non-fiction, explores the murder of his mother when he was a college student. She was shot to death in Tombstone, Arizona by her fifth husband. Already you can see that her life and death have the makings of some interesting story telling.  Add to that a son’s grief, and his thoughts about gun violence (quiet and understated according to reviews I have read) and you have a book of real substance.

St. Germain said that since he wrote fiction, he had no idea how to do a memoir, so read as many as he could find. He was particularly influenced by My Dark Places by James Elroy. Germain told about how he dug out the story by interviewing dozens of people who had known his mother, learning new and surprising things about her. And learning that no two people remembered an event in the same way. This one definitely goes on my reading list.


I thoroughly enjoyed “A Conversation with Anne Hillerman” with moderator Susan Cummins Miller (a local mystery writer). 

Anne Hillerman

Tucson Festival of Books


I had reviewed the beautiful Tony Hillerman’s Landscape, but Anne Hillerman has taken a bold step and is extending her father’s popular Leaphorn and Chee series of mysteries set on the Navajo Reservation. It is her first fiction, but she has been a reporter and non-fiction author for her whole life.


Book cover: Spider Woman's Daughter

Her first book, published last October,  is titled Spider Woman’s Daughter , a title that is appropriate in so many ways, starting with the use of the word daughter.  She wanted to expand on the character of Bernadette Manualito , the female detective whom Tony Hillerman had introduced, but he had never handed over the detecting reins to her. In Spider Woman’s daughter, Anne fleshes out the character, and empowers her to solve a case. And of course, Spider Woman is an important and powerful character in Navajo religion, the mother of the twin warriors.

The real fun was listening to the author talk about how her father worked and how she approached this new task. You can learn more about her launch by clicking on the book cover to go to the Amazon page where there is an interview with Anne Hillerman. I can’t wait to get back to Chee and Leaphorn–and Bernadette.

Susan Cummins Miller

I suppose I should issue a disclaimer. I knew Susan Cummins Miller even before she published her first mystery novel.  She is a trained geologist, so naturally the heroine of her mysteries is a geologist.  Although her books are published by academic presses, don’t worry that they are dry as stones.  While any geology that is mentioned will definitely be fact checked to the nth degree, the characters and plots are just plain fun.

Book Cover: Detachment Fault

In 2000, Susan edited  A Sweet, Separate Intimacy: Women Writers of the American Frontier, 1800-1922But her writing career went in a totally different direction with the publication in 2002 of Death Assemblage , her first mystery novel. Since then she has published a total of five Frankie McFarlane mysteries and has finished a sixth–each with a geological reference in the title. Her newest book, out next year, is Chasm, set in the Grand Canyon. (Well, its about time! How can you write a geology series and not go to the Grand Canyon?)

In the near future I will be reviewing Fracture (Frankie MacFarlane Mysteries), her next to last published book, and giving away a signed copy.


Rebecca Eaton

Book Cover: Making Masterpiece
Rebecca Eaton, producer of  Masterpiece, and author of Making Masterpiece was presented in the large ballroom in the Student Union Building to talk about “Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey.”  I had read Making Masterpiece and know the moderator, Tucson author Jennifer Lee Carrell, but I was delayed on my way over to the Student Union and thought I would be too late.  When I got there I saw about 25 people in line at the door–which looked odd, since the lines generally snake around the building.

Then I discovered that the volunteers had handed out “tickets” to people in line until they had used up the 600 that the ballroom seats. Once those people were seated, if there were empty seats, the latecomers would be seated. In fact everyone in the late line wound up getting in, because enough people dropped out after getting a ticket.

So I was lucky.  Or was I?

There were film clips–the same ones we see during breaks on PBS– and the discussion covered nothing that was not in the book I had already read or in conversations on PBS.   I felt that I had wasted that precious hour. I could have hit the food tents. (Next up–my afternoon on Saturday.)

Blessings on Your Home

Happy St. Patrick’s Day



Irish Home Blessing by Renees Soirees

Tips if You Go to TFOB

Fountain Fun

Balloons and water to play in. Doesn’t get better than that

The Tucson Book Festival Starts March 15. Are you going? Here are some tips.


  • Parking is free at University lots and garages. Check the parking maps in advance on the TFOB site, or at the University of Arizona website  to see where the garages or handicapped parking are.
  • Look over the on line schedule and decide in advance what is most important to you.
  • Author Larry McMurtry

    Author Larry McMurtry signing books for a line of people that stretched two blocks long.

    Check the map of booths and buildings, also at the TFOB site, to be sure you have time to get from one to another presentation, leaving time to stand in line to get a signature if you buy a book.

  • Be prepared to stand in line at least an hour before the major presentations (in the larger auditoriums (capacity of each room is designated on the schedule).  There are long lines for some of the presentations in the rooms that hold 200-300 also.
  • Ronald McDonald at book festival

    Is Ronald McDonald meditating?

    Bring the kids. The huge children’s area has things for every age from infant to teen.

  • Don’t forget to eat. While there is some “junk food” available, there are also offerings from some of the best eateries in Tucsonlike Beyond Bread, Brushfire Barbeque, Pastiche, Rene’s Organic Oven, Tucson Tamale Company and Frost Gelato. The main eateries are gathered in a central area with plenty of seating. Others snack places are scattered and there is food in the Student Union.
  • TFOB Storybook Breakfast

    TFOB Storybook Breakfast, Skippyjon Jones

    Leave some time for shopping and for serendipity.


TFOB 2014 poster