Back in Seattle’s cold and dreary December and January, I spent a lot of time looking forward to the Tucson Festival of Books scheduled for March. With that in mind, I was dismayed when it snowed in Tucson on Wednesday night, prior to my Thursday evening arrival. The thing is, although it may snow in the Sonora Desert from time to time, it doesn’t hang around long. By the time I was checking in at the Arizona Inn, there was still a snowman standing in the middle of the croquet court, but the grass all around it was green.
So before I tell you about the Festival, a few words about The Arizona Inn. The facility came into existence when a female Arizona trailblazer named Isabella Greenway established it as a sheltered workshop for wounded veterans who had been poisoned by mustard gas during World War I. The workshop operated throughout the Depression, paying workers living wages and creating much of the furniture that is in use at The Arizona Inn to this day. For instance, the dining room chairs fall in that category. The workers also built almost all of the furniture in Pima Hall, my dorm when I attended the University of Arizona. Once the workers passed away, Isabella turned the facility into a first class hotel. In my opinion, it remains the jewel of hoteldom in Tucson.
The photo here gives you a glimpse of the hotel’s front entrance. By the way, in Tucson that shade of pink is known as Arizona Inn Pink. The rooms are a series of casitas situated in an oasis of greenery where the lawns are mowed in perfectly straight lines except for the ones around the fountain. There the grass is cut in perfectly aligned curves. Smooth pavers in the walkways make for comfortable walking paths lined with flowerbeds and cactus gardens. It may have snowed on Wednesday night, but by Friday morning when I was out getting my steps, the lush flower beds bordering the walkways were abloom with colorful nasturtiums, petunias, poppies, and snapdragons.
The Arizona Inn came to my attention when, as a junior at the U of A, I developed a friendship with Isabella Breasted, Isabella Greenway’s granddaughter. Isabella number two brought me to the inn to meet and dine with her mother, Martha Breasted, who was an amazing woman in her own right. Her home backed up to rear of the hotel property. In the summer of 1985, she hosted a party for me in honor of the publication of Until Proven Guilty. The party was fun, but it was the middle of July, and her house had swamp coolers as opposed to AC. By the time the party ended, we were hot and tired, so Martha suggested we go skinny dipping in her pool. She was in her eighties then. She wore a leg brace thanks to bout with polio as a child. By then she’s also had a double mastectomy, but into the pool we all went, naked as jaybirds!
The Arizona Inn is an upscale place where afternoon tea with finger sandwiches and other delectable treats are complimentary to wintertime guests. In the summer there’s homemade ice cream to be had out by the pool.
When the U of A awarded me with an honorary doctorate at winter graduation in 2000, we reserved seven or eight rooms to accommodate our guests which included my eighty-something year-old parents. People in our party were flying in from far-off places, and long before everyone else was ready for dinner, my folks would be done for. So I called room service and made arrangements for two servings of cocoa, toast, and fresh fruit to be delivered to their room around six pm. The next day, Evie, my mother, said to me, “This is the nicest place! Last night they brought us cocoa, toast, and fresh fruit without our even asking.” I never disabused her of the notion that it was all complimentary. Why would I?
Upon arriving at the Inn last Thursday, I was greeted by name by the parking valet as well as by the desk clerk. My favorite casita, room #112, was reserved in my name, and a fan had already been sent there. Once in the room, I found a lovely bouquet of roses—photo included—but they weren’t compliments of the hotel. The arrangement had been sent by my daughter. After cutting my finger while trimming the too-long stems of a previous bouquet from my daughter, she had threatened me with NO MORE FLOWERS! Fortunately for me, those turned out to be empty words. As you can see, none of the stems on The Arizona Inn roses were in need of trimming.
And now for the festival itself. It was terrific! I don’t have actual attendance numbers, but I can tell you they’ll far surpass those from last year. The panels on Sunday were as jam packed as the ones on Saturday. And I’ve never had more fun on a panel than I did on the one with David Rosenfelt and Bruce Cameron, moderated by Margaret Mizushima. We’re all dog lovers, and it showed. Most of the people in the audience must have been dog lovers as well, and a good deal of hilarity ensued. All day Sunday and even on the flight home to Seattle, people were still raving about how much fun it was.
At the festival I was able to spend a good deal of time with one of my most loyal fan, a woman who used the Joanna Brady books as her textbooks when she was learning to read at age 49 with the help of a Literacy Connects adult reading coach. (Literacy Connects is one of the organizations that benefits from TFOB.) She told me how much I had changed her life. I think her gratitude was misplaced. The literacy coach should take a bigger piece of the credit, but most of it should go to the fan herself. After being called stupid and looked down on all her life for being unable to read, it took incredible courage for her to walk through the door of Literacy Connects and ask for help! And why did she do it? She wanted to be able to read books to her grandchildren. While we were together on Saturday, she was carrying a bag full of children’s books which she plans on giving to friends so they can read to THEIR grandchildren.
It’s hard not to get a swelled head when walking through crowds and being stopped every few feet by people telling you how wonderful you are. Once my panels were over, I did my best to return the favor. TFOB functions on the shoulders of an army of 2500 volunteers. They’re the ones who keep the wheels on the bus and make sure authors end up at the right place at the right times. Each year, once my events are over, I spend an hour or so, stalking the people wearing their distinctive volunteer shirts and telling them how much I appreciate everything they do.
This year, Bill and Brenda Viner came up with the terrific idea of peppering the University of Arizona mall with stars for each of the authors in attendance. It’s something they appropriated after attending several film festivals. I’m happy to say, one of those stars had my name on it.
There’s one more thing I need to mention. On Sunday morning, while out getting my steps, I watched a couple coming to the Inn’s patio dining area. The woman was walking ahead with the husband, accompanied by his guide dog, following behind. In front of the patio, the walkway narrows in a spot where one side is lined with a raised brick border. A waiter delivering food to a nearby table had left his serving tray standing partially in the pathway. As a consequence, the already narrow walkway, was effectively cut in half. Approaching that pinch-point, the dog glanced up at the man’s face and then seamlessly threaded his human through that needle without the slightest hitch or hesitation. For me that was this year’s festival highlight–watching that capable dog unerringly doing his job. It’s a memory I’ll treasure.
All told, it was a wonderful four days. I’m glad I went, but I’m also glad to be home for the time being. That will change on Sunday morning when I head out for an abbreviated book tour along with attending Left Coast Crime. I probably won’t see as many fans on the road as I used to, but I’ll be happy to see the ones who do turn out.
As far as I’m concerned, having the opportunity to meet my fans is the best part of being an author.
i I agree. The Arizona Inn is a great place. A friend of mine worked there a few years ago and I had lunch there. Would love to go back.
Am glad the festival was such a success.
Ja Jance: Did it again out of the park, with this weeks positive Blog. I get up earlier than normal to receive My dose of Positudealogicalextratudinianism Thoughts from you. Underlined long word Spell check (had problems with that one) Is Ancient word from My past for “Auctioneer’. Yes, you Guested It Chuck From Tacoma Strikes Again. The old Shuttle Express Driver Aloha. This blog is being Forwarded to several older Geriatrics’ that need a lift. Mission accomplished by JA JANCES’ Extreme abilities…! Clasical King FM in the Background.
One doesn’t forget the book (s) that turned you on to reading. Mine was My Friend Flika.
I wish I had remembered to go. I forgot all about it until my 6 year old told me that his dad took him. I would have loved to see you again. I still have my first signed copy of Desert Heat from a time that you visited Davis Monthan in 2008. My mom and I bought the first three books and read them on a trip to Iowa. We enjoyed the books and it took me down a rabbit hole that has spanned years. I’ve now read about Ali, Beau and Joanna and have even read some of the Walker series. Thank you for bringing so much enjoyment to my life with your stories.
Looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday at The Poisoned Pen!
Always a pleasure to read about your life! all the best. thank you for your books. much love. mt
Would that I wd hv been able to see u in Tucson!
The TFOB sounds like an amazing event in a beautiful surrounding. I have read all of your books and have been in love with JP Beaumont for years. All of your characters seem so real but Beau is my favorite. Now that I’ve moved back into a more populated area (Montana to Tennessee), maybe I’ll be close enough to attend one of your book signings. I’m looking forward to “Collateral Damage” next week.
Thank you for sharing your gift of writing.
I love and admire you more and more every time I read your blogs! This one is one of the best!
I so enjoy your writings…..books/blogs/musings….I am still reeling from your previous blog from March 3rd! So chilling…
Thank you for stirring up some of my own good memories of the Arizona Inn. It is such an iconic landmark of Tucson.
Some of the best years of my life was the ones living in Tucson. Maybe also one of the reasons why I enjoy the Joanna Brady series so much. When one is familiar with the environment of the book setting, it is so easy to get absorbed by it.
Would love a new Joanna Brady book! Hope so there is one in the works……
Figuring your next book will have a guide dog in it… maybe even the hero?
That’s a great idea!
I am that rare creature, a native of Tucson, born there too many years ago. However we moved to California when I was 12. I still remember that it snowed that last winter that we lived in Tucson. My dad made custom furniture. He didn’t have anything to do with the Arizona Inn as far as I know. My parents and older sisters moved to Tucson just before WW II.
The Tucson Book Festival sounds like a blast. I really like the sound of the dog lovers pannel. I read ALL of the authors.on it. I currently have only two dogs (as well as three cats and three horses. I am likely taking in two more dogs very soon. An old friend has four dogs. She fell and hurt herself badly, four months estimated.recovery. It looks like I am taking her two 14 yo dogs. They may or may not go back to her if and when she goes home. That still leaves a 7 yo German Shepherd and a 3 yo husky that need permanent homes. So that’s what I am currently working on.
I’ve been a fan since your first book came out in 1985. When we moved to Vancouver,WA in 1989, I turned my neighbor onto your books and went out and bought every book you’ve written. When you were in our area several years ago she went to a book signing and her framed photo with you is prominently displayed on her family room wall. I have MS and wasn’t able to go with her that day, but your words and the ability to write such best sellers makes SO many people happy!
I would love to attend that festival. I have been a fan from the first book. I can hardly wait for the next one! I also enjoy reading your blog.
As usual I enjoyed your weekly post – would have loved to have seen you again while you were in Tucson but health issues prevented that. My husband and I met you several years ago when you spoke to some of the patients at the VA where we were working as volunteers at that time. That afternoon will always be one of our most treasured memories – not only meeting you and hearing you talk but that you took the time to be with some of our treasured Veterans.
In this post I am sorry that the pictures didn’t come through. Would have loved to have seen them.
Keep the wonderful books coming and keep the weekly posts coming as well. You are one of our favorite authors – and we consider you a friend as well.
I tried sending you an email, but I don’t know if it went through. If you would like to see those missing photos, please send me an email at email@example.com, and I’ll forward them to you. That goes for anyone else for whom the photos were a no-show.
Judy, what a beautiful tribute to the Arizona Inn – loved the background information, and happy to read that you were able to connect with Isabella and Martha – skinny-dipping, huh!
How lovely that you arranged the room service for Evie and Norman on the sly! Bless your heart!
You are always a star in your reader’s eyes, so it is only fitting that you have your star on the UA Mall – only sorry it took them so long to come up with the idea!
Have a safe, no snow, tour! The fans who attend will be appreciative.
You say “As far as I’m concerned, having the opportunity to meet my fans is the best part of being an author.”
As far as your fans are concerned, the best part is meeting you and seeing what a beautiful person you are – normal, down-to-earth, and approachable.
And what a beautiful gesture (Beau Geste) that you thank the volunteers who are so often unappreciated and taken for granted.
Thank your daughter for reneging on the NO MORE FLOWERS threat!
I love the Arizona Inn. I got a tour a few years ago when a friend worked there. It was mid-morning and very quiet. Lunch menu looked great, but I could not stay. Maybe some other time.
I’m glad the festival was such a success. You deserve all the fame and fortune for your work. You’ve earned it. I hope you go on forever.
Enjoyed the blog. We’re glad that all went well for you. Years ago, my wife Natalie and I attended one of your signings in Tucson (Long Time Gone). We had won several door prizes, one of which was the sighed Long Time Gone Poster. Since that time your books have graced our library. Keep the books coming!
Frank & Natalie Hagberg,
Green Valley, Arizona
Looking forward to seeing you on March 26.
By the way, all your photos in today’s Blog were, at least on my computer, nonexistent. There were boxes where they were to be but they said “STOP–this image was hotlinked.” I’m going to Google the Arizona Inn in Tucson.
My husband and I are enjoying our 9th snowbird season in Apache Junction, and we will visit you again on Monday at the AJ Library. We’ve met you twice before – once at the Kent library in Washington and once at Wesley Gardens in Des Moines, Wa., our home town. You can’t write books fast enough to suit me. I pour through them quickly, especially the Beamont and Ali Reynolds novels. The snow on the Superstitions was beautiful and, as you say, short-lived. Today will be our first 80 degree day since November 1st, according to my diary. Enjoy the Arizona sun while you’re here. Bring some back to cold Seattle. We’ll be heading back home the last week of March. — Your 78 year-old fan, Karen
I’ve enjoyed all your books. I’ve encouraged my husband with Parkinson’s to listen to the audiobooks with JP Beaumont, and he has really enjoyed all of the early JP Beaumont books. I’ve recently introduced him to David Rosenfelt, and it looks like Bruce Cameron has some books that he will also enjoy. Thanks for mentioning your fellow dog loving authors.
One of the highlights of my life was meeting you in person at an OWFI conference. I will treasure my autographed copies of your books you so kindly signed. I was nice enough not to bring all your books I owned with me to have you sign. I treasure our meeting and visit on your trip to Oklahoma.
You could have brought them all. My corporate policy is to leave no book unsigned.
I know since you told me when I asked before hand, but it was my decision to bring just one of each series. I may never be able to see you again in person, but I will read your books as long as you write them.
Looking forward to seeing you in person at Barnes & Noble! Voyager and the Benson SKP venues are disappointedly closed to the public for your visit, so will brave the crowd at B & N. Safe travels wherever you may be.
Is this the Rosie with the wonderful hat from TFOB several years ago?
No, but I like her already! Maybe I’ll wear one at B&N and start trend.
Still enjoying your blogs and thanks for this one! Would love to be able to visit you at one of the festivals or tours, and if ever possible I will! Anxiously awaiting the next Beaumont book and ready to find out what he gets into next!!
So glad you had a great time at TFOB. and THRILLED to see your book tour schedule. This Yuman is going to try to get to one next week… Woohoo!!!
Thanks so much–sounds Great!! Loved your storytelling, which is as entertaining as your
books :- ) Good wishes for your tour–you have the energy of the young!
I cannot wait to see you at the Apache Junction Library on the 13th. My daughter and a good friend will be in attendance. I am the only one of the three that has read all your books. We are excited!
The Arizona Inn even doubled at least once as a recording studio. Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt recorded their album of duets called “Western Wall” there.
What fun!! You are the best.
I live in Nashville and I have a friend who moved back to Tucson from here a couple of years ago. She knows I’m a huge fan of yours, but I was beyond thrilled when I received an email from her early this week asking me for my address so she could send me a surprise. Said email had an attachment. A picture of you signing a copy of Collateral Damage! I’m checking the mail every day!
Delightful story, I love it that you have a STAR! Congratulations!
I knew what the roses were before I read they came from your daughter! They’re lovely. Very interesting , sounds like so much fun. Looking forward to reading new book next week!
And that’s why I plan to be in attendance on March 26th at 3rd Place books in Lake Forest Park. No matter how often I listen to your stories, I am in awe of you as a person who had compassion with me when I shared that my husband had melenoma like your family member. Thanks for being the best human being you know how to be creating wonderful stories for me to treasure!
I know how you feel about the Arizona Inn. My husband worked there as a lifeguard during his college days.(About the same time you were at the UofA. We had our 50th wedding anniversary there a few years back. A place I will always love
I’m so happy you get to experience your many fans eager to hear you speak. Reading your books is one thing, but actually hearing you speak about your personal life is another. That’s why you are loved so much. My Red Hat Ladies group had lunch one day at the Arizona Inn. It was lovely. I’m glad they had your favorite casita all ready for you. Do you ever miss living in Tucson?
Yes, from November to April.
Please include a service dog as a major character in one of your novels. Thanks
Sounds like it was a wonderful time. I enjoyed the story about the Inn.
Maybe one day, even if virtual, you will do a tour of the East Coast (particularly New England)?
I will be doing a FaceTime Live event from the Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, opening day for Collateral Damage. You’ll be able to see it later on YouTube. 7:00 pm Arizona/ Pacific Time.
As always…you do not disappoint!! thank you for your continued weekly inspirations. We are headed to Tucson in a couple weeks… I hope to check on the hotel…sound pretty nifty indeed!
On another note… I wonder if you have enjoyed reading a book we recently read… Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet…? I would sure recommend it. I am guessing you may well have been aware of it… but if not…please do look into it.
Enjoy each day! And keep walking. I walked the Camino a few years ago…and have been continuing to walk…a great way to keep healthier.
Read that one several years ago.
Are you appearing anywhere near north Seattle (Mill Creek, Lake Forest Park, etc.)? I don’t want to miss seeing you again. Long time fan, Sharon Richards-Chriest
Lake Forest Park. Go to the website jajance.com and click on the schedule page
Thank you so much!!! It’s on my calendar. Sharon
It sounds like an amazing place that I need to see!
Your trip sounds absolutely wonderful! When I eventually get back to Tucson I will do two things inspired by you: (1) Stay at the Arizona Inn, and (2) Look for your star at the U of Arizona Mall-
I’m pretty sure the stars are only in place for the festival.
Well, at least I have the photo!