"Tough Guy" Teddy Takes on Tucson: A Literary Photojournal

Hi, desert dwellers!

This past weekend I had the distinct privilege of attending the phenomenal Tucson Festival of Books, and also I learned how to spell Tucson! 

As you can guess, it was a banner weekend, filled with enlightening panels, hilarious improv games with kids, jaw-dropping sunsets, and me stealing Joyce Carol Oates' chair only one time. But enough chit-chat about the nation's fourth-largest book festival... let me show you the nation's fourth-largest book festival -- in spectacular Disney Digital 3D! (By which I mean photos from my phone. Okay, on to the pics.)


Starting the weekend off the way I start all my book festivals -- by taking a poorly-framed author selfie and doing a Wallace & Gromit smile.

THE VIEW FROM MY ROOM. After I took this photo, I decided that I'm a.) moving to Tucson immediately, b.) adopting a pet javelina, and c.) becoming a prominent member of the Tucson Jewish Community (just because).

With my Official Girlfriend of the Trip Courtney at unquestionably the most ridiculous part of the weekend, the Rock Bottom Remainders concert. The Rock Bottom Remainders are a band of best-selling authors who seem less interested in literature than in the almighty power of rock. Here you can see Courtney, unleashing her inner Mitch Albom.

Here are the Remainders! (Not the greatest photo, but yes, it was that packed. Only in Tucson.) Singing "I'm a Believer" on the big screen we have keyboardist Mitch Albom and his wife, Mitch Albom's Wife. On bass, our emcee for the evening, Dave Barry. On harmonica, Dave Barry's brother, Dave Barry's Brother. Ridley Pearson played something, too. And on vocals, we have the mötley crüe of Scott Turow (wearing one of his trademark silly afro wigs), Alan Zweibel, Mary Karr, and Amy Tan. Which brings me to...

The three most bananas Amy Tan things of the night!!!

3. It's hard to see here, but yes, Amy Tan is wearing a black skin-tight shirt with skeleton bones on it, not unlike the Cobra Kai Halloween costume.

2. At one point in between songs, Dave Barry uttered the immortal line, "I know you think Amy Tan is a good girl... but Amy Tan IS A BAD GIRL!", at which point Amy Tan went on to grab the microphone and wail the hell out of "These Boots are Made for Walkin'."

1. Amy Tan also rocked out to "La Bamba," and at the part where it goes, "Soy capitan, soy capitan," Amy Tan sang the lyrics, "Soy Amy Tan, soy Amy Tan." I DEFY YOU to not have that stuck in your head for the next three years.


Scott Turow, shortly before he pulled off a mask, revealing his true identity, Pennywise the Clown.


Me at the concert with Courtney and our friend/native Tusconite, Emma. What you can't see is that those t-shirts feature this cartoon image of the Rock Bottom Remainders. And yes, I now own... several of those shirts.

Here's my "Boyish-Looking Authors of Middle Grade Books About Puberty and Pranks" Panel (not the official title). Mac Barnett and Jory John wrote the new book The Terrible Twoand Jory is also the author of the hysterical/existentially terrifying All My Friends are Dead.  Photo credit to Lisa Morris-Wilkey.


I'd say this picture is a pretty apt metaphor for what doing a promotional tour feels like. Also, that's what the back of my hair looks like?!? Dang. Life-changing.


As you can see, Scott Turow was only our second-most homicidal clown of the weekend.

(Alternate caption: "Soon.")

Me and my host family with famed legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky! He was there to promote his new dystopic YA thriller, Mermaid Lawyer Teenz. Or his new polemic about the Supreme Court. You decide which one is right.

The schedule for the room where I led one of my improv workshops. And I don't want to raise a fuss or anything, but I'm still pretty insulted I wasn't included on the panel for "Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats"...

Courtney and me being tough guys right before my "Tough Guys: Guys Have to be Tough. Or Do They?" panel (again, approximate title). 

Sitting on this panel was probably the highlight of my weekend. I got to talk stereotypes and solutions with two incredible YA authors, Jason Reynolds (whose new book is The Boy in the Black Suit), and Andrew Smith (who just released The Alex Crow). I'm clearly having a great time here. Look at my important talking hands!

Andrew Smith: "Saying boys don't read is just as offensive as saying girls can't throw a ball, but no one notices that."

Teddy Steinkellner: "I'm going to ruin your excellent point by making a weird, I just smelled a barnyard animal face."

Sitting post-panel with Jason, who shared an awesome story about how he got into poetry and literature by reading the liner notes on Queen Latifah cassettes way back in the day.

(I didn't burst his bubble by saying dude, literally every YA author gets into the biz because of Queen Latifah. Everyone knows that.)

Sad, artistic, leaving Tucson picture! #nofilter #exceptthefilterofmytears

But luckily, I came home bearing tons of new books, not to mention a comfy-ass suitcase, for this little litter-ature lover. 

All right, and just because you asked for it (no one asked for it), let's close this post off with one more picture of Channing.