A Way With Words
Sunday, November 10th, 2019
A partnership among The Hacienda at the Canyon, Literacy Connects and the Tucson Festival of Books has created the festival’s first sponsor-hosted author speaker series.
“A Way With Words” kicked off Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 with A.J. Flick speaking to an exclusive crowd of the organizations’ supporters and The Hacienda at the Canyon members.
More than 100 bibliophiles listened to Flick discuss Toxic Rage: A tale of Murder in Tucson. It’s her recounting of the Brian Stidham murder case, which she covered as a reporter for the Tucson Citizen. Flick was a 2019 festival author participant.
Her appearance launched a new author speaker series that is the brainchild of Shannon Ruedlinger, Executive Director of The Hacienda at the Canyon on Sabino Canyon Road. He says one of the Hacienda’s aims was to be more than a festival sponsor that merely writes out a check. “The Tucson Festival of Books contacted us last year and asked that The Hacienda at the Canyon be a sponsor,” Ruedlinger recalls. “We readily agreed. But didn’t want our relationship be one-dimensional. I told them we would really like to create a meet-an-author series.”
Susan Friese, Literacy Connects’ community engagement director, had several informal talks with Ruedlinger about the idea. “We talked about how cool it would be if we could bring this series to Hacienda at the Canyon,” Friese says. “Collaborating with The Hacienda at the Canyon on this project shines a spotlight on Literacy Connects,” she adds, “and allows us to say thank you to the Tucson Festival of Books and its supporters.”
In its 11 years, the festival has donated over $2 million to literacy in Tucson, including to Literacy Connects.
Festival officials readily agreed to the idea, says Andy Shatken, a co-chair of the festival’s steering committee. “This is unique,” Shatken says of the series, “and it was done as part of The Hacienda at the Canyon’s sponsorship to promote the festival, as well as promote the Hacienda’s engagement in it.”
Under the arrangements, the festival secures author speakers. Literacy Connects handles invitations and other logistics. The Hacienda at the Canyon provides the venue and refreshments.
Reading and literacy are topics that Hacienda members have expressed great interest in. A group of founding members destined to reside at the Watermark Retirement Communities property created a book club, the first official club at the Hacienda.
“Shannon helped me organize it,” says founder Lu Salisbury. “I wanted to meet more residents before I moved into the community.” The club meets monthly.
Salisbury also gives her stamp of approval to the author series, which she feels enhances the interests of book lovers who will live at The Hacienda at the Canyon. She expects the events will create additional attendance at book club meetings. She also sees a strong connection between these events and a recent class for residents on how to write their memoirs. It shows to her that the staff of her new home are attentive to what interests her. “I think Watermark is very innovative in discovering unique opportunities for its residents,” she says.
That’s all by design, says Ruedlinger. In order to provide rewarding programs and opportunities for our residents to thrive, he wants to invite the Tucson community in. That’s demonstrated through partnerships with the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance and the University of Arizona.
Working with Literacy Connects and the festival is part of that outreach. Indeed, Literacy Connects was one of several organizations that some The Hacienda at the Canyon residents expressed interest in having a relationship with.
“We’re committed to giving back,” Ruedlinger says. “We are an integrated wellness community. We want to integrate into Tucson culture, too.” Ruedlinger hopes to host speakers two to four times a year. Shatken, with the festival says the series will provide excellent exposure for all three organizers.
“We’re very excited about the partnership and the support from The Hacienda at the Canyon,” she says. “I think it’s a win-win-win situation. This is perfect to improve literacy.”