Texas Book Festival

Festival Roundup

Where: North side of Texas State Capitol (indoors and outdoors)

When: Saturday, 9-5, Sunday 11-5

Parking: Free parking is available in the state garages along San Jacinto between 15th and 17th Streets.

For more information: Call 477-4055 or check the Texas Book Festival web page at http://bookfest.tsl.state.tx.us. This swanky site contains a complete schedule and list of featured authors. Free programs will also be available at the festival.


The Festival offers something for nearly every reader's taste. The Children's Chapter tent will feature children's book authors, storytellers, and book-related craft projects. Folk, jazz, rhythm & blues, and cowboy musicians -- some of them authors as well -- will perform beneath the live oaks. Meanwhile, readings and panel discussions -- on such topics as baseball, the old West, the Alamo, the literary memoir, romance novels, and cookbooks -- will take place inside the Capitol. Book lovers can keep their strength up by visiting food booths set up by Austin restaurants or they can eat in the Capitol cafeteria and pretend they're law makers. And just so everyone can remember where it all began, Texas' own copy of the Gutenberg Bible will be on display in the Capitol.

Texas authors who have had a book published since January 1995 were invited to participate in the Festival. Among the writers you may bump into buying books are: Liz Carpenter, Kinky Friedman, Dagoberto Gilb, Shelby Hearon, David Lindsey, Naomi Shihab Nye, Bud Shrake, Mary Willis Walker, Robert James Waller, and Marion Winik. Authors will be signing their latest books immediately following their readings and panel appearances.

In addition to celebrating the richness of Texas' literary talent, the Texas Book Festival will also raise funds for Texas' public libraries. A gala benefit dinner scheduled for Friday, November 15, will feature emcee Larry L. King and readings by Texas literary greats John Graves, Sandra Cisneros, Larry McMurtry, and Mary Karr. On Saturday and Sunday, a special tent will feature authors signing their latest books with all proceeds from these sales to benefit Texas libraries. Participating booksellers and exhibitors will also be donating a portion of their sales to the Festival.

The annual event has been long in the planning, involving some 150 volunteers working over the past year and hundreds more who will contribute their efforts during the event itself. According to Festival chairman Mary Margaret Farabee, the event had its inspiration in a visit Austin writer Carolyn Osborne made to Nashville's Southern Festival of Books several years ago. Having just finished successfully raising funds for the Philosopher's Rock statue at Barton Springs, Farabee joined Osborne and a few friends in researching the possibility of starting a book festival in Texas. They envisioned an event that was more than a book sale, but an opportunity for the broad range of Texas authors and Texas book lovers to come together. Unfortunately, their idea for an annual festival of Texas books to take place at the State Capitol ran headlong into the huge Capitol extension and renovation project. By the time the construction was finally completed, the book festival idea had attracted the interest of the Austin Writers' League, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and Texas First Lady Laura Bush. A former public school librarian, Bush has a special interest in Texas writers and in literacy issues. In October, 1995, Bush invited the festival group to create a task force. A mission statement was written, non-profit status secured, and statewide advisory and working committees were formed that gathered writers, arts advocates, administrators, and others involved with Texas arts and letters. Farabee credits Bush's support with attracting private financial support for the Festival. The principal festival sponsor is NationsBank and the chief underwriter for the gala is AT&T. Other sponsors include the ECG Foundation, the Austin American-Statesman, and Texas Monthly. Following the event, the Texas State Library, in collaboration with the Texas Library Association, will develop a plan for distributing funds raised at the Texas Book Festival to libraries throughout the state. n Robin Bradford, an O. Henry Award winner, has finished writing her first novel, Macaroni Sea. She also works as publications editor and development coordinator at UT's Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.


Top Picks

These are my recommendations for events not to be missed -- some overlap but the schedule is so good it couldn't be helped. Panel discussions and readings will take place inside the Capitol building. Check festival program for exact locations.

Saturday

10:30am Welcome from Laura Bush
Out of the Old Rock: The Continuing Tradition of Texas Writing
12:30pm Reading: Marian E. Barnes
1:30pm That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It: The Contemporary Memoir
2:45pm Reading: Cynthia Macdonald
3pm Daughters of the Fifth Sun
(Hispanic women writers)
3:30pm The Alamo: Remember or Forget?

Sunday

11:15am One-Hour Photo: How I Got That Picture (photographers)
Noon Wealth! Fame! Flexible Hours! Myths & Realities of the Writer's Life
12:30pm Notes on Notes: Texas Music in Print
2:30pm Reading: Marion Winik
Brush Country: The West in Art
3:30pm Reading: Debra Monroe
3:30pm The Alamo: Remember or Forget?


The Oldest Little Book in Texas

In conjunction with the Texas Book Festival, Texas's own Gutenberg Bible will be exhibited in the Seal Court of the Capitol Extension (second level) on Saturday (9am-5pm) and Sunday (11am-5pm). Printed on a press using movable type in Mainz, Germany around 1450, the Gutenberg Bible is considered the first printed book. Because the invention of the printing press suddenly made knowledge readily accessible, this first book is credited with changing the course of Western civilization. On permanent display at UT's Ransom Center (21st & Guadalupe), the Texas Gutenberg Bible is one of only five copies in the U.S. and is bound in two volumes numbering 1,282 pages.


Other Texas Literary Firsts

One early traveler in Texas wrote: "The bookcase may be half full of books and half full of potatoes."

First book about Texas
Relación
by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1542)

First book about Texas in English
Texas
by Mary Austin Holley (1833)

"Father of Texas Literature"
John C. Duval (Early Times in Texas [1868-71], Adventures of Big-Foot Wallace [1872]), called so by J. Frank Dobie

First Texas novel
L'Héroïne du Texas; ou, Voyage de madame *** aux états-Unis et au Mexique
by an anonymous "Texian" (published in Paris in 1819; later translated and published as The Story of Champ d'Asile in 1937)

First Texas African American writer
Sutton E. Griggs, whose Imperium in Imperio: A Study of the Negro Race Problem, a Novel was published in 1899

Most popular Texas short-story writer
O. Henry (William Sidney Porter whose Austin home is a museum at 409 E. Fifth St. )

First Texas writer's organization
Texas Institute of Letters, founded in 1936 and modeled on the French Academy

First Texas National Book Award winner
George Sessions Perry, Hold Autumn in Your Hand (1941)

Most critically acclaimed Texas writers
Katherine Anne Porter (Pale Horse, Pale Rider, 1939); William Goyen (House of Breath, 1950)

Most popular Texas children's book
Old Yeller
by Frederick B. Gipson (1956)

The triumvirate of Texas writers
J. Frank Dobie, Roy Bedichek, Walter Prescott Webb

The next generation
John Graves, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy

The next generation
Sandra Cisneros, Mary Karr, Reginald McKnight


Sources: Texas: A Guide to the Lone Star State (rev. 1969) and The New Handbook of Texas (1996).

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