"This is the fun part of the job," smiled Mayor Will Wynn at a Tuesday morning press conference announcing this year's selection for the citywide Mayor's Book Club. The read itself will be substantially darker – Ishmael Beah's bestselling A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier details his years in civil-war-ravaged Sierra Leone. As in years past, Austinites have the month of March to read the book, with April devoted to spirited discussion led by professors from the University of Texas Humanities Institute at various Austin Public Library branches. (See www.cityofaustin.org/library for the particulars.) The monthlong reading orgy culminates in an event at City Hall on April 25 with author Beah in attendance. A Long Way Gone is available at area public libraries and local bookstores. Get crackin'.
More ways to get involved locally way: On March 1, nonprofit Books-a-Go Go launches a monthlong, nationwide book drive to net new and used children's books for redistribution to children from low-income families. Local drops can be found at 8100 N. I-35, 5432 S. I-35, 13264 Research, and 2335 S. I-35 in Round Rock. For more info, visit www.booksagogo.org.
Like books, will travel: Rockdale – yes, the Rockdale that's an hour drive from here – hosts its second annual Tejas Art and Book Festival this Saturday, March 1. A dozen-plus authors, including Texas Ranger H. Joaquin Jackson (One Ranger: A Memoir), young-adult writer Diana Lopez (Sofia's Saints), and Texas Monthly writer-at-large Don Graham (Lone Star Literature: A Texas Anthology), will hold court at the Lucy Hill Patterson Memorial Library. The day's festivities, all of which are free, also include musical performances from Sara Hickman and others, a classic-car show, and a blacksmithing demonstration. For more information, visit www.webspawner.com/users/zellienet/index.html.
We've known Austin novelist Amanda Eyre Ward casually for some years now, and we've always thought she was a pretty classy dame, so it makes sense she'd pair a reading of her latest book, Forgive Me (now in paperback), with wine and cheese. Ward will read at Grape Vine Market (7938 Great Northern Blvd.) on March 11 in a one-off night of Libations & Literature (see www.grapevinemarket.com for more). We couldn't conjure a happier combination.
The Dobie Paisano Fellowship – which gets you a wooded writers' retreat just west of Austin – turns 40 this year but looks better than ever with a significant tweaking. Typically the domain of more established writers (past recipients include Sandra Cisneros and Stephen Harrigan), the program has now created the Jesse H. Jones Writing Fellowship, a longer-stay/smaller-stipend berth "aimed at, though certainly not limited to, writers who are early in their careers." Recipient Mary Helen Specht, an Abilene native, will begin her residency in March, shortly after 40 years' worth of fellows and friends of Dobie Paisano party down (or tastefully brunch, whichever) at the ranch next weekend.
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