The Austin Chronicle

Thinking Outside the Box With Books

By Kimberley Jones, August 4, 2011, 10:00am, Under the Covers

Yesterday we revealed the featured speakers at the Texas Book Festival's annual glitzed-out literary gala. Today we've got the dirt on a new TBF event this year called Lit Crawl. Dress code = less fancy pants, more beer goggles.

I chatted with Texas Book Festival Literary Director Clay Smith about the impetus behind Lit Crawl, which first started at San Francisco's Litquake Festival in 2006 and has since expanded to New York.

"One of the beautiful facts about the Texas Book Festival is that we create this community of readers who get to know one another and mingle with one another on the Capitol grounds and in downtown Austin," Smith says.

But, he says, TBF organizers have been eager to expand the fest's base and to explore more parts of town and more nontraditional venues. Partnering with the Austin-based literary magazine American Short Fiction, they plan to do just that with Lit Crawl, which pairs those nontraditional venues with, shall we say, hipper, more younger-skewing authors.

Smith estimates there will be 15 to 20 authors participating in the event, including some "major writers," spread over five confirmed Eastside venues: Cheer Up Charlie's, Public School, the Texas State Cemetery (how deliciously creepy), the East Side Drive-In, and the Blue Starlite Drive-In. (Another Eastside bar is in negotiations to join the crawl.)

He hopes Eastside inhabitants won't think of this is some kind of literary land grab. "It isn't just the Texas Book Festival and American Short Fiction being big literary players here in town taking over the Eastside," he says. "What's happened here is we've gone to each of these venues and gotten them excited about writing and about literature.

"It's a real community effort and involvement, and that's crucial to its success."

Lit Crawl will take place in two time chunks on Saturday night during the Texas Book Festival, which runs Oct. 22-23. The full lineup – of the Lit Crawl participants as well as the hordes of other TBF authors coming to town – will be released on Sept. 8.

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