Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Based on last year's attendance, the one-day festival will likely attract around 20,000 book lovers, said Clay Smith, literary director for the event since its inception in 2013.
In 2013, the festival hosted 35 writers, Smith said. This year, the list of participating authors was at 92 authors as of Monday evening.
“We’re particularly strong on non-fiction this year,” he said, citing several politically-themed books of interest, including The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú; David Cay Johnston’s It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America); and The Last Republicans: Inside the Extraordinary Relationship Between George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush by Mark Updegrove.
“[Updegrove is] the writer who really got both Bush presidents to talk in a more unvarnished way, about their feelings about where the Republican party is headed,” Smith said.
But “whatever your political persuasion,” Smith said, “people are very hungry for facts.”
Festival Executive Director Katy Flato agreed with Smith.
“I think it’s going to be a super important year for currency, because we are reflecting a lot of issues that are happening right now through books,” she said. "Obviously politics and partisanship are dominating the news cycle. What’s fun is, we’re able to take something like that and show a balanced side of the headlines.”
Flato also noted the range of authors being featured, and said that this year's festival feels "surprisingly mature, and more adventurous in [its] programming.”
Flato co-founded the festival with San Antonio Public Library Foundation President Tracey Bennett in 2012, as the Foundation's signature event, she said.
Flato said one of her favorite characteristics of the festival is its ability both to attract people of all ages and readers "who know who the New York Times bestseller list authors are." She also praised the breadth of books featured – from the "esoteric," such as David Yaffe's biography of musician Joni Mitchell, Reckless Daughter, to books on more ubiquitous subjects such as immigration and water issues, and ones on wolves, coyotes, and jellyfish. "We cover the animal kingdom," she said.
Smith said another highlight is the festival’s literacy focus.
“We’ve really grown the children’s program, and are really proud of the work we’ve done with local literacy nonprofits ... to get a lot of children to the festival who otherwise might not have been able to attend,” he said.
Whatever a reader’s preferences, there’s something for everybody, Smith added. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. [Festival goers] can engage with some of the country’s best writers, and get to know your local and state writers.”
Kelly Grey Carlisle is one example Smith pointed to, with her new memoir, We are all Shipwrecks. Carlisle grew up in the shadow of her mother’s unsolved murder, and gets “raw and gritty in a really intense way.” Carlisle teaches English at Trinity University.
Other local authors of note include 2018 Artist’s Foundation grant winner Bryce Milligan (Literary San Antonio; Take to the Highway: Arabesques for Travelers); Naomi Shihab Nye (Literary San Antonio; Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners); Robert Hammond’s book on his mother’s kite-making genius (Name Them – They Fly Better: Pat Hammond’s Theory of Aerodynamics); and former San Antonian Sandra Cisneros (A House of My Own: Stories from My Life), who moved to Mexico after a flap over her purple-painted house that tested the King William Historic District’s preservation rules.
Continuing last year’s new tradition, the festival will begin unofficially on Friday, April 6 at 7 p.m. at the Majestic Theatre with The Moth. The lineup has yet to be made public, but Smith said he believes "they will have a Festival writer in their lineup of five storytellers."
Then Saturday will dawn, with the big day running from 9 a.m. and running until 5 p.m. With more than 90 authors to choose from, how can festival goers decide who to see?
“We try to make it hard to pick,” Smith said, “because we want there to be a wealth of really interesting events to choose from.”
Don’t just see the famous authors to get your books signed, Smith advised. “Try out others,” even those you might not have heard of yet, because “there’s so many good writers. We put a lot of thought into who we feature. You’re not going to be disappointed by any of the events.”
Flato agreed. "Come early and stay the whole day. You can wander into a session you might not have planned to see," she said, adding that one goal of the festival is to "keep us all curious and learning."
The list of authors is below. Please check the website for updates and a full events schedule:
Crystal Allen (The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown)
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz (How to Love the Empty Air)
Juli Berwald (Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone)
David Biello (The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age)
Holly Black (The Cruel Prince)
Nate Blakeslee (American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West)
Stefan Merrill Block (Oliver Loving: A Novel)
David Bowles (Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico)
Kenny Braun (As Far As You Can See: Picturing Texas)
Peter Brown (Hometown Texas)
Lee Byrd (Birdie’s Beauty Parlor)
Francisco Cantú (The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border)
Kelly Grey Carlisle (We Are All Shipwrecks: A Memoir)
Cyrus Cassells (The Gospel According to Wild Indigo)
Linda Castillo (Down a Dark Road)
Daniel Chacón (The Cholo Tree)
Henry Cisneros (Building Equitable Cities: How to Drive Economic Mobility and Regional Growth)
Sandra Cisneros (A House of My Own: Stories from My Life)
Cary Clack (contributor, Literary San Antonio)
Catherine Nixon Cooke (Powering a City: How Energy and Big Dreams Transformed San Antonio)
Elizabeth Crook (The Which Way Tree)
Steven L. Davis (The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD)
Melissa del Bosque (Bloodlines: The True Story of a Drug Cartel, the FBI, and the Battle for a Horse-Racing Dynasty)
James R. Dennis (Correspondence in D Minor)
Jodi Egerton (Typewriter Rodeo: Real People, Real Stories, Custom Poems)
Mark Eisner (Neruda: The Poet’s Calling)
Lewis Fisher (Maverick: The American Name That Became a Legend)
Dan Flores (Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History)
David Fruchter (Typewriter Rodeo: Real People, Real Stories, Custom Poems)
Adriana M. Garcia (All Around Us)
Meg Gardiner (UNSUB)
John Gibler (I Couldn't Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us: An Oral History of the Attacks Against the Students of Ayotzinapa)
Bárbara Renaud González (Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty)
Xelena González (All Around Us)
Don Graham (Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film)
Claudia Gray (Defy the Worlds)
Daryl Gregory (Spoonbenders: A Novel)
Stephanie Elizondo Griest (All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands)
Laurie Ann Guerrero (contributor, Literary San Antonio)
Robert Hammond (Name Them—They Fly Better: Pat Hammond’s Theory of Aerodynamics)
Stephen Harrigan (contributor, Literary San Antonio)
Colin Harrison (You Belong to Me)
Rodrigo Hasbún (Affections)
Yuri Herrera (Kingdom Cons)
Roger D. Hodge (Texas Blood: Seven Generations Among the Outlaws, Ranchers, Indians, Missionaries, Soldiers, and Smugglers of the Borderlands)
Joe Holley (Hometown Texas)
Anna Maria Hong (H&G)
Ladee Hubbard (The Talented Ribkins: A Novel)
Michael Hurd (Thursday Night Lights: The Story of Black High School Football in Texas)
David Cay Johnston (It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America)
Jim LaVilla-Havelin (West: Poems of a Place)
Cynthia Levinson (Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect us Today)
Sanford Levinson (Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect us Today)
Jardine Libaire (White Fur: A Novel)
David Liss (Renegades)
David Litt (Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House Years)
Attica Locke (Bluebird Bluebird)
Diana López (Coco: A Story about Music, Shoes, and Family)
Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties)
Lauren Markham (The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life)
Juana Martinez-Neal (Alma and How She Got Her Name)
Seamus McGraw (A Thirsty Land: The Making of an American Water Crisis)
Gregory McNamee (Tortillas, Tiswin, and T-Bones: A Food History of the Southwest)
Bryan Mealer (The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family’s Search for the American Dream)
Michael Merschel (Revenge of the Star Survivors)
Bryce Milligan (editor, Literary San Antonio; Take to the Highway: Arabesques for Travelers)
Bill Minutaglio (The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD)
Tomás Q. Morín (Patient Zero)
Naomi Shihab Nye (contributor, Literary San Antonio; Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners)
Daniel Peña (Bang: A Novel)
Sean Petrie (Typewriter Rodeo: Real People, Real Stories, Custom Poems)
Sasha Pimentel (For Want of Water and Other Poems)
Paula Poundstone (The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness)
Jessica Powell (Venture of the Infinite Man)
Jorge Ramos (Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era)
Jan Reid (Sins of the Younger Sons)
Matthew Restall (When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History)
Jason Reynolds (Sunny)
José Antonio Rodríguez (House Built on Ashes: A Memoir)
Joel Salcido (The Spirit of Tequila)
Erika L. Sánchez (I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter) and (Lessons on Expulsion: Poems)
Neal Shusterman (Thunderhead: Arc of Scythe Series #2)
Christina Soontornvat (In a Dark Land: A Changelings Story)
Natalia Sylvester (Everyone Knows You Go Home)
Mark Updegrove (The Last Republicans: Inside the Extraordinary Relationship Between George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush)
Luis Alberto Urrea (The House of Broken Angels)
Martin Wilson (We Now Return to Regular Life)