Imagination is an unlimited ticket to discovery. The San Antonio Book Festival (SABF) sparks this adventure with its annual Fiction Contest. Last year’s winning story, “Going Down,” by Rhyanne Saul, a ninth grader at North East School of the Arts (pictured above), was a magical account of a mysterious ceremony:

Swarms of people, dressed in white, walk to a mysterious bog, where they eat roaches and bat wings. Their chief opens a small red box, and papers tumble out. He laughs and cries as he reads the memories they hold.

The second-annual Fiction Contest has been expanded to include more students, with higher prizes offered. Aspiring fiction writers in grades seven through 12 are asked to submit 1,500 words or less on the theme “A Chest in the Attic.”

“We wanted to select a theme that would really fire students’ imaginations,” said Mark Kimberly, who serves on the SABF Fiction contest committee. Stories may be “mysterious, hilarious, or heartbreaking,” as long as they include the theme in some way.

“I know there’s a lot of talent in San Antonio,” said Rosalind Casey, young adult fiction (YA) expert who buys for The Twig Book Shop, and serves on the book festival’s committee for teen outreach. “I grew up here, competed in Young Pegasus and other literary contests through school. It’s about finding an outlet that gives you a deadline and the chance for recognition and a sense of belonging.”

Three winners will be selected from each combined grade category: seventh-eighth, ninth – 10th, and 11th – 12th.

A cash prize of $500 will be awarded to the winning students’ schools, along with $250 for first place, $150 for second, and $100 for third. Young authors receive exposure for their winning stories during an event that features 75 acclaimed national and regional authors.

(From left to right) San Antonio Book Festival winner and 11th grader Jessica Redmon, Sam Houston High School Principal Darnell Maurice White, San Antonio Public Library Foundation President Tracey Ramsey Bennett, and Texas Cavaliers Publicity Chairman Clint Hennessey. Photo courtesy of SABF.

Entries are accepted now through Jan. 12, 2015. Winners will be announced on Feb. 24, 2015. More information can be found at the contest’s website

The third annual San Antonio Book Festival, scheduled for Sunday, April 11, 2015, is an all-day, free event held downtown at the Central Library, the Southwest School of Art and the Charline McCombs Empire Theater.

San Antonio Book Festival Director and Co-founder Katy Flato.

“Our focus this year is to create and support a sustainable model for future of the festival, establish a paid staff to ensure continuity from year to year, and build event promotion,” said Executive Director Katy Flato. The festival has added the role of Managing Director, filled by Sherry Layman, as well as a Festival Coordinator, filled by Alex Layman and intern Rose Minutaglio.

“We also plan to expand our educational outreach and grow our teen activities,” Flato said. With her YA and middle grade knowledge, Casey is helping the festival to track Millennials and to use tech-savvy strategies to reach teens.

“We are going to make this really fun and exciting,” Casey said. “We will have high school students introduce authors, which is another element of getting kids really involved, giving them access and responsibility. We’re going to have contests and prizes. There will be lots of interaction between authors and audience members.”

Casey is also considering having teens write book recommendations.

“At that age, reading is such an evangelical experience. It’s very much about sharing the emotions with your friends and reading with groups,” she said.

The inaugural San Antonio Book Festival in 2013. Photo by Shane Kyle.

Gone are the days when YA book readers worshipped authors from afar, she said. “With the Internet the way it is, authors need to be very active on social media, so there’s less of a barrier between authors and readers, and that is really interesting for everyone involved. The realization that these books are written by real people can be very startling, but it’s not that way anymore.”

With resources including Twitter, Tumblr,and blogs, authors stay connected with their audience on a day-to-day basis, instead of the infrequent book tour to promote a new book.

The teen section of the SABF 2015 will also include the MyStory van, which helps people record their personal narratives. Other new features include an expansion of the festival area to include all of the Southwest School of Art campus, including the Coates Chapel and Gardens.

With its panel discussions, author readings, and book signings, the San Antonio Book Festival offers a variety of ways to connect with authors. But the most lively and entertaining way is at the Literary Death Match, a hilarious competition between authors in front of a panel of judges. The crown goes to the author who gives the most entertaining reading or performance. The Literary Death Match is held on the evening of the book festival, and it’s a perfect way to crown the day.

Mayor Julián Castro opens the Literary Death Match. Photo by Melanie Robinson.

*Featured/top image: (From left to right) Lee High School Principal Rick Canales, San Antonio Public Library Foundation President Tracey Ramsey Bennett, San Antonio Book Festival winner and NESA ninth grader Rhyanne Saul, the Saul family (younger brother, mother, and father), and Texas Cavaliers Publicity Chairman Clint Hennessey. Photo courtesy of SABF. 

Related Stories:

San Antonio Book Festival Even Better the Second Time

San Antonio Book Festival Will Draw Thousands Downtown

“A River Runs Through It…” Essay Contest Preludes Book Festival

Q&A with Katy Flato: Book Festival Director, Mother, and Author Groupie

Wendy Weil Atwell

Wendy Weil Atwell is a writer living in San Antonio, Texas. She received her MA in Art History and Criticism from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2002. Atwell is the author of The River Spectacular...

Read more