Courtesy / Ashley Landis
On Nov. 5-6, 290 authors ranging from cookbook writers to celebrities-turned-authors will gather at the Texas State Capitol for a weekend of nearly 150 free panels, book signings, cooking demonstrations, and children’s activities.
Notable authors this year include Don DeLillo, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Diana Kennedy, Thomas Dolby, Emma Cline, and R.L. Stine. Accompanying the traditional novelists at this year’s festival are actor-authors Ethan Hawke, Parks and Recreation‘s Nick Offerman, and Orange Is the New Black‘s Diane Guerrero.
“We are (currently) seeing more crossover with artists,” said Texas Book Festival Executive Director Lois Kim. “People who are on YouTube, in film, or comedians are also writing books. All different kinds of artists are writing books.”
The festival will operate as it has in years past. Festivities will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. After hours on Saturday, select authors will appear on several stages throughout the city’s Eastside – primarily venues along East Cesar Chavez Street – during Lit Crawl Austin. Each crawl event is different, from a kid-friendly show with R.L. Stine (Goosebumps series) and the rock band Echo and the Bats, to noir readings inside a bar with crime fiction authors.
Attendees also can kayak, run, bike, or do yoga with some of the authors Saturday and Sunday morning by signing up here while spots last.
Free parking will be offered in city garages designated here. Panels will be held inside the Capitol, while tents in and around the Capitol grounds will host related events. Some activities will spill out into nearby venues along the Congress Avenue corridor.
This year, Kim said convenience is key. Organizers are adding more on-site book sales and signings to make navigating the festival easier for attendees.
“It is an absolutely delightful and easy festival,” Kim said. “It’s quite chill. You can stroll around, listen to a session – there is a very fair-like atmosphere.”
The vibe of the festival is very similar to the San Antonio Book Festival, held in downtown San Antonio every spring. SABF Executive Director Katy Flato said they modeled their festival after the Texas Book Festival when planning began four years ago.
“I think they complement each other,” Flato said. “(Texas Book Festival) is like the older sibling and we are the younger child. We will always be like that and that is terrific. I am happy we have the Texas Book Festival just up the road.
“I encourage everyone to go. The Texas Book Festival is a treat for anyone who is interested in reading, writing, ideas, or books. It is truly a premiere event and we are very lucky to have it in Austin.”
More than 40,000 attendees are expected to flood the Capitol grounds over the course of the weekend, and Kim said she hopes a large portion of that number come from outside the city.
“We encourage people to come up the road (from San Antonio),” Kim said. “We really want to provide the festival not just for Austinites, but for all Texans.”
One of the out-of-towners who will make the trek up I-35 is Gregg Barrios, a San Antonio-based playwright and poet.
On Sunday from 11-11:45 a.m., San Antonio performer Joel Settles will read a live excerpt of Barrios’ play, I-DJ and a discussion of Latino theater in Texas will follow. UTSA professor Ben Olguín and San Antonio author Anel Flores will headline the panel.
San Antonio-based author Joe Jiménez, an English teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School, will join them. Jiménez said he’s excited to be among so many talented writers, such as Lois Lowry, whose book, The Giver, he has taught in his classroom.
“Students who are familiar with (The Giver) can come and get to know a little bit more about the author and some of her other books,” Jiménez said. “I think those opportunities are so special because it is not something you get every day.”
Jiménez will be participating in a book signing for his first novel, Bloodline, a coming-of-age story about a Mexican-American high schooler living in San Antonio. On Saturday, Nov. 5 at 1:30 p.m. he also will speak on a panel about how his past has influenced his work.
Overall, Jiménez said he expects the festival to be fun, but more importantly, a rare and important time for authors of different backgrounds to convene and discuss their work with readers.
“The world is big and awesome, and the fact that you can bring people from across the U.S. to one place in Texas to go see and listen and buy books, I think that is especially awesome,” Jiménez said. “It’s an opportunity for one or two days to just be immersed in something that so many of us believe is so necessary to life.”