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Sharks Fighting Trains, Tea Partiers, Trucks Wearing Mustaches at the Texas Book Festival 2010

2010 October 19

Lots of vendors brought the characters of their books with them to TBF

While everyone else was getting all excited for ACL Festival over the last few weeks, I was very quietly getting myself amped for the much geekier, much, um, older, Texas Book Festival that took place this past weekend. After harassing Chris to let me cover the Book Festival for the site for the last month or so, he finally gave me the thumbs up this past week. The Texas Book Festival is a great event for readers and writers, as well as for small presses interested in getting their works to a wider audience.

So I mustered up the nerve to interview this weekend, shined my pocket protector nice, slapped on the nerd badge of courage and got out there to do it.

First, we took a stroll around the various exhibitor tents at the Book Festival. While over 200 authors are invited to speak every year, the exhibitor tents are the way to get in for small presses and local authors. You can also see lots of goofy character costumes and demonstrations designed to draw your attention, and yes, your dollars.

We stopped to talk with a few of the vendors on our way through the tents, including Don Winn, author of the Cardboard Box Adventure Series — a collection of modern fables for young children, and Bob Rosenbaum and Phil Hewitt, the others and operators of the local Ocotillo Press, who publish crime novels and modern westerns that are loosely based on true events:


A mustache-sporting truck near the Book Festival, Saturday.


The Texas Book Festival, hosted at the Capitol and surrounding streets, is free to the public.

Headliners this year included Laura Bush, Eugene Robinson and James Swanson. I was particularly excited about James Swanson, who has just released the sequel to his internationally renowned “Manhunt,” a true historical narrative on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth. I stood in his signing line for twenty minutes, ready to tell him all of sorts of wonderful things about how he’d inspired me to write, about how my view of the way narrative history should be approached was a result of his work, how I loved everything he’s ever done.

Finally I got up there and…nothing, silence. “Hello Mr. Swanson. I loved your book Mr. Swanson. Thank you, Mr. Swanson.” Reduced to a boy.

The signing tent is a great chance to meet your favorite authors after their panels and have them sign your favorite book, but don’t bring too many from home: To have any books signed, you must purchase one book from the Barnes and Noble Tent for every two books you bring from home, according to the posters plastered all around the event.

The rationale behind this is that much of the proceeds from on-site book sales go to keeping the Festival free to the public, but I wish the “one book for two from home” rule applied to other vendors besides just Barnes & Noble, as that smacks of big box favoritism.

One of my favorite moments of the festival was our chance to speak with children’s author Chris Barton, who wrote Shark vs. Train. Shark vs. Train is an awesome little book about a battle between the two creatures that I wish I would have had when I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong — I still love Bernstein Bears and Clifford, but I think that a Shark and a Train in a strategic battle for kid world dominance sounds like it’s right up my ally.

I think the best part about the festival is that it’s a great opportunity for aspiring writers to network. If you’re a writer, attend this event. Mark it on your calendar for next year. There are so many local and small presses with booths there, many of which have applications for submissions, that it’s a virtual can’t miss.


The Book Festival is also a place for a bit of political activism. Here is someone doing some kind of celebration for the Tea Party movement, and I was also witness to a relatively civil debate on the demographics of the festival being mostly older and white meaning that black people don't read enough.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. October 19, 2010

    Twitter Comment

    ROA Sharks Fighting Trains, Tea Partiers, Trucks Wearing Mustaches at the Texas Book Festival 2010:
    … [link to post] via @ATX4U

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  2. Rebecca Aguilar permalink
    October 20, 2010

    Could you write more about the “relatively civil debate on the demographics of the festival”? The issue that attendees were mostly older and white may fall on deaf ears to PROLIFIC READERS who are black or Native American or Hispanic or Asian or young and who might have attended the Texas Book Festival this year.

    Thank you.

    • Rebecca Aguilar permalink
      October 20, 2010

      Leaving the point as the last and brief thing you write seems irresponsible or a non-issue.

      When you decide that “black people don’t read enough” are you also deciding there shouldn’t be anything written they might deem worthy of reading?

      Hasn’t publishing gone beyond this? I hope so. If not, then, it becomes an issue.

  3. October 20, 2010

    Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks for reading and having some passion on the subject! :)

    You are misunderstanding what I wrote there.

    I don’t know whether or not black people read enough. I don’t know whether anyone reads enough. I was witness to a debate (by other people) at the Texas Book Festival on this subject.

    As to to my beliefs on the subject — I am not a black person, nor do I have access to a sufficient enough portion of the black community in Austin, or any reliable statistic, to have any sort of opinion on that matter.

    Eugene Robinson, at his panel, mentioned that older black women are a highly sought after segment of the publishing industry. So while I don’t know if the publishing industry has gone beyond this (I say: it hasn’t), I am not really sure how I would classify what they do.

    • October 20, 2010

      Oh, and: the misinterpretation of what I meant there is no fault of your own. That caption is, admittedly, very oddly worded.

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