Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Texas Book Festival + GIVEAWAY

I'm a week late on this but what else is new??  I'm just glad I'm posting at al.  October 26-27, the Texas Book Festival was held in downtown Austin and it was fantastic!  I put my life on hold for the weekend and attended two days of talks, readings, and literary silliness, and it was great.  Oh, and I bought like a thousand books over the two days.  AND the Penguin Book Truck was there, which I was pretty excited about, as well as lots of vendors and authors and all sorts of fun stuff, like book club t-shirts and crazy Republicans picketing outside the Capitol (where a lot of the sessions were held).  I also had ice cream for lunch, because why not. 

First up, my haul for the weekend:
Two of these were free and one's a gift and Allegiant has nothing
to do with anything except that it was just released and I also got
it that weekend because yes, I stopped at a bookstore on my
way to a book festival.  I might have issues.
I kicked things off on Saturday with the Literary Death Match, which was about as fantastic as it sounds.  For those who haven't heard of it, here's the rundown - it started off with a WWF-style video intro before the host comes out and is super-awkward.  Then he introduced 4 authors, who were paired off to read against each other.  As in, each one read and then a panel of 3 judges gave them feedback, American Idol-style, and chose a winner from each pair.  Then the two winners were given teams, consisting of the other authors, the judges, and random people from the audience.  The host read one-star reviews of famous books from Amazon, and the teams had to guess the book.  And yes, it was just hilarious.  I wish I could tell you who the authors were, but all I can remember is that Jonathon Lethem (the only name I recognized) was one of the losers, and a poet named Sasha won.  It was pretty great.

Then I raced to the Capitol and slowly made my way through security to be slightly later for Peter Heller and Joan Silber (neither of whom I have read) talking about reading as writers, which is only vaguely what they actually talked about, but it was interesting nonetheless.  I actually went into this weekend not intending to buy that many books, but rather to hear from authors (I know, what was I thinking?) but Heller nearly made me cry, so I bought The Dog Stars and told him that when he signed.  Here's what he wrote:
We agreed that the best ones always do.
Next up was one of the many YA panels I planned to attend: "Girl Powers."  Which ended up being more like "Kid Powers."  A lot of the YA panels had really interesting names like that, which I assumed meant that they would be discussions around those topics in YA lit.  They were not (or at least this one wasn't).  Basically, it was just a bunch of authors who could be fit into that theme (and expanded at the last minute to include boy powers), and then just your basic reading and discussion, with the authors taking turns and rarely engaging in dialogue with one another.  It was pretty dull and changed my mind about the other YA sessions on my schedule.  I bought Origin by Jessica Khoury before the session because it looked interesting and was glad I did, because she's young and seemed nice - not the best justification but she was pretty cool at the signing, so I was happy.  I bought Beautiful Creatures right after the session because I've been vaguely interested in it and Kami Garcia seemed fun but turned out to be bitchy and unpleasant at the signing.  So it goes.

That was it for Saturday, other than the Lit Crawl in the evening, which included Nerd Jeopardy!  Which was so nerdy that there was a sports question that only my husband knew the answer to.  I was horribly embarrassed.

First thing Sunday morning, I saw Jess Walter, who was one of the only authors at the festival that I've read before, and he did not disappoint.  He read a couple of section from Beautiful Ruins, which was great, partially because I was seeing/hearing the actual author read from a book I love and partially because while I remembered how good the writing and storytelling and characterization are, I'd forgotten how hilarious it is.  It was hysterical, as was Jess Walter himself.  He's quick and has great timing and delivery.  Also, he spoke a lot about his writing coming from empathy for others, which was really interesting, especially because for the past few years, I've been crediting books for teaching me empathy.  I like that circle.  Oh, and he was really nice when I met him, which totally justified my decision to buy two of his books, including one I've already read (hmmm, why would I do such a thing?).

After Jess Walter, my husband dragged me to some boring political thing that does not bear mention, and finally we rounded out the weekend with a rather intellectual session covering the history of humanistic psychology in the United States (with Jessica Grogan) and famous voices (with Elena Passarello).  Not narrative voices, as you might expect (I did), but actual physical voices.  It was weird but interesting and intellectually stimulating.  It made me miss school, actually.  I don't think I would actually ever read either of the authors' books, but I enjoyed the dialogue.

It was a pretty full weekend and I'm already looking forward to next year's festival.  But for now, it's time for my lovely readers to get a chance at the fun!  I'm giving away a SIGNED copy of Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter to one lucky winner.  Just leave a comment saying you want it and I'll pick a winner on Monday morning when I will also (hopefully) be posting a review of The Financial Lives of the Poets.  Good luck!


  1. I missed TBF this year, but some of the things you mention are what I love about it. The weird, off-the-wall panels that somehow still intrigue me are particular favorites. I go for authors I know, but I leave with authors I want to know.

    Shame about the YA stuff. In general, I have found those panels to be a bit navel gazing and blah.

  2. I am SO envious of you right now! Peter Heller and Jess Walter and everything else--I loved both of those guys, both as writers and as people. They both came through my bookstore last year and our staff got to spend some time with them.

  3. I LOVE writers festivals. I usually work at the one here in Brisbane, so I end up going to sessions I probably wouldn't pick otherwise and always end up fascinated. The more conversational style panels are always the best, especially if the authors know each other so they're more comfortable butting in or objecting on a point.

    I will definitely put my hand up for the giveaway, as long as you're okay with me being all the way in Australia. Completely understand if you want to make it a more local one though.

  4. I WANT IT. Am I allowed to want it? Because I do.