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Texas Book Festival: Q & A

Cindy Burnett
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Texas Book Festival 2019

Readers come from all over Texas and beyond for the Texas Book Festival each year. (Photo courtesy of the Texas Book Festival)

The Texas Book Festival (TBF) occurs every fall and attracts people from all over Texas and beyond. Last year when the pandemic hit, the festival had to switch to online programming much like other cultural events across the country. Learning from that process, this year TBF is a combination of in-person and virtual events, offering something for everyone and allowing readers from all over the world to participate. 

To learn more about the Texas Book Festival, I asked the festival’s Literary Director Matthew Patin some questions about the event, how it got started, and what it will look like this year. I also interviewed him for my podcast if you want to learn more.

What is the Texas Book Festival?

Now in its 26th year, the Texas Book Festival is one of the largest literary events in North America, routinely attracting hundreds of authors and tens of thousands of attendees. TBF programs literary events year-round as well, and includes several key statewide outreach programming initiatives: Reading Rock Stars, Real Reads, and Texas Library Grants. Texas Book Festival’s mission is to connect authors and readers through experiences that celebrate the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination.

What are the dates this year for 2021?

The Texas Book Festival will run from October 23–31 this year. The events are as follows:

  • October 23–24: Virtual children’s programming
  • October 23–24: Texas Teen Book Festival / Young Adult programming
  • October 25–31: Virtual adult programming
  • October 28, 30: Lit Crawl Austin
  • October 30: In-person picture book and story time programming at Symphony Square in downtown Austin. Registration/RSVP required for in-person events.
  • October 31: In-person adult programming at Austin Central Library in downtown Austin. Registration/RSVP required for in-person events.

What will the format be for 2021?

2021 will mark our first truly hybrid program. Some events will take place in-person, and many will take place online. The full program can be found online here

How do you decide which authors to invite? 

The literary director and selection committees sort through 1,000+ submissions, pitches, and recommendations a year to arrive at a cross-genre lineup for all age groups: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, picture books, young adult titles, and more.

Is there a focus on Texas authors?

The Festival always includes a rich and robust list of authors who reside in or have ties to Texas. In fact, the Festival initially only featured Texas authors but soon expanded to feature authors from across the country. 

How long has the Texas Book Festival been in existence?

The Texas Book Festival was founded in 1995, and the first festival took place in 1996.

How did it start?

The Texas Book Festival began with a simple purpose: to bring authors and readers together in a celebration of literature and literacy. Founded in 1995 by Laura Bush (a former librarian and then First Lady of Texas), Mary Margaret Farabee, and a dedicated group of volunteers, the TBF set out to honor Texas authors, promote the joys of reading, and benefit the state’s public libraries. The first Festival took place in November 1996 and is now one of the nation’s premier annual literary events.

What was like last year going remote and what changes will stay?

Pivoting to fully virtual in 2020 was a major challenge, not only for TBF but also for all literary events. Though the format changed, the mission to connect authors with readers remained the same, and Texas-wide audiences were delighted to be able to “visit” TBF from wherever they were. As for what will stay, capturing more events via video and live-streaming online is near the top of the list.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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