Texas Book Festival

When the return to Texas got a green light, one of the very first things I did was look up the dates for the Texas Book Festival. I’d been once, back in 2007, and I was anxious to go again.

And go we did. Bart, the baby, and I spent about 6 hours downtown, enjoying the festival’s 15th anniversary (Laura Bush started it back when George W. was the governor of Texas).

As usual, the list of authors attending was very long and very impressive.

The one I was most anxious to see was David Wiesner, who was there promoting his newest book, Art and Max. From what I can tell, he doesn’t do the appearance circuit very much, so I was particularly After very kindly telling us that, contrary to popular pronunciation, it’s “Wheeze-ner,” he read aloud Art and Max, which was thoroughly enjoyable. It’s not my favorite of his books, but it’s very clever and fun. He also read aloud Flotsam, which is one of my very favorites of his books, and it was just delightful to hear him explain each page, since it’s a wordless book. I’ve read this book aloud dozens of times at the library and he pointed out things I’d never noticed.

He spent a little bit of time talking about his growing up and then about the process of making Art and Max.  He identified a few places in it where he’d done subtle (or not so subtle) tributes to his favorite artists. Perhaps my favorite part was when he talked about having a physician for a wife and how when she’d say something like “That hand doesn’t look right,” he’d say, “Oh, go away.” Or when she looked at Flotsam and said, “You can’t take a microscope to the beach! The sand would ruin it.” To which he responded, “Ahhhh, what about in a ziplock bag?” “That might be okay,” she told him.

We stayed in the same tent after he was finished and snagged some chairs to listen to Peter Brown, reading his book Children Make Terrible Pets. His presentation was definitely more geared toward the children in the audience than David Wiesner’s had been, and we got several laughs out of his amusing reading. It was a short little presentation and we were done earlier than we’d expected.

Bart was interested in Nicole LaPorte’s presentation about The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks, so we headed down into the basement of the Capitol Building for that one. Ella was less interested and I sat out in the hall with her, until Bart left early so that we could catch the next session.

Which was a major sour note of the day, sadly. See, it was a “literary death match” between four authors and a panel of three author judges. They’d each do some reading, apparently, and the judges and audience would choose a winner. Fun, right?

I was mainly interested in Bob Shea (a picture book author and illustrator) and Holly Black. Frankly, I didn’t even know who any of the other ones were. And this was a terrible mistake, because when the first author stood up to do a reading from his book, it quickly became evident that this was NOT an event where children or people with any desire to avoid the most horrific reading you can imagine, should be. To prevent your brain from being sullied as ours were, I won’t even tell you about the reading except to say that we lasted all of two minutes before we walked out. The only upside was that we didn’t have children who were older than Ella with us who might remember or, heaven forbid, ASK us about some of the really awful things that this guy was reading (yes, that’s a very small upside, I’m aware). I have no idea what genius scheduled this guy with a couple of children and teen authors, but that person is not my friend. And we missed Bob Shea. Tragic.

Anyway, we walked through the vendor booths and found a quiet and cool place to eat some lunch, then, in an attempt to salvage the day, went to hear the guys who started Awkward Family Photos (their book just came out, should you be wondering why they were at a BOOK festival). They were very charming and sweet and had the audience laughing most of the time. They were also very quick to acknowledge their good fortune and the luck that was involved in this becoming such a hit, not to mention the fact that they owed it all to the people who sent in their pictures. One girl stood up and was all, “So publishers were approaching YOU? No offense but that kind ticks off those of us who are doing everything we can to catch a publisher’s attention.” Ah, yes, what class. What taste. What style.

And then, finally, we went to the presentation we were most looking forward to – Scott Westerfeld. I had heard him speak on a panel last year at TLA, but Bart had just read the Uglies series over the summer and I figured he’d be fun to hear again.

He was far and away the highlight for us. Hearing his prepared presentation rather than just as part of a multi-author panel was night and day different. He was so interesting, so funny, and just so likable. He clearly is one of those people who is just interested in the world around him, in history and science and art and literature and hearing him talk just made me want to run out and read some encyclopedias so I could be half as interesting.

The day was definitely salvaged, is what I’m saying.

I can’t WAIT until next year. Except this time I’ll screen carefully every session we’re considering attending so as not to scorch our ears off.

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  • Reply Kimberly F. October 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    The Literary Death Match was really good except for that first reading, which I also thought was terrible. Not for language, sex or violence, which I'm OK with in books, but for the fact that it tried to be funny about something that is really, really not funny. And its complete and utter failure to get into the head of a woman.

    Bob Shea and Holly Black were actually the only children/teen authors there. The others were all adult authors. So the kids' ones were the odd ones out. The other two adult authors I thought were pretty good. But of course as I've already mentioned Bob Shea was the best of them all. That usually happens!

    Also, I love "Children Make Terrible Pets!" It came in the same shipment as "Monsters Eat Whiny Children" – love these titles they come up with.

  • Reply Lexilooo October 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    I am so jealous! I'd love to come out for the Texas Book Festival some year. I heard Mrs. Bush speak at the Nat'l Book Festival here last month and she was as lovely as ever!

  • Reply melissa @ 1lbr October 21, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Oh, I'm so glad to hear you loved Scott Westerfeld – he's coming to my library this month and I'm thrilled.

  • Reply Trish October 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I was there as well—but because of driving down from Dallas that morning and meeting up with a handful of bloggers I was only able to attend one panel. Strangely enough it was the Literary Death Match. Like you I was pretty appalled by the first author—the second was eh but less inappropriate—Julie was third and just as inappropriate as the first—but Bob Shea was the highlight. Especially after seeing the other “adult” authors. He read from his book Dinosaur vs. Potty (including slides of the book) and the audience was simply dying with laughter. Afterwards he read a piece along the same lines except about authors—authors vs. obsessively googling your name. Author wins! Author vs. explaining to your parents what you do for a living…etc etc. I keep finding Trish vs. XX moments throughout the day echoing Shea’s comments. But…the drivel beforehand was a lot to put up with. 🙁

  • Reply Amber October 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    oh I'm so jealous you got to hear Scott Westerfeld! I love his books!

    That festival sounds intriguing, I'll have to look it up.

  • Reply Miri October 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Megan and I have been making plans to go next year! I just discovered the one in Miami a few days ago and was shocked that I'd never heard of it. It was in the midst of our plans to attend that festival that Megan suggested we check out this one. I am so excited.

  • Reply Laurie@The Baking Bookworm October 28, 2010 at 1:57 am

    Book festival! I'm jealous! I'll have to hunt down some book festivals around here. I would be in my glory!!

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