The last weekend of October, I’m always busy for the entire weekend. Every year, the Capitol grounds and Congress Ave. close for a weekend and are prepped for the biggest celebration of literature in the entire state; hundreds of authors fly in for panels and thousands of readers congregate under white tents full of books. After 23 years, the Texas Book Festival has become an important celebration of the printed word and connected readers to authors big and small.
This year, I started my day at Cecile Richards’ session, the kick-off event for the festival, where she talked about her activism and continuing her mother Ann Richards’s legacy. Richards’s years as the president of Planned Parenthood and fights for equality have made her an icon for many, and as she concluded her session she received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Next, I walked a good way to the YA HQ tent. There, I sat and watched the “Tough Times at Ridgemont High” panel, with the amazing Brendan Kiely and Guadalupe Garcia McCall among others. This panel was one of the best I’ve ever been to; they discussed societal problems that we face, which inspired their books, including persecution, toxic masculinity, and drug addiction. While the topics are heavy, they handled them with care and inspired the audience to create change.
After the panel, I saw Claire Legrand signing and had to take a selfie!
Returning back to my starting spot, I came just in time to listen to Jacqueline Woodson’s conversation. She spoke about the need for representation in literature and how specifically in schools, kids should be given modern, diverse literature to pair with classics they read to hear from other points of view. As the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature and a prolific, impactful author, Woodson continues to tell ground-breaking and timely stories, like the National Book Award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming.
Hustling to the next session, I entered the Kirkus Reviews tent where Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, the authors of the Magic Tree House series and the Fact Tracker companions, had already drawn a crowd. I claimed a spot towards the front side of the tent, and when Mary Pope Osborne stepped in front of me, I couldn’t help but stand still in shock. She was one of my childhood heroes, and those books had a huge impact on me growing up. They talked about their newest installment, about the Galveston Hurricane in 1912, and got me excited for their upcoming book about narwhals set in Greenland. I took pictures with them and got my books stamped.
The last event of the day was a YA Trivia panel that I helped run with the Teen Library Council from the Central Library. It was a really fun event for teens who love to read. Here’s a picture of me with Teen Library Council leader, librarian, and Potterhead Michael Harle!
The next morning I attended V.E. Schwab and John Scalzi’s science fiction panel, which was helpful with writing tips. Schwab insisted that if you aren’t passionate about what you are writing, there’s no point in writing it.
After this panel and getting my Schwab books signed, I stopped by Ibi Zoboi’s signing line.
From there I rushed over to the Central Library to celebrate its first birthday. I can’t believe it has been open for a whole year. They had cupcakes, activities and library director Mr. Roosevelt Weeks was standing near the doors, greeting everyone who entered.
Then, I found my good friend Carly (@alltheprettybooks) who drove down for the day!
We headed to the How to Make a Graphic Novel panel, where Kazu Kibuishi was talking with Raúl the Third and Jo Whittemore was moderating. I was so psyched to see Kazu; I’ve been a fan of his Harry Potter covers since 2013 when they were released, and I DEFINITELY didn’t bring my entire box set to get signed. Ahem. The talk was awesome, but I was even more excited to meet Kazu. He was extremely nice and signed all of the books I brought, and even drew Harry for me!
After that rush, I hung out at YA HQ and listened to Ransom Riggs and Dhonielle Clayton’s panel. They talked about creating worlds in their books and the amount of research they did. I saw some publisher friends there, like Mary Ann Zissimos from Disney. She is just the best!
The final event of the Texas Book Festival was at the Long Center; Pete Souza, Obama’s head photographer, talked about his new book Shade, which contrasts Obama and Trump’s presidencies. His presentation was powerful and had many people reminiscing and emotional. Sadly photos were not allowed at this event, but his new book captures his session perfectly. When his session wrapped up to massive applause, I packed up my bags for the weekend and headed home.
The weekend was exhausting; running around with bags of books is an acquired skill, but definitely well worth it. This year’s festival was a fantastic celebration of books that ran smoothly and had a great selection of authors and panels for everyone. This festival truly reflects that “everything is bigger in Texas”. From the huge turnout to the magnitude of the festival, the Texas Book Festival shows that Austin will always love literature, which gives me hope for readers of the future.