It has been quite a festive October in Austin so far, and Halloween is yet to come. Two weekends ago I attended the Austin City Limits Music Festival and this past weekend was the Texas Book Festival. Both brought beautiful weather, record attendance and the opportunity to hobnob with people I love and/or admire.
Austin has really been showing off this month and I can’t help but think that such events are the reason why my fair city has been growing so darn fast. I do believe people come to visit … and then never want to leave.
Not that I can blame them.
The Texas Book Fest started off with a bang. My good friend Gillian Redfearn, sales rep extraordinaire, and I picked up the lovely Kate Runde of Random House and the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson and escorted them to the Children’s Authors’ Party. I wish I had pictures of them both. Kate is an absolute doll. I thought I’d be intimidated by Laurie, whom I admire so very much, but she is a joy – so down-to-earth and easy to talk to.
At the party I also chatted with such literary luminaries as Ingrid Law, Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Carol Dawson, Marina Budhos, and Sara Pennypacker. My awesome Austin author pals were also out in full force, looking gorgeous in their fine clothes.
I wish I was better about pulling out the camera at such events. Justine kindly took this shot of me with Matt de la Peña. By the way, if you haven’t read Matt’s new book, I Will Save You, run right now to your nearest store, shove people out of your way, break the piggy bank – do whatever you need to do to get it. It’s an extraordinary read.
The next day, I started the book festival off with a goals-discussion breakfast with my critique group – a tradition we began last year. We had so much fun it ran long, and I ended up not being able to get in to Laurie Halse Anderson’s presentation. (Sad face.) But I did catch the charming and hilarious Peter Brown reading his book Children Make Terrible Pets. I got to hang out with Peter for a while and he is just as much fun as you would imagine. He didn’t even mind the Beatles jokes I made regarding his name.
Here’s a shot of Peter:
Later I caught my good pal Joe McDermott working his musical magic:
Also on Saturday I got to see the “True Grit: Kids with Chutzpah” featuring Carolyn Cohagan, Lisa Railsback, and Sara Pennypacker – moderated by the amazing Bethany Hegedus. And I caught half of the Texas Bluebonnet Master List. Here’s a shot of Dr. Cuthbert Soup and Michael Buckley announcing the nominated titles.
Lastly that day, I saw the incomparable Meg Cabot speak in a packed church sanctuary. She is so cute and kooky. Later on, fellow dame Margo Rabb and I cornered Meg at the author cocktail party. We mainly talked about shoes. It was very girly.
The cocktail party took place at the top floor of the Four Seasons Residences building which had a beautiful 360-degree view of the city. There I was able to catch up with Sarah Bird, one of my favorite authors and favorite humans, and writer/musician Jesse Sublett. Years ago Jesse’s band The Skunks was one of the things that lured me into the creative culture of Austin. The party also reunited me with my Way Out West Book Fest pals DJ Stout and Lana McGilvray. If you haven’t seen DJ’s latest book, you must. It is beautiful, and it’s one of those historical tales that is so interesting, it almost seems made up. I won’t be surprised if Hollywood comes calling. It would make a great film — a Friday Night Lights of yesteryear.
Saturday night ended with the Zombies vs. Unicorns event that benefited the Austin Bat Cave. What could be more fun than 17 sassy YA authors squaring off in front of a lively audience?
Speaking of “versus,” the first thing I caught the next day was local author Chris Barton reading his bestselling picture book Shark vs. Train to a tent full of awestruck children.
Next I socialized with more writer pals and lunched in the Author Tent as I waited for my esteemed panelists, Varian Johnson, April Lurie, and Matt de la Pena, to arrive. Once assembled we were led into the bowels of the capitol building for our talk "Is the World Ready for My Book?"
It was such an honor moderating this panel. Each of these brilliantly crafted novels delves into a difficult yet timely topic. The books are quite serious and touching and, yes, sad, but the discussion was often lively and fun. The high points for me included hearing April talk about her upbringing, having Matt recount meeting a troubled teen who was also a budding writer, and listening to Varian explain his research on a … touchy subject … that might or might not be included in his next book. (Trust me — it was hilarious. You just had to be there.)
After the panel and the book signings, April, Matt, Varian and I, along with local writer Amy Rose Capetta, headed to the Roaring Fork for drinks and munchies. We were soon joined by Greg and Cynthia Leitich Smith and M.T. Anderson. It was great fun. By the time I returned home, my sides hurt from laughing and my cheeks were still blushing.
It was a magical weekend. The kind that makes me ever so proud and grateful that I live where I live and do what I do for a living.
Big kudos to Clay Smith, TBF’s superhuman organizer, and his brilliant assistant Kimberly Whitmer.
I hope to see everyone there next year!