Josefina Casati is the former Editor of ¡Ahora Sí!, the Spanish weekly of the Austin American-Statesman which began informing, inspiring and celebrating Austin’s Spanish-speaking community in 2004. Since moving to Austin in 1998 from northern California, Josefina has held various positions in the Statesman newsroom, and has been part of many community organizations and events including the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Las Comadres para Las Americas, Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, Hispanic Marketing Symposium, Feria Para Aprender, Día de Los Niños/Día de Los Libros, the International Latino Book Awards, Austin Leadership, Latinitas and Hispanic Austin Leadership. She has served on the KLRU Community Advisory Board and is currently on the University of Texas Elementary School board. She lives in Austin with her husband Kit Casati, their son Enzo and daughter Iliana.
Gigi Edwards Bryant is a sixth generation Austinite. She started GMSA Management Services, an Austin based business development consulting firm started in 1993 after a 20 year career in information systems. The firm, recognized as one of Texas’ outstanding small businesses, focuses on community outreach/involvement, employee engagement and business development. Gigi serves her community through organizations that address issues surrounding family such as education, youth in the foster system, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Some immediate past public service includes gubernatorial appointments with two Chairmen assignments, Department of Child Protective Services and Texas School Safety Center, Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Council, Saint Edward’s University New College Advisory, Austin Police Department’s Blue Santa and the Austin Community College Foundation. Membership Organizations include: Douglass Club of Austin, American Association of University Women, Executive Women in Golf Association, Texas Exes – Life Member, Austin Chapter of the Links Incorporated and Balcones Women Golf Association. A partial list of community honors include: Distinguished Austinite, Campfire Promise, Outstanding Texan Award, CASA-Inspiring Leader and Fierce Advocate for Children, Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction, Ma Ferguson – Award of Excellence Finalist, Dedicated Volunteer of the Year, Outstanding Citizen for Leadership. Gigi started her education at Austin Community College in 1977 and transferred to St. Edwards University where she earned a degree in business with a minor in computer science. She earned a MBA in Global Leadership from University of Texas at Dallas. She a 1992-1993 Graduate of Leadership Austin.
Sarah Bird is the author of nine novels and one book of non-fiction. Her latest, Above the East China Sea, made the Dublin International Award long list; was an ALEX Award nominee; winner of the 2016 Texas Philosophical Society Literary Award; a Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice; a Seattle Times Best Book of the Year; a Tucson Book Festival Great Books for Book Club selection; and a Marie Claire Best Summer Reads. This past October, Sarah was selected for the Meryl Streep Screenwriters’ Lab. This spring, the Texas Institute of Letters will present her their Lifetime Achievement Award. She was the 2014 Texas Writer Award winner. Sarah has also been a Moth Radio Hour storyteller; a writer for Oprah’s Magazine, NY Times Sunday Magazine and Op Ed columns, Real Simple, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Salon, Daily Beast, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, MS, Texas Observer; and a columnist for Texas Monthly. Sarah was selected for B&N’s Discover Great Writers series; New York Public Libraries Books to Remember; a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship; an Illumine Award for Excellence in Fiction winner. She is a five time winner of Austin Chronicle’s Best Austin Author and an inductee into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. She has been hired to write for Paramount, CBS, Warner Bros, National Geographic, ABC, TNT, as well as several independent producers. Her original screenplay, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is currently being developed by Pantheon of Women films. In April the University of Texas Press with publish her latest, A Love Letter to Texas Women.
Sarah Queen joined the Texas Book Festival in 2012, and works with the Reading Rock Stars program. Sarah was the founding Executive Director of Explore Austin where she is now a member and officer of the board. Previously, Sarah served as Secretary of the St. Andrew’s Board of Trustees, a member of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Board, and a member of the Wonders & Worries Board. Sarah earned her BA from the University of Virginia and her JD at the University of Texas School of Law. Most recently, Sarah was Senior Legal Counsel at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a company that offers senior counsel, insightful research and strategic communications planning throughout the world.
One of the most beloved and admired American First Ladies, for decades Laura Bush has championed key issues in the fields of education, health care, and human rights. The author of the bestselling memoir, Spoken From The Heart, and co-author of bestselling children’s book Our Great Big Backyard, Mrs. Bush founded both the Texas Book Festival and the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. Today, as the Chair of the Woman’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, Mrs. Bush continues her work on global healthcare innovations, empowering women in emerging democracies, education reform, and supporting the men and women who have served in America’s military. Mrs. Bush was born in Midland, Texas to Jenna and Harold Welch. In 1977, she married George W. Bush. President and Mrs. Bush are the parents of twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, son-in-law, Henry Hager, and proud grandparents of granddaughters Margaret Laura “Mila” and Poppy Louise Hager. The Bush family also includes two cats, Bob and Bernadette, and a new rescue puppy named Freddy.
Julie serves as Texas Book Festival’s literary director, responsible for developing and implementing year-round literary programming in Austin and other Texas cities, including the annual two-day Festival in Austin. She has ten years of experience as an independent bookseller, most recently serving as marketing director for BookPeople, the largest independent bookstore in Texas and one of the most high profile independent bookstores in the country. Before moving to Austin in 2011, Julie served as publicist and events coordinator for Book Revue, a large independent bookstore on Long Island. She has a B. A. in English from Boston University. In addition to acting as TBF’s literary director, Julie is the author of the books Vegan Survival Guide to Austin and The Swimming Holes of Texas. Her fiction has been published in Arcadia magazine, which nominated her short story, ‘Happiness,’ for a Pushcart Prize. She is currently at work on a novel. Julie loves books of all stripes and is particularly drawn to short and literary fiction.
Maris serves as the Development Associate for Texas Book Festival. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in English from The State University of New York at Geneseo. Before joining the festival, Maris worked as the Executive Assistant at The Center for Generational Kinetics, and as a ghostwriter for the New York-based firm Katz Creative, Inc. Her literary interests include literary and speculative fiction, as well as short stories and poetry. Her own short fiction has been published by Witness Magazine, Molotov Cocktail online journal and Gandy Dancer Literary Magazine, Literal Latte, and Noble/Gas Quarterly. Her story “Whale Summer” was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is working on a short story collection and a novel.
Lea manages Texas Book Festival’s year-round outreach programs including Reading Rock Stars, Library Grants, and the Youth Fiction Contest. Lea holds a bachelor’s degree with honors in International Relations and International Development from Tulane University. After graduating, Lea taught 6th grade reading at a KIPP middle school in New Orleans as a member of Teach for America. She recently graduated from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs with a Master’s of Public Affairs. While earning her master’s degree, Lea interned for a local corporate foundation. Lea’s favorite literary genres include 20th century fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction.
Claire serves as Texas Book Festival’s Deputy Director, overseeing Festival and program logistics as well as day to day operations. She joined the Texas Book Festival in 2014. She has a PhD in Comparative Literature from Stony Brook University and a master’s degree in Aesthetic Studies from UT Dallas and a bachelor’s degree in Literary Studies from UT Dallas. Before joining the Festival, Claire was an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University teaching film, literature, and cultural studies. Her literary interests include comics and graphic novels, literary fiction, and memoirs.
Lois serves as Texas Book Festival’s chief executive officer, responsible for leading the organization’s strategic direction, staff, resource development and external relations. An immigrant from Seoul, Korea, Lois grew up in Williamsville, New York. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin, where her research focused on Shakespeare and early modern culture. In her early career, she taught high school English and pursued graduate coursework from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. Prior to joining the Texas Book Festival, Lois served as the associate director of University Extension at UT Austin, where she managed student and academic affairs for college credit students. She also served on the board of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation for six years, four of those as Vice President. Her husband, Phillip Reed, is a principal of Cotera + Reed Architects and they have two children: Sylvia (21) and Nate (18). Lois loves to cook, hike, and is a member of two bookclubs. Her favorite book genres are literary fiction across all centuries and memoir.