National Poetry Month with TORCH

Celebrate National Poetry Month with TORCH Literary Arts and their April Feature, Toi Derricotte! Derricotte is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets’ 2021 Wallace Stevens Award, the 2020 Frost Medal from The Poetry Society of America, and cofounder of Cave Canem Foundation. Visit the TORCH website to read new work, an interview with Derricotte, and more creative writing by Black women from around the world.

Torch Literary Arts is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. They publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. TORCH has featured work by Colleen J. McElroy, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.

 

FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY: A Conversation with Jenny Tinghui Zhang & Gen Padalecki

ANNOUNCING – We’re partnering with fellow Texan Gen Padalecki and her Now & Gen book club for a conversation with Austin author Jenny Tinghui Zhang about her debut novel Four Treasures of the Sky. Grab your copy and read along with us! Be sure to join the conversation on Thursday, May 5 at 12 p.m. CT on Gen’s Instagram Live (@genpadalecki). No RSVP necessary, just stop on by!

When you purchase your copy of Four Treasures of the Sky using this BookPeople link, you will receive an autographed note from Gen! Available while supplies last.

Author:
Jenny Tinghui Zhang
is a Chinese-American writer. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Apogee, Ninth Letter, Passages North, The Rumpus, HuffPost, The Cut, Catapult, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Wyoming and has received support from Kundiman, Tin House, and VONA/Voices. She was born in Changchun, China and grew up in Austin, Texas, where she currently lives. Four Treasures of the Sky is her debut.

Moderator:
Genevieve Padalecki (you can call her Gen) is a daughter, sister, mother, and wife. She’s also a traveler, book nerd, activist, actress, adventure seeker, and aspiring urban homesteader. A California girl from birth and a mountain girl at heart, she now calls Austin, Texas, home and lives with her husband Jared—yes, that guy from Supernatural and Walker—three kids (Tom, Shep, and Odette), 14 chickens, two dogs, and a hive of honeybees.

She blogs about her life, books, parenting, fashion, and more at nowandgen.com and is the co-founder of @towwn – Take Only What We Need, a community that focuses on measurable steps we can take to live a more just and sustainable life for people + planet.

 

An Evening with Selma Blair: MEAN BABY

We’re excited to partner with BookPeople to welcome Selma Blair in conversation with Jamie-Lynn Sigler in celebration of Blair’s new memoir, Mean Baby! The event will take place on Friday, May 20 at First Baptist Church of Austin, located on Trinity Street. Doors will open at 6 PM and the event will begin at 7 PM. The event will run for 45-60 minutes, including an audience Q&A. Tickets are available exclusively through Eventbrite and include a signed copy of Mean Baby.

About Mean Baby
Selma Blair has played many roles: Ingenue in Cruel Intentions. Preppy ice queen in Legally Blonde. Muse to Karl Lagerfeld. Advocate for the multiple sclerosis community. But before all of that, Selma was known best as…a mean baby. In a memoir that is as wildly funny as it is emotionally shattering, Blair tells the captivating story of growing up and finding her truth.

“Blair is a rebel, an artist, and it turns out: a writer.”

—Glennon Doyle, Author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Untamed and Founder of Together Rising

The first story Selma Blair Beitner ever heard about herself is that she was a mean, mean baby. With her mouth pulled in a perpetual snarl and a head so furry it had to be rubbed to make way for her forehead, Selma spent years living up to her terrible reputation: biting her sisters, lying spontaneously, getting drunk from Passover wine at the age of seven, and behaving dramatically so that she would be the center of attention.

Although Selma went on to become a celebrated Hollywood actress and model, she could never quite shake the periods of darkness that overtook her, the certainty that there was a great mystery at the heart of her life. She often felt like her arms might be on fire, a sensation not unlike electric shocks, and she secretly drank to escape.

Over the course of this beautiful and, at times, devasting memoir, Selma lays bare her addiction to alcohol, her devotion to her brilliant and complicated mother, and the moments she flirted with death. There is brutal violence, passionate love, true friendship, the gift of motherhood, and, finally, the surprising salvation of a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

In a voice that is powerfully original, fiercely intelligent, and full of hard-won wisdom, Selma Blair’s Mean Baby is a deeply human memoir and a true literary achievement.

About Selma Blair
SELMA BLAIR is an actress best known for her roles in Legally Blonde, Cruel Intentions, The Sweetest Thing, and Hellboy. Blair was named a Time Person of the Year in 2017 as one of their Silence Breakers, and she was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for her narration of The Diary of Anne Frank. She is the subject of the documentary Introducing, Selma Blair, which reveals Blair’s intimate and raw journey with multiple sclerosis. Blair lives with her son in Los Angeles.

Journey to the Gala with Don Tate!

Last Friday, the Texas Book Festival hosted the annual First Edition Literary Gala at the Four Seasons Austin. The evening saw presentations from award-winning storytellers and friends of the Fest, including Carrie Fountain, Noah Hawley, Chang-Rae Lee, Elizabeth McCracken, and recipient of the 2021 Texas Writer Award, Don Tate! 

We are delighted to talk with Don about his experience leading up to the big event. Read more below to spend [a couple of days] in the life of critically acclaimed Children’s author and illustrator, Don Tate!

Journey to the Gala with Don Tate

I learned that I was selected as the 2021 Texas Writer Award recipient while checking emails on my iPhone, while I was at a restaurant drive-through window. The message came from Texas Book Festival Literary Director Matthew Patin, informing me about the award.

Matthew said: 

“Your prolific contribution to Texas letters, your lengthy TBF alum status, your tireless commitment to community engagement, awareness, and in-school programming, including with Reading Rock Stars and The Brown Bookshelf —the choice is a no-brainer, really. And from me, and on behalf of the TBF staff and board and Author Selection Committee, I’d be honored if you’d accept the award.”

Moonstruck, I sent this message back to Matthew: 

I’m reading this email from a Schlotsky’s drive-through window, ordering a jalapeño turkey sandwich, with a mask covering my face, and hoping my very dark sunglasses are hiding my now red misty eyes. How’s that for a visual, huh? Of course, yes! I accept! Coming from my beloved friends at the Texas Book Festival, I can’t think of a greater honor!!

I was thrilled to receive the news, but I was also baffled—and even a little embarrassed. Like a lot of creative people, I tend to suffer from Imposter Syndrome. It’s a feeling of self-doubt, like I’m not quite what others perceive me to be. Past winners included names like Attica Locke, Dan Rather, and Pat Mora.

I also realized I’d be the first Black man to receive the recognition. My anxiety jagged up a few more notches. Being the first of anything is exciting, of course. But it can also be heavy, especially when it’s a Black first. Would folks take their recognition of me seriously? Might folks think the award to be penance for some past oversight? Or, do I simply worry too much?

In time, I was able to post the news to my social networks. Hundreds of people responded with congratulations, saying, “You deserve this!”

I thought about what I had accomplished since I started my writing career in 2010. I thought about several other recent honors I’d received—the SCBWI Golden Kite, induction into the Texas Institute of Letters. I was ready to put all that worry aside. But I began to worry again. The award is presented at a fancy gala! And I don’t own a tux. On the afternoon of the gala, I posted this to social networks: 

“Tonight’s the night—the Texas Book Festival’s literary gala! And I’ve sweated the whole tux thing way too much. I don’t own one, and I did not want to splurge on a pricey rental. So, I got the $49.99 blue-light special—which is a fair-looking tux, but not one of the more modern, skinny-fit ones with the narrow legs that I’d prefer. It’s more high school awkward, but the sales team said that with my athletic build, I could pull it off. The other thing is that it’s a black-tie event—which, if you know me, I like to be different. So if everyone else is wearing black tuxes, I want to wear— don’t know—ripped jeans and chukka boots or something. Anyway, after two years of being mostly shut-in, it will be nice to get out and have some fun with my literary friends!”

Later that evening, I was in aflutter some more:

One half-hour before the festivities, and I’m Googling “How the hell do cuff links work?”

That night after, I posted this: 

“Oh, what a night! Book lovers, philanthropists, politicians, authors, librarians, poets—an audience of almost 500 people! They raised almost $110.000 in about ten minutes to support Texas libraries. Then, I accepted the Texas Book Festival’s Texas Author Award. Even got a standing ovation after my acceptance speech. So honored to be acknowledged by an organization that I love. And my $49.99 tux, it worked!”

Texas Book Festival Gala 2022 at the Four Seasons photos ©Bob Daemmrich Author program

And the next day, I posted more about the cool cowboy boots that came with the award: 

“I forgot to mention in my previous post, the recipient of the Texas Writer Award receives a nifty pair of handmade custom cowboy boots. They are made by Rocketbuster out of El Paso, Texas, and they are fine works of art.”

“The process of creating them was quite an amazing experience, too. First, they asked me to trace my foot on paper and take other measurements—which included my heels, the waist of my foot, my instep, and the ball of my foot. I had to measure my calves in two different places. As far as the boots, I selected the toe box shape, the medallion stitching design, the height and style of the heel.”


“Rocketbuster builds the boots from scratch, but I picked a basic catalog design and then customized them from there. The Texas Book Festival’s logo would go on the front, but there was also a space on the back to fill. I thought about what the Texas Book Festival has meant to me over the years. To me, it’s been about presenting to children under the Read Me a Story tent or giving children books during the Reading Rock Stars program. So, I created this piece of art that represented that.”

“As the artists at Rocketbuster created my boots, they texted images to me along the way—sketches of the boots, leather choices, stitching color. It was cool to see how they literally carved and painted my design into the boots. I think they turned out so great, but I’m afraid to actually wear them. I put them atop my bookcase!”

To sum this post up: I am proudly a writer. I am proudly a Texas Writer Award recipient. And now, I am the proud owner of my first hand-made-from-scratch cowboy boots!

 

My Staple Reads for Black Culture Month

As we celebrate Black history and culture this month, I wanted to recommend some of my staple reads that inspire me to be confident, creative, and courageous all year round! In this list, you will discover stories that continue to transcend time and new stories that will surely be revisited time and again. Help us continue to elevate Black voices beyond the month of February by sharing the stories that have inspired you!

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison


I first read this novel in college and I remember being very angry after closing the book. A few years later, I decided to read the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove again and something about the timing and place (I finished it in about 3 hours on a rainy day at a coffee shop) of digesting the pages again made me feel a sort of reconciliation with this particular story and with my own struggles with racism and colorism as a child and adult.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

This is a time-travel novel that had me both eager and terrified to turn to the next page. I often re-read this story because it’s a history lesson, love story, and action movie all combined into a roller coaster of emotions. Speaking of an action movie, the novel will be adapted into an upcoming series on FX. I can’t wait to see this story unfold on screen!

Just as I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson is a film and television icon who we sadly lost in 2021. Watching her on-screen always captivated me because she used her roles as teaching moments that went beyond the plot. I like to just pick a moment in time from her memoir and revisit how she navigated the entertainment industry for over seven decades! 

Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis

I look up to actress Viola Davis on a daily basis (she’s so fun on Instagram) because she continues to take on roles that reflect the multiple generations of women in my family and myself. She addresses the topics that are sometimes hard to unpackage as a Black woman but it’s somehow comforting to know that she has gone through those trials and come out on TOP! 

The Education of Kevin Powell by Kevin Powell

I recently decided to watch the first season of The Real World where writer and activist Kevin Powell was a cast member. He stood out to me because he addressed his experiences as a Black man struggling and overcoming racism in this country. This was back in the early 90s, so this topic was, for the most part, taboo for a mainstream television audience. It was illuminating to hear him discuss his journey during that time and know that today, many (if not all) of those issues still run rampant. This memoir allowed me to dive deeper and learn more about Powell beyond a reality show.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes


The concept of this novel is one of the most imaginative things that I have come across since reading Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred. I tend to get overwhelmingly sad or angry when I read narratives dealing with African-American slavery, but this was another way to digest those emotions. We’re talking about mermaids! 

She Memes Well: Essays by Quinta Brunson

I’ve been a fan of comedian Quinta Brunson since my college days binging her Buzzfeed skits when I was supposed to be studying. Her essays here are naturally funny but they are also really touching as she reflects on her journey trying to make it big in Hollywood. Check out her new TELEVISION series Abbott Elementary on ABC. What a success story!

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

I actually just received this novel a few days ago and I haven’t been able to put it down! I am adding it to this list because I already know that it is a staple to return to. I have a younger sister and over the years, we have definitely had our differences growing up and trying to come into our own. What I cherish the most about our relationship and bond is that we have dealt with some of the same experiences at the same time. As adults, we can reflect and unpack some of our traumas together, which reminds me of the characters Byron and Benny’s story here.

Amplifying Black voices with Kindred Stories

In honor of Black Culture Month, we’re excited to share a list of recommended reads from our friends at Kindred Stories! The team at Kindred Stories is committed to amplifying Black voices and bringing diverse stories from throughout the African diaspora to the local community in Houston and the world at large through their website offerings. Check out the full list below!

From Kadie, Bookseller and Community Programming Liason:

With Pleasure by August McLaughlin and Jamila Dawson is for folks that loved Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Marie Brown or Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski, this is a great follow-up. Advocating that therapy is not enough, this book outlines the authors’ therapy sessions. Then discusses some of the patterns from each session. I use it as a workbook, looking at the sessions and seeing how my experience relates to the person mentioned. I also love the grounding exercises! If you’ve been in therapy before, and you’re looking to have a supplement, this is a great resource. If you’re interested in incorporating more pleasure into your life, this is a great resource! If you, like me, are considering going into the sexual health field, this is a great resource!

From Stevens, Bookseller:

I am feeding my appetite for some sci-fi adventures by reading Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Complete Trilogy. By diving into an intergalactic realm with the protagonist Binti, I can disconnect from the present world for an hour or two at a time.

From Chanecka, Bookseller and Buyer:

One of my favorite reads so far this year is Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti Blackness by Da’Shaun L. Harrison. Intersectionality is a trendy term right now and there has been an increase in literature in pop culture as well as academia. However, this exploration of the intersectionalities of Black, fat, and male presenting was like nothing I have ever read. This work was palatable, compelling and essential. More people need to read this work!

From Terri, Kindred Stories Owner:

I’m currently re-reading Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward and falling in love with this book all over again. Jesmyn’s ability to make you feel completely immersed in her iteration of Black rural Mississippian life is effortless and feels unbelievably authentic. Salvage the Bones is written within the context of an economically disadvantaged family preparing for the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina and her prose allows the reader to literally feel the storm breathing on them through the pages. Although I’ve never personally lived in this kind of environment, I find so much comfort in the characters’ search for love, connection, and hope even in the midst of trauma and tragedy. Jesmyn Ward’s books are my go-to when I need to quiet my mind and get out of any reading slump.


Support Kindred Stories by purchasing these great recommendations online or by stopping by the store if you are in the Houston area located at 2304 Stuart St, Houston, TX, 77004!

2022 Book Submissions Now Open!

UPDATE: Thank you for your interest in submitting your book for the 2022 Texas Book Festival. The submission window is now closed. If you have any questions, please contact bookfest@texasbookfestival.org.

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It’s that wonderful time of the year again! Submissions are now open for the 2022 Texas Book Festival, which will take place November 5-6 in and around the State Capitol grounds in downtown Austin and online for audiences everywhere.

Before you start packing your manuscripts in bubble wrap and heading to the post office, be sure to check out all of our submission information and guidelines.

As always, we’re looking for a wide variety of books by writers who represent diverse genres and perspectives. We’re excited to discover new stories and begin planning conversations for this year’s Festival. Thanks so much for taking the time to submit. We look forward to receiving your submission!

Happy Holidays from Texas Book Festival!

From every one of us at Texas Book Festival, we wish you a happy holiday season and a joyous New Year! Thank you for your support and contribution to the success of our programs and events this year. We look forward to discovering more exciting and engaging stories in 2022. Below are some end-of-the-year thoughts from the entire staff. Cheers!

Seeing the happiness in people’s eyes (since I couldn’t see their smiles behind their masks) and hearing their laughter during Amor Towles’ Festival session. I’ve missed seeing the connection an author makes with a live audience. I also was blown away this year by how teachers and students have made the best of virtual learning. The kids in Breakthrough Central Texas had such great questions for Emmanuel Acho in their own virtual session with him. It’s all about impactful moments. I can’t wait to bring everyone together around more of them in 2022 and hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season until then! – Lois Kim, Executive Director

I loved seeing our Texas Writer Award winner Don Tate create a drawing for an excited young reader in-person, I loved meeting poster artist Clemente Guzman for the first time, I loved seeing the line of people wrap around the Austin Public Library to see authors. Now with an appreciation for reaching out through virtual programming, I got a kick out of Ethan Hawke logging in at 2 am his time from Eastern Europe, eating M&Ms to stay awake for his chat with Greg Ruth and Richard Linklater. Overall, I remain so thankful for all the storytellers, sharing their joy, sadness, activism, anger, and love during this time and always. – Claire Burrows, Deputy Director

In January 2021, on the heels of our first fully virtual Festival, we had little idea what the future held insofar as in-person vs. virtual events. Where we ultimately arrived was our first hybrid Festival, and some of the memories I cherish most were those opportunities to once again see authors, attendees, and volunteers in-person. There will long be a place for virtual, and yet there’s a magic to face-to-face experiences that is very difficult to replicate. – Matthew Patin, Literary Director

As 2021 comes to a close, I reflect on all of the different ways the Texas Book Festival has brought our community together. It has been wonderful to hear from you and see you at our Festival and come together to celebrate our love of books and reading. – Nicole Wielga, Logistics & Volunteer Coordinator

2021 has been a year of uncertainty, but in spite of that, TBF was still able to pull off a hybrid Festival. Working my first in-person Festival cemented the magic of in-person events for me—there’s nothing like watching the light in someone’s eyes as they listen to their favorite author speak. Here’s hoping for more magic in 2022! – Gavin Quinn, Programs & Financial Coordinator 

This year has been a whirlwind, but I am so proud to be a part of the TBF team! From the top of the year to the very end, I’ve witnessed the TBF team (including staff, interns, volunteers, authors, students, teachers, librarians, community partners, and even family members) come together to contribute to a successful Festival and year of programming and events! We can’t wait to see what next year has in store! – Ke’ara Hunt, Communications & Marketing Coordinator

Nothing beat standing at the back of the packed Austin Public Library Special Events Center for our in-person programs. With a year of ups and downs, it was starting to feel impossible but at last authors and readers were back in one place again! – Susannah Auby, Development Associate

As the newest member of the TBF team, I had the awesome opportunity to dive into my new role during the week of the Festival. In the course of a very busy and exciting first few days, one of my favorite experiences was getting to attend Reading Rock Stars author visits at a local elementary school. Seeing students’ joy while engaging with authors and receiving their own copies of their beautiful books is something I won’t soon forget. – Michelle Hernandez, School & Community Programs Coordinator

P.S. If you missed a session from this year’s Fest or want to rewatch some of your favorite author conversations, head over to our website to stream all of the 2021 Virtual Sessions through December 31, 2021