During a typical spring, my calendar would be buckling under the weight of near countless author readings and conversations in Austin: at our brilliant independent bookstores, at Austin Public Library, at venues set up by our friends at Austin Bat Cave, Writers’ League of Texas, the Texas Center for the Book, and others. During a typical spring, I’d each week be making my way, drunk on the smell of bluebonnets and prairie-fires (and sneezing from cedar), to Barton Springs, the zipper on my backpack near bursting from all the stuffed-in sunblock, towels, and books. I’d be eying a prime spot on the lawn near other readers, fancying myself a subject—a sweaty, disheveled, unflattering one—in Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. During a typical spring, well . . .
This year things are different, of course. Many quarantined authors have found their new books’ publication dates quantum-leap from one season to another, and sometimes from one year to another, their in-person tours canceled or postponed. As of press time, those once bustling discussion halls and auditoriums and bookstores—in Austin and beyond—are as lonely as a rural West Texas highway en route to New Mexico, as loud as only a whistling Gulf Coast wind. Tumbleweeds reign.
Online, however, is an altogether different story. Many of those once in-person author tours have shifted to the web, and perhaps never before has such a wonderful abundance of virtual literary programming existed. That spring calendar of mine is alive and well, in fact, only now it’s filled with links to Zoom and Crowdcast and Instagram instead of Google Maps coordinates. One of my predecessors in the TBF literary director chair, for instance, Steph Opitz Lanford, is killing it with Minneapolis’s Wordplay. And Austin’s own BookPeople has for now shifted their own events online: Lawrence Wright will go live with The End of October—a particularly prescient pandemic story—on April 28.
We here at Texas Book Festival, too, are talking online with authors all the time. Below you’ll find some of the sessions we’ve recently held with Texas authors, and one or two we’re scheduled to broadcast. You’ll also discover resources that may help keep you up to date on the events other Texas literary organizations and booksellers are scheduling or may schedule in the future, a useful list to peruse alongside our suggestions on how to support Texas’s independent booksellers during these strange times.
Thanks to all—authors and readers alike, in Texas and beyond—and happy reading.
Trust Me by Richard Santos
Arte Público Press, March 31
Richard first told me about Trust Me last year, when it was still in editing, and I’d been champing at the bit ever since. A few weeks ago, Richard and I talked about how his own previous career informed his story, about our shared love of Santa Fe—a central setting in Trust Me—about the books in Richard’s own to-read stack, and about publishing with a Texas press.
Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth
Graywolf Press, March 3
Deb and I first chatted years ago, in a Texas Book Festival panel about her graphic novel I, Parrot. Recently we caught up about her latest novel, Barn 8, out from Graywolf Press this March. Favorite discussion topic: Deb’s chicken tattoo.
The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward
Ballantine, March 3
Amanda, a longtime friend of the Texas Book Festival, released her latest novel, The Jetsetters, in March, and it was quickly named a Reese Witherspoon book club pick. TBF’s own Claire Burrows caught up with Amanda earlier this month. Another of Amanda’s books, The Sober Lush: A Hedonist’s Guide to Living a Decadent, Adventurous, Soulful Life—Alcohol Free, which she co-authored with fellow TBF alum Jardine Libaire—whom I had the pleasure of chatting with about novel White Fur a few festivals back—comes out this June.
The Old Truck by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey
Norton Young Readers, January 7
Gorgeous, both visually and thematically, The Old Truck, a picture book written and illustrated by Houstonian brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey, found its way to bookshelves in January, adorned with six starred reviews. The Pumphreys were gracious enough to put together a wonderful printmaking video for Texas’s young audiences, which we’ll be releasing soon on Instagram.
American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson
G P. Putnam’s Sons, February 11
Austin documentarian and University of Texas journalism teacher Kate Winkler Dawson spoke with TBF’s Katey Psencik recently, about her new book American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI. If you binge on Forensic Files and truTV as I do, you won’t want to miss the discussion and get your hands on a copy.
Running by Natalia Sylvester
Clarion, July 14
Fellow Texas literary stars Natalia Sylvester and ire’ne lara silva chatted on Instagram earlier this month about, among other things bookish, Natalia’s new young adult novel, Running, available for pre-order from BookPeople. Natalia is a tireless advocate for authors both in and outside Texas, and a wonderful conversation partner too: years ago I spoke with her at the Festival about her previous novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home.
Virtual Programming, Texas-Wide
Not all of the following bookstores and institutions are hosting virtual events themselves, but many if not all are actively sharing links to events via their social media channels. This is certainly not a comprehensive list—Texas has so many wonderful booksellers and literary organizations.
Events Page: https://www.bookpeople.com/event
South Congress Books
Austin Bat Cave
Online writing workshops: https://austinbatcave.org/adult-workshops/
Texas Center for the Book (TCFB) at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC)
Remote reference and research services: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/outofthestacks/reference-and-research-assistance-at-the-ready-remote-services-are-here-for-you/
COVID resource page for librarians: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/covid-19
TSLAC Twitter: https://twitter.com/TSLAC
TSLAC Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tslac
TSLAC Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tslac
TCFB Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/txcenterforthebook
Writers’ League of Texas
Online programs: http://www.writersleague.org/WLTOnlineEvents
Murder by the Book
Blue Willow Bookshop
River Oaks Bookstore
The Twig Book Shop
The Wild Detectives
Lucky Dog Books
Monkey and Dog Books
Literarity Book Shop
Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi
The Story Book Garden
By the Book Bookstore