Intern Chronicles: My Year with TBF

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Hello there! My name is Sara Leonard, and I’m currently a junior at the University of Texas at Austin. I’m double-majoring in both English and Political Communication, but I veer more to the English side. I love all things Harry Potter and Jane Austen, but “I’ll give any book a chance if it’s lying there and I’ve got half an hour to kill” (J.K. Rowling, summing up my thoughts as per usual). I have an almost obsessive care for the inner workings of my bookshelf, and I have been known to sprint across the street when I see an unexpected Half Price Books. Most importantly, I’ve been a Literary Intern at Texas Book Festival (TBF) since May, and I’m here to tell you a little bit about what it’s like working here.
First of all: If you love books, you will love it at TBF. I’ve been a devoted bookworm since I was little, and there’s nothing better than working at a place with fellow book lovers. I remember during my interview for the internship, one of the most important questions I was asked was, “What are you currently reading?” Get used to this question, and stellar book recommendations in turn. As a Literary Intern, I’m around books all day long. I email different publicists/authors, I log some of the hundreds of entries we receive for the festival, and I write blog posts about book recommendations or anything in the general book realm. I help out with our social media as well; a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to make a post about the book I was currently reading, which was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (a TBF 2016 author!). I pulled the book out of my bag and posed for a disheveled picture for our #FridayReads post, which features books that people around our office are reading.

My participation in #FridayReads was nothing out of the ordinary. TBF is a unique internship because they truly value their interns and assign them meaningful tasks. We’re given many opportunities to pursue our own projects and talk about books or authors we’re interested in. If I have an idea for a Lit Blog post, our Literary Coordinator, Hanna, is more than willing to let me go for it. Texas Book Festival is also a great internship if you’re interested in publishing. I want to go into the editorial side of publishing, and TBF has given me a great start. I have become experienced in writing short blurbs for dozens of books, or long reviews of others. Additionally, the full-time staffers here have great relationships with various publishers, and many interns have gone on to get internships with publishing houses in New York after they leave TBF.

I have never felt as integral to a team as I did during the Festival weekend. On Friday, I helped run the annual First Edition Literary Gala. During my seven hours there, I chatted with guests, helped monitor the live auction, and got to meet Ethan Hawke (ignore my casual name drop). On Saturday, the mayhem of the Festival began. I reported to our office at 8 AM to begin dropping off supplies at tents, checking in authors at the Author Breakfast, and basically running any necessary errands. I think that was the main theme of the weekend: make sure to just be there to support the Festival. Our staff members work so tirelessly to put on the Festival, so the interns are there to make sure every little detail is ironed out smoothly (even if it doesn’t always work out that way). I also helped oversee the Marcus Samuelsson brunch at Olamaie, which was as exciting as it sounds. Overall, it was amazing to watch months of hard work pay off in the form of happy book lovers at the Festival.

TBF is a great opportunity for English majors, book lovers, or really anyone who is interested in the Festival. You can expect many books, many blog posts, and many stressful parallel parking experiences (our office is downtown). If you’re interested in the internship program, don’t be afraid to reach out! But if you need me, I’ll be reading The Underground Railroad.