Meet the Texas Book Festival Staff

We’re just under three months away from the 2021 Texas Book Festival! We are so excited to meet all of you at our hybrid events this October 23- 31. We all know it’s been a while, so let’s get reacquainted with each other. Our team is eagerly counting down the days until Fest, so we’ve been feeling nostalgic lately. Get to know our staff below as we recount our favorite Texas Book Festival memories!

Lois Kim, Executive Director

It was my first year at TBF and we had decided to give a pair of custom cowboy boots to the recipient of the Texas Writer Award. Rocketbuster boots in El Paso shipped them FedEx. They still hadn’t arrived by the end of the week and we were really worried we wouldn’t have “the award” to give Steven Weinberg, our recipient that year. On Saturday while the Festival was already in full gear, I got a text that they had arrived. Interns ran them over from the TBF office and I met them in a golf cart taxi at the south end of the Fest. We hightailed it to the Capitol with the boots still in the FedEx box and got them there in the nick of time for Marc Winkelman, TBF Board Chair at the time to present them to Weinberg ahead of their conversation. The episode was an early indication to me that this job would have many down-to-the-wire moments (something that has borne out to be very true). It is also poignant as we are all saddened by the recent passing of Steven Weinberg, a brilliant physicist and writer who contributed so much to science, the arts, and society.

Susannah Auby, Development Associate

The Texas Book Festival has been the highlight of my fall season since long before I joined the staff.  As soon as the schedule was posted, I would comb through it, “starring” my favorites on the website line-up and trying to figure out how I would see them all.  In 2018, my brood of tweens announced they would be joining me. Seasoned veterans of author visits, they showed up with backpacks filled with books for the TBF authors to sign and took to the streets of downtown Austin. That was their first true taste of freedom.

Claire Burrows, Deputy Director

It’s hard to choose just one memory from my seven Festivals at TBF. Highlights include seeing chef Edward Lee roll up to Olamaie’s on an electric scooter, sending my cousin to every 7-11 in downtown Austin to try and find ice the year-of-no-water, surprising cartoonist Chris Ware with a very awkward hug, getting nervously starstruck every time my path crosses with Colson Whitehead, riding my bike from the Authors’ Cocktail Party to every venue in Lit Crawl on East Cesar Chavez, working the Tom Hanks check-in with my sister, getting black-tie Gala ready with my best friend in a Four Seasons bathroom, basically getting every important person in my life to work the Festival Weekend, and many, many more. Moderating a session with Ethan Hawke wasn’t too shabby. Year after year, one of my favorite moments of the TBF weekend is early on Saturday morning around 7 a.m., walking up Congress as the sun is rising. All the crew and booksellers are finalizing the setup, and there’s an electric anticipation in the air and a relief that the months of preparation have led here.

Ke’ara Hunt, Communications and Marketing Coordinator

A fun TBF memory for me is definitely our first staff lunch earlier this year and the team trying to socialize while distancing in the courtyard. The wind was not kind to our plates and napkins, so we took turns dashing after cutlery mid-sentences. At the time, I was still the newest on staff, so it was a great in-person introduction.

Close-second: Meeting Bob and Janis Daemmrich for the first time for staff photos. Most of my shots are me stifling laughter. I didn’t realize that Bob and Janis were married before the shoot, but I soon caught on. They have such a sweet and humorous dynamic.

Matt Patin, Literary Director

In 2016, I snapped this photo of a double rainbow encircling the Capitol rotunda at the end of Sunday—a wonderful bookend to the Festival.

Gavin Quinn, Literary and Financial Coordinator

My favorite TBF memory comes from 2017, my first year as a Fest attendee, and making a mad dash once the “Why Poetry?” panel ended to “Travel and Flight: Three Poets in Motion” before the Capitol extension room filled to capacity. The rooms weren’t actually too far from each other, but for someone who very quickly gets turned around in the Capitol, the task was a formidable one. Now my Capitol Panel Scramble almost feels like an annual tradition.

Lucy Vélez, School and Community Programs Coordinator

My favorite festival memory comes from my MOM-2019-vault (of things I actually remember). We moved back to Austin in 2017 and quickly returned to our traditional ATX outings but this time with two young boys in tow. Fall events for us always include the Texas Book Festival and the ¡Viva la Vida! Parade, which often coincides on the same weekend. Attending both events with young kids wasn’t an easy trek, but by 2019, my boys had acclimated well to this ritual. Oh, and we had such a blast that year! Nicolás and Edgar experienced the full awesomeness of the festival including a few read-alouds at the Read Me A Story Tent, a Ready-Set-Draw session, enjoyed Amy’s ice cream, plus played hide and seek on the Texas Capitol lawn! We haven’t been able to do this family tradition since then, but every drive by the Capitol sparks a festival memory for them. It’s so fun to hear what they remember and I’ve used these memories to keep fueling their love of reading!

Nicole Wielga, Volunteer and Logistics Coordinator

The staff was looking for a former employee’s computer that was stashed away in one of my drawers. This drawer was my snack stash, and the computer was hidden under the snacks, but the rest of the staff just looked at the snacks and kept searching. When I told them they were under the snacks they first were like you have a really good snack stash and then said it was the perfect place to hide something as everyone overlooked that area because it just looked like a bunch of snacks. That is how the whole staff found out that I have a snack stash, which is both embarrassing and hilarious.