With the new year having arrived, we at the Texas Book Festival are in a mood both reflective and forward-looking.
I, for instance, am thinking of the waist-high iron fence that hugs the ledge between Waller Creek and downtown Austin’s Symphony Square, where in October we held children’s storytime sessions at our first hybrid Festival. Each time a presenter entered the amphitheater, I would alert them to the ledge, the fence, the watery depths below. Be careful, I’d implore, my mind riddled with premonitions of ugly slips and falls.
I was exercising far too much caution. After all, the well-tread space has existed calamity-free for decades. But afterward two thoughts preoccupied me. The first was some navel-gazing about where this excessive prudence of mine had sprung. Perhaps it was an inheritance from my late grandmother—the mere notion of us driving in the rain filled her with terror.
My second thought was in fact more a feeling, a dormant but familiar one: the thrill of experiencing the details in‑person again. Transporting items from one spot to another, conducting sound checks, ensuring a just-so placement of chairs and tables and signage, escorting authors from here to there, guiding crowds, watching a book browsed and bought and signed, and yes, minding the gap, so to speak—things alien to us since 2019 but retrieved with like-riding-a-bike muscle memory.
Caution and the excitement of experiencing, safely, familiar activities once more: it’s an emotional admixture many of us are feeling. And whereas the precise shape of Fest 2022 this fall will ultimately depend on one new variant or another, we choose, for now, to begin the year with hope and optimism: we’ll be in downtown Austin again, on our traditional footprint, November 5–6. Save the dates. We hope to see you there.
Happy new year,