Last weekend, we headed to the sixth annual San Antonio Book Festival, where thousands flooded the grounds of the Central Library to peruse books and catch panels and presentations with their favorite authors. Among the crowds were some 90 authors, including the likes of Jorge Ramos, Attica Locke, Sandra Cisneros, and Luis Alberto Urrea.
Throughout the day, audiences listened to panels discussing topics like Timothy Leary, once infamously known as “the most dangerous man in America,” border issues, and the science of jellyfish. Those looking for a laugh visited Paula Poundstone, popular standup comedian and panelist on NPR’s comedy quiz program Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! And poetry lovers lined up for the Typewriter Rodeo, whose members spent the day clacking away on vintage keyboards, writing up poems on the spot for anyone who came by. When visitors weren’t sitting in on panels or waiting in lines that curved throughout the library to meet literary icons like Sandra Cisneros, they scouted out Fiesta medals from the booths lined up outside. (We still have a few Texas Book Festival Fiesta medals for sale until after Fiesta 2018!)
The day came and went all too quickly — but San Antonio’s literary scene thrives year-round. A number of authors have chosen to call San Antonio home. Naomi Shihab Nye, author of 19 Varieties of Gazelle and Habibi, lives there, as does poet and children’s book author Carmen Tafolla. Before she moved to Mexico in 2015, Cisneros had a house of her own in the city, one that spurred controversy in the ’90s for its periwinkle veneer. It’s no wonder writers find the city appealing. It’s colorful, lively atmosphere and rich history make it a great setting to base novels in. In fact, it’s the backdrop of several books, including a number of Rick Riordan’s mysteries, like Big Tequila Red, and Stephen Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo.
The city’s local literary scene is also thriving. There are a number of independent bookstores that have cropped up over the years. The Twig Book Shop is a cozy shop tucked away in the popular Pearl Brewery area. Book lovers come to browse the shelves, listen to readings from local and national poets and authors, or join book clubs. Not too far away sit Antiquarian Book Mart, a shop started in 1971 that buys, sells, and trades books, and another long-standing landmark Cheever Books, which has sold a collection of unusual and rare books for over 30 years.
So, even if you missed this year’s festival, San Antonio’s literary scene is always ready to be explored.