Saturday, October 31, 2009

Distraction - The Texas Book Festival

The Texas Book Festival has become a seminal event for authors and readers. Thousands of authors, or agents, apply for just a few more than a hundred slots. Anyone who has a book published during the year is eligible. Two authors I was assigned to help had written a book about Davy Crocket's congressional career. Their book was released the day before the festival started! So, when they had applied to be in the festival the previous January, their book wasn't out but was scheduled to be published. Those who choose who will be presenting books at the festival have to choose among lots of unpublished books and many unpublished authors, hoping to choose those books that will be hits. I wonder whether Sarah Palin will be here next year.

For a reader, it is fun to meet authors and hear the m talk about their new books. But it is also special to just be at the festival and see the crowds of readers. There are almost all full sessions at every talk in the festival, with some full of people in the back: "standing room only." There are always famous authors there, talking about their newest books. They get to speak in the large venues; the Senate and House Chambers and the auditorium.

I like to volunteer as an "author escorted." This means I am assigned to lead an author or group of them through the maze of the Capitol building to get to the room where they were scheduled to speak. I make sure they and their entourage are comfortable and that everything is right for their talk. Then I lead them outside and down the Capitol lawn to the "signing tent," where they sign copies of their books for anyone who wants to meet them. There are usually a few fans who are getting signatures on a souvenir T-shirt or poster.

The authors I have escorted have been many and varied. Most were humble, excited to be there, and very nice. The most impressive in fame as well as personality was Alexander McCall Smith. The Scotch author wrote "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series as well as several other series, some short story collections, some single volumes, and lately an opera, many about or taking place in Botswana. Smith spoke in the House Chamber to an overflowing audience. He wore a full Scottish kilt outfit, with wool matching kilt and jacket. His talk was delightfully funny, and when he answered questions from the audience, he showed a wonderful quick wit. Then, at the signing tent, although he had a long line of fans waiting for him to sign books, often several per person; he stood and shook hands with every fan and then sat down to write "To Claudia" or whatever they wanted and sign each book.

Three authors I escorted gave me copies of their books, two have exchanged emails with me, and one came to my book club and spoke.

I always enjoy the TBF!

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