|Welcome to Cheekyness, too.|
I think I've mentioned a few dozen times how much I love living in Austin, right? Well, I found another reason to love this city this past weekend: The Texas Book Festival.
This year was the festival's quinceañera, as one of the organisers put it, or 15th birthday, if you prefer. In 1996, the then-First Lady of Texas, Laura Bush, started the festival. She said that a columnist in the Austin Statesman noted before the inaugural event that there was a beer festival and a gun & knife show also happening in Austin that same weekend, and it was to be hoped that attendees at the Book Festival didn't turn up drunk and armed. (They did not, as far as anyone can tell.)
|This is the line for gourmet grilled|
cheese. The line for jumbo corn dogs
was even longer.
First of all, I was amazed about how easy it was to get into a venue where the former first lady was speaking. I guess the security issues are a lessened considerably once one's husband is no longer POTUS. But she was a delight to listen to, as she talked about growing up in Midland (small-town kids of America, unite-- we all have similar stories) and some of the crazy that comes with being FLOTUS. Also, Mrs. Bush has a beautiful accent; she has just enough of a twang for it to be pretty and declare her to be a Southerner. And naturally, since this was a moment when I urgently wanted my camera, it was sitting at home.
|I want one of these in my |
At the end of her session, they opened it up to questions from the audience and I got a bit tense. Being apolitical as I am, I was concerned that someone might take this chance to let Mrs. Bush know that we aren't so conservative here in Austin, and I didn't want to hear it. Instead, the man who stood to ask a question was a veteran of the Iraq War who asked a very good question about how the Bushes coped with the stress of war. Of course, this also gave the audience a chance to show our appreciation for the gentleman's service. I love that.
Chad, who didn't get up in time to go downtown for the first session with me, was waiting outside of the theatre so he could hear me tell him what a great session he had missed out on. We headed over to hear Maria Schneider speak about Jean Teasdale, an Onion columnist. I learned all sorts of things about The Onion that I didn't know before, especially since I'm only an occasional reader, but one of those things is that they have a really nice office in New York. And also that all the writers for The Onion are anonymous, because they write under character names (Jean, for instance). And now that I know that, it seems pretty obvious, but it never occurred to me before.
|One of the helpful|
map towers. And
a volunteer who
didn't notice I was
pointing a camera
Our final author for the day was actually a pair of authors, who are actually bloggers: The guys over at Awkward Family Photos. They showed us some of their favourite photos, talked about the crazy-unexpected success of their website, how it all began in the first place, and the "fun" involved in getting a legal release from every person on every photo. The real diversion at this session, apart from some really hysterical photos, was a writer who mentioned during the Q&A session that all writers currently looking for a publisher are less than pleased to hear that for these guys, the publisher came to them. And what happened here is the overnight success that all bloggers (and authors) dream of, because they went from just-launched to millions of hits in a single week, and had publishers calling them a week or two after.
It's a classic case of "It's not what you know, it's who you know"; one of the guys had a friend at a local radio station, who put the link on the station's website. Other local stations picked it up for their own websites, and it spread--really quickly-- from there. But their success wasn't just their good connection; it was largely that they chose a good topic that kept people coming back, because, as they say, we all have awkward families. And they keep getting really, really funny pics to put up, so obviously they struck blogging gold.
|At least, this sorta-Texan does.|
On Sunday we missed two of the sessions that we wanted to go to (they were full by the time we got there), which was kind of a bummer. However, we did get to hear a panel (Doug Dorst, David Means, and Andrew Porter) talk about writing short stories. A lot of what they had to say about characters and plot was uber-helpful, and it was also interesting to hear them talk about why they have chosen short stories over novels.
Our other session of the day was Michael Gillette talking about his book Launching the War on Poverty: An Oral History, about LBJ's legislation for social change and the Great Society. Mostly I wanted to go to this session for some added perspective for a paper I'm writing about In Retrospect, which is about the Vietnam War, but Chad & I found the talk to be intensely interesting; me because it did give some of the background I was hoping for, and Chad because his grandfather was employed by one of LBJ's programmes: The Job Corps. Plus, hearing the recordings of LBJ's conversations (Mr. Gillette played some excerpts) was really funny; LBJ had to promise the moon to some of the members of Congress to get the votes he needed. One of the included excerpts was with Rep. George Mahon from Lubbock, during which LBJ promised to "bail you guys out of whatever you need to be bailed out of", up to and including sending the Navy to Lubbock, if necessary. That got quite a chuckle from the room, since the Navy wouldn't be much use in desert-locked Lubbock. Another chuckle came when an audience member asked if modern presidents record their conversations as much as LBJ did, and Mr. Gillette said, "No; they've learned not to." Oh, ya think?
Anyone else ever gone to a book festival? As an author or an observer? Or did anyone else go to the Texas Book Festival and want to tell us who you saw?
Wanna win the first-ever giveaway on Cheekyness? That's right, to celebrate my upcoming 700th post, I'm having a giveaway! Comment, follow or link to my blog to enter the drawing. Contest ends at 9 PM (CDT) October 23rd!