Saturday, April 30, 2011

Among the Texas literati

Tonight was the annual banquet of the Texas Institute of Letters, and it was a grand night for TCU Press. The two major awards went to our authors--one to Jan Reid for the best novel, Comanche Sundown (TCU Press, 2010) and the lifetime achievement award (Lon Tinkle Award) to C. W. Smith, who has published several novels with us, including the forthcoming Steplings, a book about which we are all excited. (Sorry, folks, but I still consider myself a part of TCU Press in retirement.) In addition, two of our books were finalists in their categories--Edmund J. Davis of Texas, by Carl Moneyhon in the nonfiction category, and Smurglets are Everywhere, poetry by Alan Birkelbach with illustrations by Susan Halbower, in the juvenile category.
It was a fine evening of seeing old friends, people I've missed and wanted to see, meeting new people, seeing some I didn't know well but wanted to know better. I got hugs from Bob and Jean Flynn, Bob Compton, Fran Vick, Barbara Whitehead and Bruce; I visited with Susan Wittig Albert, a fellow mystery writer (she much more established than I), and said hello to countless people, some of whom have published with TCU and some not.
TIL is 75 years old this year, an organization founded to promote the appreciation of the literature of Texas. Membership is by invitation only, though the banquet, meetings, and awards are open to anyone. Sometimes in that group people's egos get in the way, but for the most part is a collegial bunch of writers who cheer for and support each other. TIL, with UT Austin, sponsors two annual six-month writing fellowships--fellows get to spend six months at J. Frank Dobie's Paisano Ranch devoting their time to writing, with rent and modest living expenses paid. Over the years, TIL has wisely elected young people to membership so that it's not one of those groups where everyone will go old at once.
All told, I'm proud to belong to it, and pleased to have been at the banquet in Dallas tonight. After all, I don't get to many banquets--and rarely to Dallas. We got stuck in an awful traffic jam on the bridge over the Trinity leading to downtown Dallas--there was no alternate route by which to escape. So maybe that's why I don't go to Dallas much.

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