Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Texas Book Festival

With Melinda in the "living room" of the TCU Press booth
Estimates are that 35,000 people attended last weekend's Texas Book Festival, and I think every one of them walked by the TCU Press booth, with a goodly number stopping to browse and buy. Melinda and KK had set up a "living room" in the doorway by our booth (note the trees in the background)--folding chairs and a small coffee table. There was usually a good breeze, whereas some of the tents got crowded, hot and stifling. The living room was a perfect place for people watching, and people we didn't know sometimes sat down to rest. Melinda says she spent a long time one day watching the boots go by (make a line from a song go through your mind?). I sat there a lot because it gave me a great view of the crowd, and I spotted friends I hadn't seen for a while.
The festival offers all kinds of activities--panels, readings, talks. But I usually stay around the booth and visit with people. Seeing friends is the big draw for me. This time I met for the first an author I've corresponded with for several years--a special treat. I did sign books at the Texas A&M signing tables--our booth is part of the larger A&M tent--and I sat at the Texas Institute of Letters booth for an hour. Actually sold one copy of Skeleton to an old friend. All in all I sold seven copies this weekend and gave one to Megan and Brandon--thought I'd already done that. Brandon is offended because there are characters named after several members of the family but no Brandon! But I digress. I also signed several copies of Elmer Kelton: Memories and Essays, our tribute to the late great Texas author.
The festival began in 1998, with Laura Bush as the prime mover behind it. Now in its twelfth year, it is one of the largest and best book festivals in the country. In its first years, I thought  it should be all about Texas books and authors, because that was always my focus at TCU Press. Instead, the festival has grown steadily by featuring nationally prominent authors. Maybe the idea is more to show that Texans are readers than writers. This year, Paula Deen was a big draw. I don't mind that I didn't hear her--I watch her on TV a lot--but one of the TCU Press interns bought a copy of her new book. I leafed through it and instantly wanted a copy--will put it on my wish list. I usually don't buy books at the festival--if I allowed myself to do that, I'd end up broke.
Another digression: family friend Ralph Lauer took the smashing photographs in a new Louis Lambert/June Naylor cookbook: Big Ranch, Big City. Scrumptious recipes--I gave it to Megan for her birthday and spent some time this weekend browsing through it.
The Texas Book Festival is the one professional event I still attend in retirement, and I look forward to the 2012 festival.

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