Monday, October 30, 2006

Texas Book Festival Wrap-Up

Well, it’s Monday and the Texas Book Festival is over. I need about a day to recover, then I’ll start looking forward to next year. The TBF staff will probably need a bit longer.

I chaired the events at the downtown Austin Museum of Art. Since this was our first year there, I worried people wouldn’t know to make the trek down Congress to find us. But they did. One of my recommendations for next year would be, if possible, to use a bigger room. I’m not sure if AMOA has a bigger room, though.

On Saturday, three of the four panels were Standing Room Only. Bill Witliff and Graciela Iturbide drew the biggest crowd of the day. On Sunday, the Big Bend National Park panel with Joe Nick Patoski and Laurence Parent pulled in the biggest crowd of the whole weekend. The SRO crowd quickly became a SOL crowd. There wasn’t even standing room.

Other than that, things ran smoothly, even with three volunteers not showing up. The museum people were great. I hope we didn’t interfere with their business, or, if we did, I hope the extra traffic coming into the museum made up for it. Speaking of volunteers, mine were the best of the festival – not that I ever had time to go to anything outside of AMOA so that I would know anything about the other 800+ volunteers. But I’m sure mine were the best. They jumped in and worked hard and made visitors, authors, artists, photographers, architects, moderators, and panelists feel welcome.

My husband snagged a wrist band to hear Barack Obama speak. He said it was a good talk. He spoke mostly about his book. I reminded my husband this was a book festival. I think he hoped to hear more political rhetoric from Obama. My daughter went to hear Gore Vidal. She said he was good. She had hoped to also make it to Amy Sedaris’ session, but she heard from friends that Sedaris was funny.

To tell you the truth, I was so focused on the AMOA events, I didn’t even check the schedule to find out what was going on elsewhere. Before things got started on Sunday, I raced to the exhibitors’ tents to say “hi” to Colleen Devine with Barnes & Noble (talk about someone with a huge job!), swung by the Writers’ League of Texas booth, but there was no one there, then stopped in to talk to Sarah Ann Robertson at the Sisters in Crime booth. Sisters in Crime had a great line-up of authors signing books all day long, both days. Practically all of them friends of mine. I, of course, missed them all! Best I could do was leave a note before I ran back to the museum to unload my car for the start of another day.

Saturday evening, I got home and collapsed into a chair. My feet were killing me. Seriously. I’d stood all day. Sunday morning I said to hell with fashion. I put on jeans and my Birks (thought hard about wearing Crocs, but decided that was taking it a little too far). That, plus the walk up and down the exhibitors’ booths in the morning, helped. Wasn’t hurting so badly Sunday evening, but was glad to crawl into bed.

But it was worth it. Got to hear seven panels. Wonderful speakers, fabulous books. The last panel on Sunday wasn’t a standing room only crowd, but it was a powerful subject. What a cap to the weekend. Tammy Cromer-Campbell spoke on her book, Fruit of the Orchard: Environmental Justice in East Texas, along with three contributors to the book, Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger and Dr. Eugene Hargrove. What an amazing story about a small Texas town decimated by a chemical plant. The residents there are still suffering the health consequences. Tammy’s pictures of the children and townsfolk tell a heart-wrenching story.

And so, the 2006 Texas Book Festival came to an end. Gotta get my notebook ready to turn in with my recommendations and pictures of the physical set-up, turn in the extra t-shirts I didn’t need since three volunteers were no-shows and a couple of speakers didn’t take theirs, then, unlike the TBF staff, I can rest.

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