We had the opportunity to volunteer at the Texas Book Festival on behalf of our non- profit, the South Asian Austin Moms. From the teen book festival to the sneak peek parties and readings to the gala, which is more akin to the Austin Oscars of the literary world to the actual 2 day festival over the weekend itself, it has been an intoxicating frenzied experience I thoroughly enjoyed. The festival is extremely organized, well planned and the execution thanks to the amazing staff and bevy of volunteers was just as successful. The festival also sponsors a lot of community outreach programs that help inspire reading and fund reading programs across schools and libraries in Texas.
The settings are the beautiful Capitol grounds, with ample parking a short distance away. If it’s your first time at the festival it takes at least one day, at least it did for me, to get your bearings around the venue, logistics, and the plentiful sessions, discussions, and offerings to participate in. The tents are set up in front of the capitol building on Congress. There are different categories - a large section for local writers, artists, creatives, causes, stores, exhibitors and book wares along one side. This alone can take up a good amount of time and is a fantastic place to find out more about the local writing and publishing scene and get involved. There are numerous food stalls and trucks sprinkled throughout the grounds. Some of the other bigger tents are the C-SPAN book TV tent that hosts discussions with authors on mostly non-fiction political, socially relevant, scientific and other interesting subjects. There is the large central market tent that hosts authors of food-centric books with the ability to cook and demonstrate. There are two large tents - one for purchasing books and the other for author signing. The setup is mimicked for children’s books as well. There are entertainment and activity tents with performances and crafts. There are many more other interest groups and subjects as you walk along the roughly T-shaped tent area.
The Capitol building also generously opens up its doors for panel discussions in the many rooms, with the house chamber being a really impressive gathering space. There are some hotels and churches that also do the same making it a wonderful concerted effort by so many in the city. The panel discussions are grouped based on similarities or commonalities between the work. A lot depends on the moderator’s abilities to make the discussions engaging and enjoyable for the authors and the audience which is why they are a key part of the festival. There’s usually a Q&A open to the audience towards the tail end of the panel discussion and the authors are escorted to the main signing tent. Once the session is done the authors can be found in the signing tents. Of course, all of this information is shared well ahead of time on the social media platforms and a few handy guides if maps, schedules, and spotlights on the authors.
My biggest regret about the whole festival is that I cannot do more. With overlapping sessions, lit crawl and other fun events in the evenings it is hard to cover them all unless you can be in two places at one time! Though you do miss things the experience is more than well worth it.