Where do I begin to describe Austin, Texas? Quirky is one word, as evidenced by the ubiquitous slogan on t-shirts and signs that say "Keep Austin Weird." But what a vibrant, nutty, energetic, and fun place! Not only was the Texas Book Festival going on, taking up a ton of space on the Capitol grounds. There was also a huge film festival and six other festivals all going on at the same time. Needless to say, there are a lot of people in Austin this weekend!
But back to the Book Festival. I actually arrived Friday night, and had Saturday "off." A very good childhood friend of mine lives here with his family, so I had a tour guide to show me around the city yesterday. I had an awesome breakfast taco at Torchy's, of the dozens (if not hundreds) of food trailers around town. Yep, a bunch of Airstream-type and more standard trailers from which people sell a variety of food. In one location, it really was a trailer park of these food vendors. Best breakfast taco I've ever had! Then we saw Zilkin Park, the spring-fed pool, and a bridge under which live thousands of bats that come out every night at dusk to feed. I also did some window shopping on Congress Avenue, and got to do some fun people watching.
Then it was time to get ready for the evening's author cocktail parties. The first one was for all the authors, and it was held at the home of Eddie Safady, the Chairman of Liberty Bank. His "house" is smack in the middle of a street with restaurants and businesses, and it was kind of surreal to walk off the street into this über-modern and art-filled home with 200+ other authors. I didn't know anyone there, but fortunately found fellow author and panelist Ioan Grillo pretty quickly, and we spent most of the time chatting about Mexico (of course).
We left at 8pm to attend another party hosted by Las Comadres for all the Latino/a authors at the festival. That party was completely different - at a local restaurant - and much more laid back and user friendly! We met so many wonderful authors, ate great food, and enjoyed the company and conversation of people who are thoroughly interested in each other's experiences.
This morning, I headed over to the author check-in tent around 11am, where I met up with Ioan and our moderator, University of Texas professor Dr Ricardo Ainslie, to go over the topics we'd address in our panel. Then it was time to go! We walked over to the CSPAN-2/BookTV tent to get set up (they broadcast our panel presentation live), and started at noon. I have to admit, it rocked. Not only was our audience standing-room-only; it was overflowing into the street! We got some really smart questions during the Q&A portion, and a standing ovation from some in the audience when we finished.
Afterwards, Ioan and I headed to the book signing tent. Along the way, we had several people walk with us and ask us questions, and I even had one gentleman ask me for an autograph! My first :). We signed several books, answered more questions, and got to meet some really awesome people. After that, I had an interview with Jason and Veronica from the Texas Department of Agriculture, and it was a fabulous conversation about spillover violence and the overall border security strategy.
As much as I wanted to stay and see more panels and tents and displays, it's pretty hot here today, and the heat has a bad effect on my multiple sclerosis symptoms. So I'm back at the hotel to rest for a little bit, and I plan to head out later to find a great Texas steakhouse. Tomorrow morning, I'm headed back to Houston for two bookstore signings, so stay tuned!
Causes Sylvia Longmire Supports
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
The Wounded Warrior Project