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Pencil It In

13 Oct

Get out your pencils (or iPhones, or whatever you kids are using these days), because there’s a mess of exciting lit events on the horizon, starting with the Texas Book Festival coming up this weekend.

At the festival, be sure to catch ASF’s own Jill Meyers moderating a panel (“The Short and the Sublime”) on the craft of the short story. She’ll be joined by Doug Dorst, David Means, and Andrew Porter who’ll answer questions and read from their brilliant new collections. That’s on Sunday, October 17, at 2:30 pm in the Capitol Extension Room E2.016. Check out our Facebook invite for more info.

Also! Teleportal 2.1, a spectacular spectacular of literary awesomeness, is on Saturday night. Featuring Jennifer Egan, Maira Kalman, Doug Dorst, and more—you don’t want to miss this one.
 It’s at 8 pm, Saturday, October 16, at The ND at 501 Studios.

If that’s not enough for you, you may also want to make the drive down to San Marcos in the coming weeks, with Annie Proulx reading at the Katherine Anne Porter House on October 22. Check out the Texas State website for more info.


We’ll continue to post upcoming literary events every other Monday on the blog. If you have an event you’d like us to include, email us at marian [at]

What We Learned at the Book Festival, Part 3

4 Nov

Our final round-up of photos and remembrances of the festival. . .

Amelia, Kyle, Scott, and Dan

At the Writing in the Shadows panel, Kyle Beachy smiles as his fellow panelists Amelia Gray, Scott Blackwood, and Dan Chaon discuss dark fiction.

Halloween night, Kyle Beachy (The Slide), Scott Blackwood (We Agreed to Meet Just Here), and Christian Lander (Stuff White People Like) joined Amelia Gray (AM/PM) and Tyler Stoddard Smith (The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes) for an event that gave new meaning to the phrase “Book Festival Afterparty in an Art Gallery” at Five Things Austin’s latest session. ASF Web Editor Stacy Muszynski and Amelia Gray co-emceed.

At Five Things, ASF contributor and sometime Austinite Scott Blackwood says “Hello (again), Texas” in a rare break from his new home in Chicago.

What We Learned at the Book Festival, Part 2

4 Nov

Texas Capitol
We’re still thinking over all the wonderful things seen and heard at the Texas Book Festival (held at the state capitol) this past weekend. Here’s part two of our wrap-up.

Report (from American Short Fiction & TBF present Possessed: Protagonists with Magnificent Obsessions)
Debut novelists Jamie Ford, Amanda C. Gable, Victor Lodato, and John Pipkin gathered to talk about their characters’ obsessions— as well their own obsessions as writers. John Pipkin mentioned that while writing Woodsburner, he kept a series of spreadsheets to keep track of historical research and the different stories of his characters. (Woodsburner, which concerns Henry David Thoreau and the fire he accidentally ignited that consumed 300 acres, is meticulously researched, and contains fascinating historical detail.)

Panelists talk about their characters' obsessions at the ASF panel

“It’s always gratifying to find out that someone else also uses your techniques, has your habits, and has gone out and been successful in spite of them. When Victor Lodato [author of the novel Mathilda Savitch] said he felt like structure could be an organic method in writing—that it was for him—then also admitted to constantly going back to the beginning of his novel to rewrite it many, many times, I breathed a sigh of relief. —Sarah Wambold, ASF Editorial Assistant

ASF Editor Jill Meyers and Education Programs Coordinator Cecily Sailer ASF’s parent nonprofit, Badgerdog, had a booth in the book festival’s exhibitor tents. The tents featured local and national publishers, including UT Press, Trinity University Press, Texas A&M University Press Consortium, and Penguin.

What We Learned at Texas Book Festival, Part 1

3 Nov

This past weekend more than 200 authors and tens of thousands of readers gathered deep in the heart of Texas for the 14th Annual Texas Book Festival. ASF went in search of stories and, we must fess up, we got some tall tales of Pulitzer Prize winners–not to mention sexual innuendo and Nobel Prize intrigue. And we picked up writerly tips, quips, comments, and photos, too. Here are a few dispatches:

At the Literary Death Match, with judges Jane Smiley, Richard Russo, and Owen Egerton, and contestants Amelia Gray vs. Kyle Beachy, and Jeff Martin vs. Jason Sheehan. . .

(from left) Egerton, Smiley, Russo, Martin

(from left) Owen Egerton, Jane Smiley, Richard Russo, Jeff Martin

“Gandhi is the Susan Lucci of the Nobel Prize.” —Jeff Martin, Literary Death Match contender

“Jane, I think you’re screwed too. I think the way the Nobel Prize is set up now, Americans are excluded from the discussion.” –Richard Russo to Jane Smiley, discussing the finer details of Jeff Martin’s Death Match piece

“Holy Corn Palace, Jane Smiley is a tall woman!” —Anonymous Fester

Learned (at Death Match)

The number of baby armadillos typically born every time baby armadillos are born: four.

Report (from the Death Match)
“Though the Literary Death Match was held in a church, the crowd seemed open to violence from [ASF contributor] Amelia Gray, sexual innuendoes from Richard Russo, and detailed sexual fantasies from [ASF editorial advisory board member] Owen Egerton. However, tales of Maddox Jolie-Pitt’s decapitation crossed the line, eliciting a collective and judgmental ‘whoa’ from the audience.” —Stacey Swann, ASF contributing editor


Barbara Ehrenreich

Debunked (by Barbara Ehrenreich)
“There is no evidence that the immune system fights cancer. There is no evidence that a positive attitude benefits or encourages the immune system. Experiencing stress undermines it, that’s true.” —Barbara Ehrenreich, survivor of breast cancer, holder of a PhD in cellular immunology, and author of Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

Direct from the Panelists (Colson Whitehead and ZZ Packer in the panel About Race: Identity and American Fiction)

Q: How do we deal with a disastrous and bloody history in a humorous way? —moderator Walter Muyumba

(from left) Whitehead, Packer

(from left) Colson Whitehead, ZZ Packer

Colson Whitehead answers: “Well, I’m sitting here [in the Senate Chamber] and looking at a giant painting of a bloody battle depicted on the back wall—two guys trying to cut each others’ heads off. It’s the ridiculous and the sublime, the tragedy and the humor existing in the same moment.”

ZZ Packer answers: “Racism has inner ironies that should be addressed. It’s about desensitization: Once you’ve made someone laugh you can get to the point where you can make someone cry. Comedy is such an incisive medium. It starts a conversation. Here’s something you can laugh about–it’s about black people. Here something you can laugh about—it’s about white people. We laugh. The point: we laugh and talk together.”

Texas Book Festival Posts Its Schedule

1 Oct

Take a look: the Texas Book Festival has posted its calendar for October 31 and November 1. It’s an embarrassment of riches this year—so many great authors and talks.

ASF has a panel Sunday afternoon—”Possessed: Characters with Magnificent Obsessions,” with writers Jamie Ford, Amanda C. Gable, Victor Lodato, and John Pipkin. We’ll let you know more about that plus our picks for the rest of the festival over the next month.