How Austin proves that Harry Potter still has power

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child Midnight Release Party on Saturday, July 30 2016.  Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Harry Potter & the Cursed Child Midnight Release Party on Saturday, July 30 2016.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Now that we’ve had a few days to recover from the shock of actually receiving a new “Harry Potter” book – and to finish reading it and digest that wondrous plot – we can conclude that, after all these years, the Harry Potter series is still beloved.

At the midnight release party BookPeople threw Saturday for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” about 2,000 people showed up to celebrate the bespectacled wizard and his new adventure. That’s a considerable turnout given that we all thought we’d officially hung up our wizards’ robes for such a party many years ago.

» See more photos from BookPeople’s midnight release party for “The Cursed Child”

BookPeople’s marketing director, Abby Fennewald, said Tuesday evening that the response to the book “was probably higher than we originally anticipated.” The Austin bookstore sold about 75 percent as many copies of “The Cursed Child” at this party as compared to previous midnight release parties, she said; “We’ve already sold over 1,000 copies.”

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is a book in script form about Harry and his troubled son, Albus. (The play is currently in production at London’s West End.) Despite the different format from the previous novels, anxiously waiting Muggles appeared in droves at BookPeople and at Barnes & Noble as well for the release. BookPeople dusted off its old Diagon Alley set and had a variety of magical activities for attendees, including a costume contest, a House Cup Tournament, trivia and wizard dueling.

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child Midnight Release Party on Saturday, July 30 2016.  Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Harry Potter & the Cursed Child Midnight Release Party on Saturday, July 30 2016.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

And the food trucks joining the fun in the parking lot also didn’t miss out on the theme: Amy’s Ice Creams, for one, was serving up three wizard-worthy flavors, including butterbeer, Gryffindor’s Tower with red velvet and Dementor’s Cloud with dark chocolate. The line to get butterbeer in drink form at another trailer was also long.

Chatter all around BookPeople’s “Harry Potter” party reflected how happy everyone was to be back together, costumed in their finest Hogwarts’ wizard robes. Kids were there, sure, but the majority of the crowd congregating from 10 p.m. to midnight were the original “Harry Potter” fans, now in their 20s, 30s and beyond.

And for BookPeople, all those enthusiastic fans meant the party was a rousing success.

Has “Cursed Child” turned out to be a worthy follow-up to the original story? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to check out our photo gallery chronicling the “Harry Potter” party at BookPeople.

Wands at the ready: ‘Cursed Child’ gets midnight release party at BookPeople

It’s been nine years since we’ve looked forward to one of these, Potterheads.

07-20-07 Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN Keita Bryce, 10, sits under the Sorting Hat at the BookPoeple Harry Potter party on Friday night in Austin. Harry Potter fans celebrate the release of the last Harry Potter book by dressing up in costume and waiting until midnight for the release of the book. Judy Jones, center and Deblina Movlik, employees of BookPeople help out with the sorting hat. ORG XMIT:
Keita Bryce, 10, sits under the Sorting Hat at the BookPeople Harry Potter book release in 2007. Laura Skelding/American-Statesman.

We had given up hope that there would ever be another occasion to don our robes and wield our wands alongside others who waited years for their Hogwarts letter. But with the release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” BookPeople is giving us that long-awaited chance.

Prepare to have the emotional range of a teaspoon as we get one more shot at a midnight book release party.

Deliriously excited teenagers (my friends and me) with fresh, unread copies of “Deathly Hallows” at midnight on July 21, 2007.

The printed version of the new play by Jack Thorne (based on an original new story by the magical J.K. Rowling) will be released to the public on July 31. Gather at BookPeople at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 30 to celebrate and countdown to midnight, when we can finally purchase a copy, rush home and, if you’re just as sane as I am, finish it before the sun comes up.

We don’t know much about the event right now, but BookPeople is calling it a “big party.” In the past, the bookstore’s release parties have included fire dancers, a sorting ceremony and plenty of costumes. Will this one have butterbeer? A game of Quidditch? Celebrity appearances?? (A girl can dream.) We do hope there’s cake to celebrate Harry Potter & J.K. Rowling’s birthdays at midnight, too!

Rest assured, fellow fanatics, we’ll update you as details are released (because we’re too excited to keep them to ourselves). In the meantime, “Don’t let the muggles get you down.”

ICYMI: Noah Hawley, his hit book and his upcoming Austin events

Noah Hawley, the Austin resident and creator of the Fargo TV series, who has a new thriller, Before the Fall, photographed at the South Congress Hotel on May 6, 2016.  Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Noah Hawley, the Austin resident and creator of the Fargo TV series, who has a new thriller, Before the Fall, photographed at the South Congress Hotel on May 6, 2016.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

ICYMI: I profiled Austin screenwriter and novelist Noah Hawley on Sunday. His latest is a rip-roaring thriller called “Before the Fall.” He’ll also be in Austin this weekend participating in the ATX Television Festival.
Here’s a look at his events.
• 10 a.m. June 10: A Conversation with Hawley and Beau Willimon, the creator of “House of Cards.” At Google Fiber Space, 201 Colorado St. This will also feature a book-selling event for “Before the Fall.”
• 2 p.m. June 10: Pulp Page to Small Screen: A Look at Comic Adaptations. With panelists Hawley (“Legion”), Javier Grillo-Marxuach (“The Middleman”), Brian Michael Bendis (“Powers”) and Rosemary Rodriguez (“Jessica Jones”). In the ballroom of the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel, 701 Congress Ave.
• 10 a.m. June 11: To Adapt Is to Evolve: A Conversation Between Noah Hawley, Bryan Fuller and Graham Yost. At Google Fiber Space.
• 11:30 a.m. June 12: Viewer Discretion Advised. A panel discussion about pushing boundaries on TV, with Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”), Jack Amiel (“The Knick”), Brian Michael Bendis (“Powers), Stacey Silverman (Universal TV) and Hawley (“Fargo”). In the ballroom of the Stephen F. Austin.
• 1 p.m. June 12: Fargo: The Music Team. A discussion among the show’s creator (Hawley), the music supervisor (Maggie Phillips) and the composer (Jeff Russo). In the ballroom at the Stephen F. Austin.

Texas Teen Book Festival announces lineup


The Texas Teen Book Festival announced its lineup Tuesday for the Oct. 1 event at St. Edward’s University, and participants include Renee Ahdieh, Sabaa Tahir, Ally Carter, Jeffery Self, Traci Chee and John Corey Whaley.

Ahdieh is the best-selling author of “The Wrath and the Dawn” and the upcoming sequel, “The Rose and the Dagger. Tahir is the author of “An Ember in the Ashes.”

Carter is known for the “Embassy Row” and “Gallagher Girls” series, while Whaley is author of “Highly Illogical Behavior” and “Noggin.” Self is the writer of “Drag Teen,” and Chee is the writer of “The Reader.”

Austin author Katherine Catmull (“The Radiant Road”) will also join the lineup.

The authors complement the previously announced keynote speakers, Laini Taylor (“Strange the Dreamer”) and Leigh Bardugo (“Six of Crows”).


The one-day event will feature author sessions and panels, book signings, workshops and vendor displays. It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 pm. at St. Edward’s, 3001 S. Congress Ave.

The festival is one of the nation’s largest teen book events and is free and open to the public. It’s presented in collaboration with the Texas Book Festival, BookPeople, librarians and St. Edward’s. The program is made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information, visit

Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo headline Texas Teen Book Festival

Laini Taylor
Laini Taylor
Leigh Bardugo
Leigh Bardugo


Laini Taylor and Leigh Bardugo will be the keynote speakers at the 8th annual Texas Teen Book Festival on Oct. 1, the Texas Book Festival announced Monday.

Taylor is the author of the upcoming “Strange the Dreamer” as well as “Lips Touch Three Times,” and Bardugo is the author of “Six of Crows” as well as the Grisha Trilogy: “Shadow and Bone,” “Siege and Storm” and “Ruin and Rising.” Her sequel to “Six of Crows” will be published in September, and it’s called “Crooked Kingdom.”

Both are big names in young adult literature, and they’ll lead a series of author sessions, panels, book signings and other events for young adult genre fans at the festival, held at St. Edward’s University.

The Teen Book Festival is presented in collaboration with the Texas Book Festival, BookPeople, a team of librarians and St. Edward’s. It’s also made possible in part by a grant of Humanities Texas.

The event will start at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 1 and continue through 6”30 p.m. at the university, 3001 S. Congress Ave. It’s free and open to the public.

For more information, visit

Texas Teen Book Fest set for Oct. 1

The Texas Teen Book Festival has set its date for 2016: Oct. 1 at St. Edward’s University.

The festival is one of that nation’s largest teen book events, usually attracting more than 4,000 readers. In 2015, 32 authors spoke at the fest.

The festival is a joint project of te Texas Book Festival and BookPeople, with support from St. Edward’s University and Humanities Texas, and in partnership with the Badgerdog writing program. The Festival is free and open to the public.

Authors for the fest will be announced in late spring.


Lots of great Texas-related books coming up


Despite high-profile arguments to the contrary, I’ve contended for the past few years that Texas literary culture is no longer the backwater that it once was, with numerous young and old writers doing great work.

And a big part of that is happening in Austin, in part because of the University of Texas, where scholars and recent graduates alike are writing intriguing books.

Here are just a few of such titles coming up in the next few months, and some of them sound great. (And please note, this is not a comprehensive list. It’s just based on galleys that I have received in the past couple of months. I’ve tried to order them by date of release.)

  1. “The City at Three P.M.,” a collection of essays by Peter LaSalle. Most of the essays here deal with LaSalle’s travels to places like Buenos Aires, Cameroon, Tunisia, Carthage and Paris. And most have a distinct literary bent, as he retraces the steps of Borges and others. He’s a member of the creative writing faculty in Austin and spends some of his time in his native Rhode Island. Publication: In December, $15.95 trade paperback, Dzanc Books.
  2. “A Friend of Mr. Lincoln,” a novel by Austin’s Stephen Harrigan. It opens with a one-armed man visiting Springfield, Ill., to pay respects to Lincoln’s body on the eve of his burial. But as it turns out, the man is far from a mere onlooker. He was a longtime friend of Lincoln in his early days, with Harrigan exploring, speculatively, his the president’s early days. Publication: February, $27.59, Alfred A. Knopf. (This will be one of 2016’s early highlights, for sure.)
  3. Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century,” by Daniel Oppenheimer, the director of strategic communications at UT. The author focuses on six major political figures who helped reshape American politics – Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, Ronald Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens. Publication: February, $28, Simon & Schuster.
  4. “Work Like Any Other,” by Virginia Reeves. Reeves is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at UT, and her first novel focuses on 1920s Alabama, where a young man realizes the future of electricity, only to face a tragedy that threatens to destroy his family. Kevin Powers, author of “The Yellow Birds” and a former Michener fellow, says it’s an “exceptional novel told in clear, direct, and starkly beautiful language.” And Philipp Meyer, another Michener fellow and author of “The Son,” calls it a “striking debut about love and redemption.” Can’t wait to read it. Publication: March, $25, Scribner.
  5. “The Tombstone Race,” by Jose Skinner. A collection of short stories by an Austin writer who graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and who’s the former director of the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Texas – Pan American. Publication: March, University of New Mexico Pres, $19.95. (It’s his second story collection, following “Flight and Other Stories.”)
  6. “The Association of Small Bombs,” a novel by Karan Mahajan. Mahajan grew up in India, but moved to the States and is a graduate of both Stanford University and the Michener Center for Writers. He lives in Austin, and his first novel, “Family Planning,” was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize. The new novel deals with a timely topic – terrorism, and its longstanding effects on family and friends. Publication: March, $25.95, Viking. The book has endorsements from Adam Johson (“Orphan Master’s Son”) and Elizabeth McCracken (“Thunderstruck and Other Stories”). That’s good enough for me.
  7. “The Midnight Assassin,” by Skip Hollandsworth. The Texas Monthly writer and Dallas resident turns his attention to Austin in 1885, when a series of brutal murders rocked the city at a time when the term “serial killer” wasn’t even known. But that’s what Austin experienced, as a killer known as the Midnight Assassin stalked the city. The killings made national headlines, with a dozen men arrested in connection with the murders and an ensuing scandal. But three years later, detectives in London wondered whether the real Midnight Assassin had come to England and become Jack the Ripper. Hollandsworth has been working on this investigation for more than decade, and it sounds fantastic. Publication: April, $30, Henry Holt.
  8. “Sunset City,” by Melissa Ginsburg. A Houston native, Ginsburg is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and teaches creative writing at the University of Mississippi. Her new novel is described as an “erotically charged literary noir set in Houston, about a woman caught up in her friend’s shocking murder and the dark truth she uncovers.” Publication: April, $25.99, Ecco.
  9. “The Regional Office Is Under Attack!” by Manuel Gonzales, the former director of the Bat Cave in Austin and now a writing teacher at the University of Kentucky. His “Miniature Wife” was winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and the John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Publication: April, $27.95, Riverhead.
  10. “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos,” by Dominic Smith. Smith is one of Austin’s best writers, and that’s saying a lot, because we have a lot of great writers. I first came across him when I reviewed his first book, “The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre,” while working at the Dallas Morning News. His other books haven’t disappointed. They’re “Bright and Distant Shores” and “The Beautiful Miscellaneous.” In an author’s note, Smith has this to say: “During the seventeenth century, the Guild of St. Luke in Holland controlled all aspects of professional artistic life, including who could sign and date paintings. Its members included the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, and Jan van Goyen. The historical record suggests that as many as twenty-five women were members of the guild… But only a small handful of those artists produced work that has survived or been correctly attributed. … One gap in the historical record concerns Sarah van Baalbergen, the first woman to be admitted to the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke. …. None of van Baalbergen’s work has survived.” This historic fiction tale tries to get to the bottom of that mystery – and others. Publication: May, $26, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  11. As I was putting this list together, two other titles came to my attention: “No Baggage,” by Clara Bensen and “Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso,” by Kali Nicole Gross. “No Baggage” is a memoir about Bensen and a university professor who decide on a risky adventure: take off on a trip with no plans, no reservations and no baggage while traveling to eight countries. Publication: January, $25, Running Press Book Publishers. “Hannah Mary Tabbs,” meanwhile, is a study of a crime in post-Reconstruction Philadelphia, with racial themes. It’s from an associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at UT. Publication: February, $24.95, Oxford University Press.
  12. And there will be many more books popping up in the next few weeks. I’m sure I’ve left off some good ones that I should have included but got lost in the piles and piles at my desk. If you know of one, please feel free to email me.

‘City on Fire’ event at BookPeople; it’s a biggie

BookPeople will be hosting one of the fall’s hottest young authors – Garth Risk Hallberg — at 7 p.m. Thusday Oct. 22.

He’s the author of the massive “City on Fire,” which is being released this month and is considered one of the biggest literary events of the year. Knopf reportedly paid about $2 million for the manuscript, and is rolling out a publicity juggernaut.

Nearly everyone is raving, including the Washington Post and Kirkus Reviews.

Here’s part of what Kirkus says about the book:

“Rough-edged mid-1970s New York provides the backdrop for an epic panorama of musicians, writers, and power brokers and the surprising ways they connect.

“New Year’s Eve 1976: Sam, a fanzine author and hanger-on in the Manhattan punk scene, abandons her plan to attend a concert and instead heads to Central Park, where she’s later discovered shot and clinging to life. Why’d she head uptown? Who shot her? Thereby hangs a remarkably assured, multivalent tale that strives to explore multiple strata of Manhattan life with photographic realism.”

With more than 900 pages at his disposal, Hallberg gives his characters plenty of breathing room, but the story never feels overwritten, and the plotlines interlace without feeling pat.”

We’ll run a full review of the novel on Sunday, Oct. 25.

Garth Risk Hallberg. Credit: Mark Vessey
Garth Risk Hallberg. Credit: Mark Vessey


Kristin Hersh cancels Texas dates due to medical emergency

9780292759473Due to a medical emergency in her family, Kristin Hersh has cancelled her Texas dates, including a discussion at BookPeople and an appearance at the Texas Book Festival and a show at the Cactus Cafe.

Here is my review of her excellent book “Don’t Suck Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt.”

Chelsea Clinton coming to Austin for book signing

Chelsea Clinton ItsYourWorld cover

Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, will be signing her new book, “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going,” at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 at BookPeople

Tickets are required for the signing and are available only with the purchase of a copy of the book from BookPeople. Books and tickets are now available to pre-order via

In the book, Chelsea Clinton uses charts, photographs and stories to give readers an understanding of the world and how readers can make a difference.