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 http://www.texasteenbookfestival.org.

Greg Abbott sets May 25 signing of new book, ‘Broken but Unbowed’


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has a new memoir coming out May 17, and it’s titled “Broken but Unbowed.”
For one hour only, he’ll be signing copies of the book at 11:30 a.m. May 25 at the Round Rock Barnes & Noble, in La Frontera Village, at I-35 and SH-45.

Abbott lost his ability to walk when an oak tree crashed down on his back, fracturing vertebrae into his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed. At 26, he felt that the future he had dreamed of was gone.

As promotional materials point out, Abbott soon realized that our lives are not defined by our challenges, but by how we respond to them. He went on to overcome his paralytic limitations to become the longest-serving attorney general in Texas history and now governor, all while in a wheelchair.

The book also discusses Abbott’s legal challenges against the federal government, his defense of the Second Amendment and other matters. And he reportedly compares his own physical troubles to those of the nation, saying that our country has been broken, and that it’s up to us to restore America to its place in the world.

The book is being published by Threshold Editions and sells for $28.

Although advance reader copies have not made it to the American-Statesman, he’s a brief excerpt about the day of his injuries from online sources:

“The first shock was the sound—a loud explosion that sounded like a bomb had exploded about ten feet away. Reflexively, I turned my head to the right, where the sound originated. It was a tree. A big oak, well over fifty feet tall, with a trunk two or three feet wide—and an enormous crack at the base.

“And the tree was falling exactly where I was running.

“Think of the sense of panic you feel when you perceive imminent danger. That sudden sinking feeling in your stomach when your heart abruptly stops, then races rapidly. That moment of fright that makes your hair stand on end. Then multiply it times a hundred. That’s what I felt.

“In a nanosecond, thoughts raced through my head.

“If I stop or keep going straight, I’m gonna get clobbered, and I can’t go left because cars are parked there. Go right!

“The next thing I knew, I was down. Flat on my back. The entire catastrophe—from the time I heard the sound until I hit the ground—lasted no more than a second.

“The good news was that I was still conscious. The bad news was that I had not lost consciousness. The pain was immediate, excruciating, and unrelenting. I had broken bones in the past and had a concussion playing football. But this was altogether different.

“The pain was magnified by my inability to breathe. I’d had the wind knocked out of me before but this was beyond comparison. Trying to take in air ripped me with stabbing pains. Any attempt to exhale was sheer torture. All I could muster were short, shallow gasps.

“I didn’t know what had happened, but I could tell it was bad.”
To read more about the book, go here.

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 texasteenbookfestival.org.

Chatting with Austin author Dominic Smith

Dominic Smith
Dominic Smith

My interview with Austin novelist Dominic Smith, whose latest is “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos,” is scheduled to run Sunday, but as usual, I had to leave out parts of the interview to keep the story to a manageable length.

So I’m including some of that here. It has to do with literary inferiority complexes, and whether Smith’s native Australia is similar to Texas in that respect.

Smith says that for most of the 20th century, Australia indeed had an inferiority complex, but that things changed in 1973, with Australia’s Patrick White won the 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature.

“That gave a new generation of Australian writers the confidence that they could write Australian stories and have them be taken seriously as literature,” Smith says.

Still, he says, Australia went through what’s called the “tall poppy syndrome — that if someone shoots up and become great in one thing, there’s a historical impulse to cut them down. The idea is basically that Australia has a history of cutting down their tall poppies, and a lot of them.”

He adds: “There were a lot of writers and painters who left Australia and went to Europe or America to get known. I think that’s really changed, though. Despite cuts in recent years, there’s been a massive investment in the last 30 years in Australian arts, with quite an amount of funding for literature and art. I don’t know about Texas historically, but I think it’s true — that there’s a desire to prove one’s worth as an artist outside the confines of what is perceived as provincialism.”

And while Texas has no Nobel Prize winners in literature, Smith quickly points to the Texas tales of Cormac McCarthy and others, saying that he thinks regional Texas literature can also be universal.

“It’s interesting that with both Australia and Texas, there are these enduring stereotypes,” he says. “Both places are urban, but people culturally cling to the cowboy or the West Texas ranch or the Australian Outback. Most Australians have never been to the Outback.”

Smith’s new novel focuses on a female painter during the 17th century Dutch Golden Age, then switches to 1950s New York, where a lawyer named Marty de Groot has a painting of hers in his apartment on the Upper East Side. At the same time, a young art history student decides to forge that painting, only to be haunted by her youthful indiscretion when she finds out that her forgery is on its way to a museum in Australia where she works in 2000.

The painting at the center of the book is titled “At the Edge of a Wood.” It shows a young girl overlooking a scene of skaters on the frozen river below.

Smith says that the idea for the painting was inspired by the Dutch artist Hendrick Avercamp. “He painted all those winter scenes where you see skaters out, a whole village. Avercamp was a generation before Judith Leyster (another inspiration for the novel), and he painted these winter scenes in the early 1600s. He lived in this very remote place, and he was deaf and also mute, and his winter scenes are to me spectacular because what they show is a cross section of society. … A peasant taking a leak, then you have this aristocratic-looking couple being pulled on an ice sled. At the very end (of the novel), the self-portrait of Sara de Vos is somewhat based on Judith Leyster’s self-portrait. It was probably her masterwork that she submitted to get into the Guild. She has the incredibly vital and alive expression, and she’s turned to the viewer and her lips are slightly parted as if she might speak to you. And I just love that painting. It was a nod to her as well.”

If you want to see the Leyster painting and learn more about Smith’s research for the novel, go here and read what Smith wrote recently for the Paris Review. And if you want to meet Smith in person, he’s appearing at the Blanton Museum of Art at 6:30 p.m. on April 21. For details on that event, go here.

Texas literary scene is hopping. Here’s to happy reading.

The Texas literary scene is still hopping, as previously reported. And it seems like a dozen or so Texas-related books arrive each month.

Here’s what’s coming up.

On Sunday, April 3, former American-Statesman staff Michael MacCambridge will be reviewing the new book from another former Statesman staff, Kevin Robbins. It’s a biography of Austin golf legend Harvey Penick, with the subtitle: “The Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf.” Robbins will be at BookPeople on April 13.

Next Sunday, April 10, I’ll be reviewing the terrific, fast-paced look at Austin in the 1880s by Skip Hollandsworth, executive editor of Texas Monthly. It focuses on a series of killings of black servant women and the panic it caused. And with his customary wit, Hollandsworth points out that the city really became alarmed when the same serial killer attacked and mutilated two white women. He suggests that the famous Austin moontowers might have been installed to help people feel safer on the streets. And he further notes that many newspapers around the country, at least at one point, thought that the Austin killer had moved on to London, where he became Jack the Ripper. It’s really quite a tale, and it’s the Statesman Selects title, in conjunction with BookPeople, for April.

Also coming in April: A review of Austin author Dominic Smith’s “The Last painting of Sara de Vos.” It’s historical fiction, dealing with the first woman to be admitted as a master painter to Amsterdam’s Guild of St. Luke in 1631. The book goes back and forth in time, from the 1600s to the 1950s and 2000. And it deals with an art historian who, in her earlier days, made a forgery of a de Vos painting, only to have it haunt her later in life when she’s a bigwig at an art museum. Smith will be the subject our series called Literary Austin.

There’s plenty more coming this spring and summer. One of the biggest surprises to me was the recent arrival of Lawrence Wright’s “The Terror Years.” It’s due in bookstores in August and its subtitle, “From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State,” indicates it’s a sequel of sorts to Wright’s Pulitzer-winning “The Looming Tower.” It consists of 10 pieces published in The New Yorker about the path to today’s ISIS terrorists.

Meanwhile, Austin’s Noah Hawley, who’s best known for TV work on “My Generation,” “The Unusuals,” “Bones” and “Fargo,” has a new novel titled “Before the Fall.” It’s due in late May and focuses on a group of people who board an ill-fated private plane from Martha’s Vineyard to New York. There are only two survivors – a down-on-his-luck painter named Scott Burroughs and a 4-year-old boy who’s the son of a media mogul. The book goes back in forth in time, with the backstories of the passengers, and more than a suggestion of possible foul play. Sounds great. But I haven’t started it yet, because I’m trying to finish “The Adventurist,” by Houston’s J. Bradford Hipps.

I have to say that I’m really enjoying the Hipps novel, in part because of the satirical, riotously funny tone about the modern corporate world. The main character is Henry Hurt, a software engineer in the South who tries to navigate a financially perilous situation at work while nursing a bit of lovesickness on the side. And on top of that, he’s haunted by the death of his mother, the possibility that his father is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, and the persistent questioning of his career choice by a do-good, liberal sister who works for a nonprofit. I haven’t quite made up my mind what I think about poor Henry. But he makes me laugh, so I guess I’m simultaneously appalled and amused. It’s set for release in April.

With all of this coming up, I’m not sure how quickly I’ll get to the following titles, but I’ll try. They include:

“Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe,” by James K. Galbraith, who holds the Lloyd Bentsen Chair in Government/Business Relations at the University of Texas. He argues that the Greek financial situation is a potential international disaster. Galbraith sees the policies used toward Greece as a “moral abomination.” It’s from Yale University Press and is due in June.

“Waylon: Tales of My Outlaw Dad,” by Terry Jennings and David Thomas. Terry Jennings, Waylon’s son, was born when his dad was only 19, and he grew up in a wild period of touring, drugs and chasing women, along with multiple divorces and other troubles. It’s being billed as an honest warts-and-all biography. Terry is the founder of Korban Music Group and lives near Waco. He teamed up with Thomas, whose books including “Wrestling for My Life” and “Foxcatcher,” the inspiration for the Oscar-nominated film. He lives near Fort Worth. It’s due in April from Hachette.

“Terminated for Reasons of Taste,” by Chuck Eddy. Austin-based journalist Eddy shares his views on rock ‘n’ roll and how he thinks that most histories focus on winners rather than losers. He thinks the losers help make rock interesting. It’s due in September from Duke University Press.

“Before We Visit the Goddess,” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The author, who was born in India, is the McDavid professor of creative writing at the University of Houston. And her new novel focuses on the daughter of a poor sweet-maker in Bengal, India, who longs for an education. The girl eventually gets a benefactor, but the relationship sours. And years later, her estranged daughter flees India for America, only to have her dreams upended as well. The book jackets says that the novel “captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental bonds, sweeping across the twentieth century from the countryside of Bengal … to the streets of Houston.” It’s due in April from Simon & Schuster.

“Another Year Finds Me in Texas: The Civil War Diary of Lucy Piers Stevens,” by Vicki Adams Tongate. It deals with a young Ohio woman who is visiting Bellville, Texas, when the Civil War breaks out and makes her return home impossible. The diary is one of the few from women during Civil War-era Texas and details her perspective on just about everything, from the weather to chores to slaves. Tongate explores the diary and provides commentary along the way. It’s from the University of Texas Press and is already in bookstores.

“Kent Finlay, Dreamer: The Musical Legacy Behind Cheatham Street Warehouse,” by Brian T. Atkinson and Jenni Finlay. Texas journalist Atkinson teams up with Finlay’s daughter, Jenni, to talk about the late Kent Finlay’s efforts to help aspiring artists while working at Cheatham Street Warehouse. Those he helped while working at the legendary San Marcos honky-tonk include George Strait, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Randy Rogers, James McMurtry and Eric Johnson. It’s already in bookstores and is from the Texas A&M University Press.

“Indeh: The Story of the Apache Wars,” by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth. Austin native Hawke teams up with illustrator Ruth to bring us a graphic novel about the Apache nation in 1872. It’s due from Grand Central Publishing in June.

Also of note: One of Austin’s favorite writers, Sarah Bird, has a small UT Press book titled “A Love Letter to Texas Women.” It’ll make a great Mother’s Day gift, if you’re wondering. We’ll have more on this title soon.

There are many more Texas-related books coming up, of course. I’ve just mentioned a few. And I’ll try to keep you informed about the latest. But this summer is going to be a good season for reading.

New Fiction Confab set for April 23

Virginia Reeves
Virginia Reeves
Karan Mahajan
Karan Mahajan

The seventh annual New Fiction Confab will be held on Saturday, April 23 at the John Henry Faul Central Library at 800 Guadalupe St.

This year’s event will feature Kirk Lynn (“Rules for Werewolves”), Karan Mahajan (“The Association of Small Bombs”), Karen Olsson (“All the Houses”), Virginia Reeves (“Work Like Any Other”), Alexander Chee (“The Queen of the Night”), Kaitlyn Greenidge (“We Love You, Charlie Freeman”), Samantha Hunt (“Mr. Splitfoot”) and Sunil Yapa (“The Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist”).

As you can probably tell, this will be quite a literary conclave, featuring some of Austin’s finest authors, plus such visiting authors as Chee, Greenidge, Hunt and Yapa.

The event is one of the biggest literary programs of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation. All events are free and open to the public. For details on the various sessions, go here.

Mayor’s Book Club selects ‘A Friend of Mr. Lincoln’


Stephen Harrigan’s “A Friend of Mr. Lincoln” is the 2016 Mayor’s Book Club title.

The book club is an annual citywide reading campaign that aims to develop a community experience through reading and discussion.

Harrigan’s novel explores the early days of Abraham Lincoln, before his eventual marriage to Mary Todd, and his exploits riding the circuit in Illinois, before his political ascendancy.

The campaign is in conjunction of Mayor Steve Adler’s office and the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation.

Youth Fiction Writing Contest entries being accepted


Entries are being accepted for the 2016 Youth Fiction Writing Contest until July 1, and this year’s theme is “Note to Self.”

The contest is hosted by the Texas Book Festival and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas. The contest is open to junior and high school students in Texas. They can submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length.

Submissions are judged by authors, educators and others.
There are three divisions for the contest: grades 7-8, grades 9-10 and grades 11-12.

First-place winners get $250; second place, $100; third place, $50. Their work will be published on the Texas Book Festival website, and they’ll get a plaque. Finalists and semi-finalists in grades 9 through 12 also get an invitation to a writing workshop at the Austin Bat Cave.
To enter your submission, click here.

Poet Jane Miller reading set for April 7

Jane Miller
Poet Jane Miller will read from her work at 7:30 p.m. April 7, with the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas serving as host.

Miller, a longtime member of the University of Arizona poetry faculty, is a visiting professor at UT, and her books include “Thunderbirds,” “The Greater Leisures”; and “Memory at These Speeds.” She has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.

The event will be held at the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302, on the UT campus at the southeast corner of Speedway and 24th streets. It is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the UT San Jacinto Garage.

Sarah Bird to get Lon Tinkle Award; other finalists named

Author Sarah Bird
Author Sarah Bird

Austin novelist Sarah Bird will receive the Lon Tinkle Award at the annual Texas Institute of Letters’ award reception and banquet on April 15 and 16, the literary group announced Thursday.

The Tinkle award is presented to a distinguished writer with a career in letters associated with Texas, and previous winners include Larry McMurty, John Graves, Rolando Hinojosa and Lawrence Wright.

The group also announced the finalists for its other awards. They are as follows:

Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction ($6,000): Karen Olsson, “All the Houses” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, “Barefoot Dogs” (Scribner); Elizabeth Harris, “Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman” (Gival Press)

Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction ($1,000): Mary Helen Specht, “Migratory Animals” (Harper Perennial); Melissa De Carlo, “The Art of Crash Landing” (Harper Paperbacks); Chaitali Sen, “The Pathless Sky” (Europa Editions)

Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Nonfiction ($5,000): Michael Mewshaw, “Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Randy Fritz, “Hail of Fire” (Trinity University Press); Jan Jarboe Russell, “The Train to Crystal City” (Scribner)

Ramirez Family Award for Most Significant Scholarly Book ($2,500): Andrew Torget, III, “Seeds of Empire” (The University of North Carolina Press); Light Townsend Cummins, “Allie Victoria Tennant and the Visual Arts in Dallas (Texas A&M University Press); Abigail L. Swingen, “Competing Visions of Empire” (Yale University Press)

Helen C. Smith Memorial Award for Best Book of Poetry ($1,200): Bruce Bond, “The Other Sky” (Etruscan Press); Laurie Ann Guerrero, “A Crown for Gumecindo” (Aztlan Libre Press); Scott Wiggerman, “Leaf and Beak” (Purple Flag)

Bob Bush Memorial Award for First Book of Poetry ($1,000): Noel Crook, “Salt Moon” (Southern Illinois University Press); Jonathan Fink, “The Crossing” (Dzanc Books); J. Scott Brownlee, “Requiem for Used Ignition Cap” (The Orison Poetry Prize)

Edwin “Bud” Shrake Award for Short Nonfiction ($1,000): Melissa del Bosque, “Death on Sevenmile Road,” in Texas Observer (March 2015); W.K. Stratton, “My Brother’s Secret,” in Texas Monthly (February 2015); Chris Ellery, “A Boy of Bethany,” in Rosebud 60 (Fall/Winter 2015)

Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story ($1,000): Rick Bass, “The Blue Tree,” in Whitefish Review; Brian Van Reet, “The Chaff,” in Iowa Review; Miles Wilson, “Tough,” in Georgia Review

H-E-B/Jean Flynn Award for Best Children’s Book ($500): Liz Garton Scanlon, “The Great Good Summer” (Beach Lane Books); Anne Bustard, “Anywhere But Paradise” (EgmontUSA); Don Tate, “The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton: Poet” (Peachtree Publishers)

H-E-B Best Young Adults Book ($500): David Bowles, “The Smoking Mirror” (IFWG Publishing), Brian Yansky, “Utopia, Iowa” (Candlewick); Rene S. Perez II, “Seeing Off the Johns” (Cinco Puntos Press)

Denton Record-Chronicle Award for Best Children’s Picture Book ($500): Pat Mora, “The Remembering Day / El dia de los muertos” (Arte Publico Press); Kathi Appelt, “Counting Crows” (Atheneum Books for Young Readers); Chris Barton, “The Nutcracker Comes to America” (Millbrook Press)

Fred Whitehead Award for Best Design of a Trade Book ($750): Bryce Milligan, “Rosengren’s Books” by Mary Carolyn Hollers George (Wings Press); Andrea Caillouet, “The Luck Archive: Exploring Belief, Superstition, and Tradition” by Mark Menjivar (Trinity University Press); Mary Ann Jacob, “Feeding Wild Birds in America” by Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker, and Carrol L. Henderson (Texas A&M University Press)

Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translation of a Book ($1,000): Marian Schwartz, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Yale University Press); Travis Sorenson, “The Milli Vanilli Condition: Essays on Culture in the New Millennium” by Eduardo Espina (Arte Publico Press); Nicolas Kanellos, “When Mexico Recaptures Texas: Essays” by Carmen Boullosa (Arte Publico Press).

The institute’s event will take place at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center and at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The Saturday banquet will be preceded by the induction of and readings by new members.

Membership is by invitation only, based on a substantial contribution to Texas literature and culture. However, the Friday night reception, featuring music and readings by some of Texas’ best poets, and the Saturday night banquet are open to the public. The cost is $50, which includes admission to both events.