Texas Book Festival 2011

One of my favorite Austin events, the Texas Book Festival, was held last weekend in and around the State Capitol building. TBF was started by Laura Bush in 1995 to honor Texas authors, promote reading, and benefit public libraries. Except for an opening night gala, all sessions are free. Attendance was about 35,000 according to the Austin American Statesman. The weather was perfect, with sunny skies and highs in the 80s.

This year a friend from Pennsylvania joined me at TBF. Too many sessions! Too little time! But here’s what we managed to see:

Saturday, October 22:

New Directions in Southern Cuisine with Hugh Acheson and Martha Hall Foose
Mississippian Martha Hall Foose made funnel cakes and fudge (which she later gave to the judges at the Literary Death Match). Atlanta chef Hugh Acheson demonstrated a recipe from his book, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for your Kitchen. 

Alton Brown
My favorite session…even though I was probably the only person in the theater who didn’t know who Alton Brown was. Based on his Q&A session with the audience, now I know that Alton has his own show, Good Eats, on the Food Network, is the commentator on Iron Chef America, and hosts/judges The Next Iron Chef. I also know that Theater was his college major. That’s not surprising. He was very entertaining.


Literary Death Match

This “competition” is held in various cities in various countries, including previous TBFs. Literary Death Match creator Todd Zuniga was assisted by local writer/comedian Owen Egerton. Bill later pointed out that we’ve seen Owen in Master Pancake Theater at the Alamo Drafthouse. I thought he looked familiar.

The match was judged by Lisa Loeb, Adam Mansbach and Chuck Palahniuk. The competing authors were Charles Yu (How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe), Martha Hall Foose (A Southern Course), Karen Russell (Swamplandia!), and Libba Bray (Beauty Queens). Now that I’ve read more about the judges, I can understand why the authors looked so nervous as the match started. 

In the first round, the four authors each had seven minutes to read selections from their books. We thought that Libba was the best writer, but we were rooting for Martha since we had seen her earlier in the day. At the end of the round one readings, the judges decided that Charles and Martha would advance. For the next round, audience members came up on stage and held up pictures of famous writers. On the back of each picture was a number of something associated with that writer. (For example, Kurt Vonnegut’s photo had the number “5” on the back, for his book, Slaughterhouse-Five, so that was worth five points.) Charles and Martha took turns selecting pictures and accumulating points. The final score was close, but Martha was declared the TBF 2011 Literary Death Match winner.


To Ban or Not to Ban: What Is the Question?

After the Literary Death Match ended, we ran over to the First Baptist Church and caught the second half of a panel discussion with authors of young adult books. They were Against Book Banning.

Kathy Reichs
Kathy Reichs’ books, and her career as a forensic anthropologist, inspired the TV series Bones. She is a consultant for the show and said that she reads all the scripts for accuracy. My friend’s copy of her novel Spider Bones is now next on my reading pile.

Sunday, October 23:

Paula Deen
In case you are wondering…yes, I knew that Paula Deen is also a Food Network star. She spoke to Hugh Acheson for a while and then answered questions. Paula certainly is personable. The audience loved her!

Marcia Clark
Yes, this was the Marcia Clark who was the lead prosecutor for the O.J. Simpson trial. 
She now writes crime novels. Marcia talked about her latest book and then took questions from the audience. As you would guess, most of the questions were about the O.J. trial. But she didn’t seem to mind.

Sex! Murder! Scandal! History! with H.W. Brands and David R. Stokes
H.W. Brands’ latest book is The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age. Bill Brands is a UT history professor and an engaged speaker who  I’ve heard on several occasions. David Stokes talked about his book, The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder that Captivated America.

Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge
Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge randomly selected an audience member to assist as they demonstrated their recipes from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook. I happened to sit next to this assistant’s friend who told me all about how Josh and Brent quit their NYC jobs to live on The Beekman farm in upstate New York, how Brent used to work for Martha Stewart, how they started making and selling cheese and soap, how they have their own TV show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, and how his assistant/friend who is a baker had visited their farm. It was all very exciting.

Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock
…aka The Casserole Queens. These two have a casserole home-delivery business here in Austin and are now promoting their first cookbook. Crystal and Sandy were so kind to pose for a photo before their demonstration that I bought their cookbook afterward. They signed my cookbook with their slogan: “Put Some Lovin’ in your Oven!” Aren’t they cute?

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