Authors and readers gathered in Austin, Texas on November 11 – 12 for the 2023 Texas Book Festival.
The weekend featured over 300 authors and speakers to share their love of literature and creativity.
Panels were held in various locations in downtown Austin including the Texas Capital building and
surrounding churches. Tents were also erected to accommodate book sales, additional panels, book
signings, and story time for the younger audience.
A few of the many panels that were offered over the weekend included Dazzling Debuts in Historical
Fiction, Michael Cunningham in Conversation about Day: A Novel, Fighting to Survive: Rebellions in Epic
Fantasy, The Craft of Writing Place and Locality, Stacey Abrams in Conversation about Rogue Justice, and
Ali Hazelwood and Aaron Aceves on Teenage Love, Angst, & Coming of Age.
Historical Fiction is one of many sub-genres in the fiction realm that was represented at the Austin Book
Festival. Dazzling Debuts in Historical Fiction included authors Alice Winn (In Memoriam: A Novel),
Lindsey Lynch (Do Tell: A Novel), and Shelley Read (Go As A River: A Novel). They all discussed how it
could be difficult but important to show respect and care in writing different points of view that they
themselves may not be familiar with personally while keeping true to the time period. They spoke
about how vital research was in order to maintain the tone and cadence of those eras in their stories.
Michael Cunningham, author of Day: A Novel, discussed in his panel how he feels inspired by stories
from other authors that he reads and feels that there is an element of influence in his novels based on
that inspiration. His book, Day: A Novel, is written in the time of COVID-19 and while that is a plot point, his
focus is on the relationships of the characters that are affected by the pandemic. Readers can relate to
the fear and unknown of living through the pandemic, but the spotlight of the novel is how these
characters’ lives change and evolve. He spoke about how every person, at some point, has a feeling of
‘otherness’ and he likes to explore that in his novels.
In the Fighting to Survive: Rebellions in Epic Fantasy panel, Tracy Wolff, author of Star Bringer, and Ehigbor Okosun, author of Forged by Blood, spoke about finding the balance between the stakes thrown at the characters and showing a sense of hope. Audience perspectives are always different and it can be a balancing act for the writer. If your interests lie more in non-fiction or location-based books, there were many panels to enjoy of the non-fiction variety as well.
Kurt Caswell, author of Iceland Summer: Travels along the Ring Road, talked about the importance of researching locations as well as taking detailed notes while traveling. He emphasized that there is interesting history and stories to be told about anywhere, whether that is a small town in Texas, or somewhere thought to be more exotic, like Iceland. It is about looking more closely and being open-minded in your research of a place.
Stacey Abrams, known for her political career, is also a best-selling non-fiction and fiction author spanning multiple genres and was also featured at the Texas Book Festival this year. She discussed her newest fictional novel, Rogue Justice (Avery Keene), the second novel in the Avery Keene series. Stacey talked about being the daughter of a librarian and a storyteller and how that inspired her to write. She loves all genres (except Horror because she doesn’t like to be scared stating, “I work in politics, that’s enough for me”).
The festival also hosted its 13th annual Lit Crawl, an unconventional literary program combining a pub crawl with literary panels. This Lit Crawl was a fun and different way to interact with fellow readers and authors with story-building, battle of the genres, other games, and readings of book inserts from some of the authors included. Most of this festival fun was free to the public and helped to encourage readers of all ages and backgrounds to love reading and celebrate literacy.
Readers of all ages and walks of life were able to enjoy connecting with others to discuss their favorite stories, authors, and genres at the 28th annual Texas Book Festival.