TBF or not TBF?

Last weekend’s Texas Book Festival was, in the words of local Barnes & Noble public relations manager Frank Campbell, “the perfect storm”.  Owing to ideal weather, immediate follow-up to ACL, and over 200 notable authors on site, TBF 2010 was pleasantly swarming.   I’ve heard that events predicted to be minor draws brought in overflow audiences, while top attractions generally surpassed those high expectations.    

Attendees are resolving to show up earlier for events next year; competition for most any seat now appears to be a given.  And the wait is worth it.  The prospect of hobnobbing with fellow booklovers and acclaimed authors–for free!–on the Capitol grounds offers unique value.  

For the best possible TBF experience, you would enjoy volunteering, as I did.  Volunteers can get closer to the action; some festival-goers will even covet your free T-shirt!  Second, do your homework.  TBF is a vast undertaking, offering more options than you can manage.  Study the schedule beforehand on the TBF website or in the Statesman‘s festival guide and do some prioritizing, factoring in wait times and distances between venues.

And there’s a third strategy:  share your insights with others.  You can catch de-briefings on speakers you missed, follow up online, and acquire reading suggestions (not to mention gift-giving ideas).

Some of the best bits I heard at or about the festival:

  • Attendees at chef Alton Brown’s packed Central Market session raved about Brown’s contagious enthusiasm and consideration (obliging everyone with autographs and scooting parents with young children to the head of line).

  • Amanda Hesser (Essential New York Times Cookbook and food52.com) sold us on the NYT compilation, which I hadn’t realized is not just a Craig Claiborne update; it includes significant historical and reader-contributed content. Ms. Hesser didn’t miss a beat when asked (probably for the millionth time) how she stays “rail-thin” even though she bakes constantly.

  • Leila Meacham (author of Roses) referring to the tradition of Southerners sacrificing all for one’s property or plantation: “Back then, you were your land. Today, some ladies are their handbags.”

  • Jane Roberts Wood (author of the Lucy Richards trilogy and the recent Out the Summerhill Road), delightedly acknowledging this note from a reader: “I think your characters drink too much!”

  • And the author escort for Doug Chernack and Mike Bender, creators of Awkward Family Photos, claimed that she has never laughed so much or so hard in her entire life.

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