Autograph Hound's Blah Blah Blog

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Texas Book Festival 2010

A few weeks ago the wife, Kae, and I traveled down to Austin for the Texas Book Festival (10/16/10).   This book fair hasn’t been on my radar. In fact, I never heard of it until a month earlier and I’m not even sure how I found out about it. Like a lot of things in life, sometimes you just trip over something that you are supposed to pay attention to.
Since it’s a 4 hour drive, we drove down the night before and stayed at hotel in downtown. The trip was uneventful except for the fact we passed 2 (count them, 2!) outlet malls. Kae, ‘suggested’ we leave early on Sunday to be sure to get some shopping done.
Does this happen to you?  Kae will hit every  mall in town and find nothing interesting or that fits properly. We go to another city and window-shop at their mall with the exact same stores that we have in Dallas and boom! she finds the perfect outfit in the perfect size with the perfect accessories.  Amazing, huh? This has happened enough times that the expectation is WE WILL GO SHOPPING.
The Books Festival has been around for 15 years. Laura Bush, when she was First Lady of Texas, started it as a way to acknowledge Texas authors.  The event brings in a couple hundred authors. Most of the authors are local and the topics of their books are local.  It is a good way for these authors to get some free publicity and meet the public.  I think most of the authors get a chance to discuss their book and then have a signing.
For the most part, the Festival holds the lectures and panel discussions in the Texas Capitol building.  The area outside of the Capitol is filled with tents. Some of the tents are for local publishers to display their wares. A tent set is up for the musical groups to perform, a cooking tent is set up to demonstrate the art of cooking and for various chefs to discuss their books. 
This was a very kid friendly event. Several tents are there to entertain the kidlets.  They had a tent filled with children books and the authors that signed. Just outside of these tents was a free vision and hearing screening for the little ones.
The ideal of this event was that you could attend the panel discussion and then still have time to wander over to the autograph tent and spend a few minutes chatting with the author as you got their signature.  After 15 years this was still the reality.  You can have your cake and eat it too.  Although you will hear from the ‘older timers’ about how big this event has gotten and how huge the crowds are but it’s possible to do it all.
The grounds surrounding the Capital are beautiful and while it’s a long walk a lot to get from one end to the other, it’s refreshing to be outside and enjoying the sunshine.
Laura Bush was first on my agenda.  My plans did not include sitting in on any of the panels because I thought there would be too many people in the lines to be able to jump from event to event. Kae did listen to her talk and thought she was witty and entertaining.  Even though it was at a local theater, it was intimate.
Unfortunately, Laura wasn’t able to hold a signing afterward. Barnes and Noble did get her to sign copies of her book and was selling them.  So I consoled myself with a pre-signed copy of her book.  A shame as I really wanted to ask her thoughts about the Texas Rangers baseball team. Her hubby was President of that team for a while.
Later that day I picked up Heloise’s autograph. Yeah, not in the same league at Laura Bush but I have read Heloise for decades and wanted to add her to my collection. Admit it, you read her too.
P.J. O’Rourke  was there and I got him too.  He was friendly and he allowed people to take pictures and pose with him.  A confession – I never read one of his columns.  I remember selling a ton of his books on Father’s Day and around Christmas when I worked at the bookstore.  For me, he was enough of a celebrity to add his book to my shelves.
I have several friends that love the series, Dexter. So I HAD to get Jeff Lindsay  to sign a few copies of his books for me and my friends. He was nice. I asked if he ever came to ComicCon.  He said no and asked me why was Dexter even at ComicCon.  I laughed and said Dexter was part of ’pop culture’ and ComicCon was very ‘pop culture’. He said the audience won’t want him.  I told him he would be a rock star there and he should think about going next year.
The next autograph I wanted but I felt weird about getting. It was Meg Cabot. She wrote Princess Diaries along with a million other books for kids.  I’ve watched that movie more times than I care to admit. If you knew the truth I’d lose my membership in the ‘man club’.
Here I am, 6 foot 3 inches tall, standing in line with a thousand 10 year old girls; girls that were squealing, snickering, giggling, and doing everything else that 10 year old girls do.  They had enough nervous energy to power the State of Texas for a year.  They were hopping up and down. They were standing on one foot and spinning. They were practicing parts of some gymnastic or cheerleading routine they were learning. They were doing everything but standing still. All of which brought  more attention to red faced me, a giant among Lilliputians.
Meg was friendly and was all grins and even posed with the girls.  The parents were taking pictures and thanked Meg as the girls were too excited to doing anything but burn off this amazing amount of energy.
Then it’s my turn at the front of the line. I got a smile. Then she asked who the book was for as she wanted to personalize it.  I told her it’s just for me.  The smile faltered.  She signed the book pushed it back to me.  She quickly held her hand out to the next 10 year and started signing again.  Did she ask if I wanted to pose with her?  No. did she want to chit chat? No.  It was oblivious I didn’t belong there and Meg was just as uncomfortable as I was.  She was a trooper though and didn’t comment or ask any embarrassing questions to make the situation last any longer than necessary. She soldiered forth and got to the next girl in line as fast as possible. Although I was chagrined at the time, I do have the book signed so all is good in the end.
Times like these I need to rent a child. I could have hovered just out of ear shot and watched it all go down. Meg would ask the kid his/her name. The kid would say it’s going to be a gift and not sure for who yet. I’m sure Meg would have arched an eyebrow over that comment but she would have signed and returned the book.  The kid would then leave the line and I would quickly swoop in claiming my prize before the kid started doing cartwheels or the like that take an insane amount of energy that someone my age would never think of doing.  I’m sure I would pat the kid on the head and hand over a bag of Skittles as a reward. Something with lots of sugar to help the child replace the energy they have been using up all day. Then there would have been no embarrassing exchange as I got my autograph.
That night I got Alton Brown to sign his book. This was several miles away in a shopping center and semi-associated with the Book Festival.  It made a great ending to a long successful day of autograph hunting.
More about Alton in the next post.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, sounds like quite a productive (autograph-wise) and fun weekend. I thought of you on Sunday. Sherman Alexie was here at the library in Pueblo doing a signing of his semi-autobiography. I had bought a copy for my grandson thinking he might want to read it this year, but of course didn't have it with me when we just went to the library on one of our usual visits. I had seen the signs about him being there, but didn't connect the dates. He seemed very friendly with the crowd, laughing and posing for pictures. Maybe next time...


    PS - Have not seen the Princess Diaries, but I adore Ann Hathaway!