7th Annual San Antonio Book Festival

Elizabeth McCracken, who teaches at the UT Michener Center for Writers, said that writing can’t be taught because the rules are specific to each writer, and that the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 changed everything.


TOP PHOTO: (from top left clockwise) author Sarah Bird; Lone Star Lit team members Michelle Newby Lancaster, Kristine Hall, and Ruthie Jones; author Amy Gentry; author James Dennis and Kristine; authors David Norman, Mimi Swartz, and moderator Becka Oliver; author W.F. Strong; author Lawrence Wright, Kristine, Michelle, and poet Natalia Trevino; authors S. Kirk Walsh and Elizabeth McCracken; author Ben Fountain and Michelle.

The threatened rain (mostly) didn’t materialize, and the seventh annual San Antonio Book Festival (SABF) seemed to go off without a hitch. The festival takes place downtown each year at the famously enchilada-red Central Library and the Southwest School of Art across Augusta from the library. A free, open, all-day event, the 2019 SABF featured more than ninety national, regional, local, and emerging authors, and some eighty author panels. The 2018 festival welcomed more than eighteen thousand visitors.


Featured speakers this year included Newberry Award-winning author Meg Medina, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, UT Michener Chair Elizabeth McCracken, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Ben Fountain, and many more. Notable panels included “San Antonio’s Environmental History” with Char Miller, author of San Antonio: A Tricentennial History; “Home Is Stronger than a Wall” with Alfredo Corchado, Reyna Grande, and Jean Guerrero; “Rage Becomes Her: Women and Political Anger” with Carina Chocano, Amy Gentry, and Mathangi Subramanian; “Obsessed with Texas” with Sarah Bird, David Norman, and Mimi Swartz; and “Queer as Folk: Writing LGBT Characters” with Melissa Febos, Mathangi Subramanian, and Bryan Washington.


Author presentations are held indoors while outdoors the festival grounds feature book sales, signings, children’s story time and learning projects, family activities, and a technology area. Food trucks offer a variety of eats; special tents feature live music and recipe demonstrations by cookbook authors. The festival marketplace offers a setting for booksellers, publishers, literary-minded nonprofits, and local artists and craft makers. 


The festival includes a Children’s Area, which features children’s book readings by guest authors, a performance of Dr. Krashundbang by the Magik Theatre and Spanish story time by Cuentology, plus a myriad of creative activities including bookmark-making, paper-marbling, and a chance to meet the ballerinas from the Children’s Ballet of San Antonio. Teens have their own spaces. YA authors gather in the Geektown area, including actor and singer-songwriter Val Emmich, who worked with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul to create a novelization of the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen. 


SABF, the signature program of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation (SAPLF), was first presented in April 2013 with the Texas Book Festival, the Central Library, and the Southwest School of Art as founding partners. The festival’s mission is to “unite readers and writers in a celebration of ideas, books, libraries, and literary culture.”




*Lawrence Wright is currently working with Marcia Ball on a musical about Texas politics. He also does a spot-on Ross Perot impression.

*Ben Fountain enjoyed his first “deep dive” into narrative nonfiction, which allowed him to fit the present into historical context.

*Amy Gentry calls her newest novel, Last Woman Standing, a feminist revenge-swap thriller.

*Elizabeth McCracken, who teaches at the UT Michener Center for Writers, said that writing can’t be taught because the rules are specific to each writer, and that the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 changed everything.

*W.F Strong, an “oral essayist” for the Texas Standard program on Texas Public Radio, has written a “primer on Texas,” and wants you to know that if you come to the red barn, you’ve driven too far.

*"Stateless" Sarah Bird noted that you can say whatever you want in your writing if you say it with humor.

*David Norman was inspired by his own novel to take up jazz piano (which involves a bow tie).

*Mimi Swartz thinks Texas is God’s gift to journalists—it’s impossible to run out of material.


The San Antonio Book Festival (SABF) is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization. For information on donating, volunteering, and other information about how to participate, visit the FAQ page here https://festival.saplf.org/festival-info/faqs/