Fifteen elected to Texas Institute of Letters

Members of the Texas Institute of Letters have approved fifteen new writers to join the ranks of the TIL, a distinguished honor society founded in 1936 to celebrate Texas literature and recognize distinctive literary achievement.

The TIL’s membership consists of the state’s most respected writers—including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, MacArthur “genius” grants, and many other awards. Membership is based on literary accomplishments and is granted only though an election by existing members.

The 2017 honorees are Celeste Bedford Walker, David Bowles, Bobby Byrd, Lee Merrill Byrd, Cary Clack, Joe Ely, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Elizabeth Harris, Cliff Hudder, Baine Kerr, Attica Locke, C. M. Mayo, Elaine Scott, Thad Sitton, and Rosalyn Story.

“This is one of the largest and most impressive groups of writers to come into the TIL in single year,” said TIL President Steven L. Davis. “For those elected it means that you have the respect and admiration of your fellow writers, which is a very significant level of recognition.”

New members will be inducted at the upcoming TIL annual meeting, to be held in El Paso April 7-8, 2017. For more info visit the TIL website,

Celeste Bedford Walker is a Houston-based playwright and the winner of several prizes. The New York Times has praised her work as “well- crafted…vigorous social satire.” She is best known for Camp Logan, her historical drama based on the 1917 riot by black soldiers in Houston. Camp Logan was performed at the Kennedy Center and heralded by the Washington Post as “a textbook example of how to simultaneously entertain and educate an audience.”

Longtime resident of the Lower Rio Grande Valley David Bowles is the author of over a dozen books that include poetry, translation, and young adult literature. His book Flower, Song, Dance: Aztec and Mayan Poetry won the TIL’s Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translation in 2014. His most recent young adult book, The Smoking Mirror, was named the 206 Pura Belpré Honor Book by the American Library Association.

Poet, essayist, and editor Bobby Byrd is co-owner/operator of Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, one of the most respected small independent presses in the U.S. He has received fellowships from the NEA and the Lannan Foundation along with a D.H. Lawrence Fellowship. His books of poetry include On the Transmigration of Souls in El Paso and The Price of Doing Business in Mexico.

Poet and fiction writer Lee Merrill Byrd is co-owner/operator of Cinco Puntos Press, which has brought the literatures of the borderlands to a national audience and won numerous honors, including the American Book Award for excellence in publishing. As a writer, she has received a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, two Southwest Book Awards, and also the TIL’s Stephen F. Turner Award for the Best First Work of Fiction.

San Antonio native Cary Clack is a journalist and a widely admired editorial columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, where he won many awards for his journalism, including the Katie Award for Best General Column. His first book, Clowns and Rats Scare Me, was a collection of his columns published Trinity University Press. He is currently finishing a second book for Trinity, Dreaming US: Where Did We Go From There?

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Joe Ely grew up in Lubbock and became a founding member of The Flatlanders along with a solo career that saw him named the Texas State Musician in 2016. He is also the author of two books: his memoir Bonfire of the Roadmaps (University of Texas Press) and a coming-of-age novel, Reverb: An Odyssey, both of which demonstrate that he is as uniquely talented as a literary author as he is as a songwriter.

El Paso native Alicia Gaspar de Alba is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer who has won numerous awards for her fiction, including the Premio Aztlán, the Rudolfo Anaya–endowed literary award for an emerging Chicana/o writer. Her subsequent novels include Sor Juana’s Second Dream and Desert Blood: the Juárez Murders. Her work has been translated into several languages and has been adapted to play, opera, and screenplay.

Novelist and short story writer Elizabeth Harris grew up in Fort Worth and taught creative writing at UT-Austin for several years. Her first book, The Ant Generator, won the John Simmons Prize awarded by the University of Iowa Press. Her second book, Mayhem: Three Lives of A Woman, won the Gival Press Novel award and was a finalist for the TIL’s Jones Award for Best Fiction.

Conroe-based Cliff Hudder teaches at Lone Star College. His work has received the Barthelme and Michener Awards, the Peden Prize, and the TIL’s Short Story Award. His novella, Splinterville, won the 2007 Texas Review Fiction Award. His latest novel, Pretty Enough for You, was named to Lone Star Literary Life's Top Ten Texas Fiction Favorites, 2015.

Houston native and prominent attorney Blaine Kerr is known for his work on behalf of women sexually abused by college athletes and recruits, which has led to significant national reforms. He is also a fiction writer who studied with Wallace Stegner at Stanford during the Ken Kesey years. His writing has received prizes, been collected in Best American Short Stories, and he has authored two best-selling legal thrillers: Harmful Intent and Wrongful Death.

Attica Locke is the author of three acclaimed novels of literary crime fiction, two of which are set in her hometown of Houston. Her first novel, Black Water Rising, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Her second, The Cutting Season, won the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Her latest, Pleasantville, received the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. She is also a screenwriter and supervising producer for the popular TV series Empire.

El Paso native C. M. Mayo is an award-winning literary journalist, novelist, poet, and translator. Her first book, Sky Over El Nido: Stories won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She has received three Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards. Her novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire was named by Library Journal as one of the best books of the year. She is currently finishing a new book about far West Texas.

Longtime Houston resident Elaine Scott is the author of twenty-five children’s and young adult books, winning many stellar reviews and literary prizes. Her books present scientific information to children in ways that fascinate and engage rather than bore and overwhelm. She has received the TIL award for Best Children’s Book along with over two dozen other significant national honors.

Noted expert on folklore and oral history Thad Sitton is the author/co-author of sixteen books, most of which focus on his native deep East Texas. His books include Backwoodsmen: Stockmen and Hunters Along a Big Thicket River Valley. He has received two T. R. Fehrenbach Awards from the Texas Historical Commission along with a TIL award for best scholarly book for Freedom Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow.

Rosalyn Story is violinist for the Fort Worth Symphony and author of three books. Her history, So I Sing: African American Divas of Opera and Concert, inspired the PBS documentary “Aida’s Brothers and Sisters: A History of Blacks in Opera.” Her two novels, More Than You Know and Wading Home: A Novel of New Orleans, have garnered strong critical praise for their lyrical language, clever plot turns, and powerful evocations of love and family.

(Information from organization’s press release)

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2017 Texas Teen Book Festival set for Sat., Oct. 7, in Austin

AUSTIN—The Texas Teen Book Festival has announced that its 9th annual event will take place Sat., Oct. 7, 2017, at St. Edward’s University in Austin.  Young adults and YA-genre fans can expect a fun day filled with entertaining panels and inspiring sessions led by some of 2017’s best-selling and most critically-acclaimed Young Adult authors, along with interactive activities, games, book signings, and more.

The 2016 TTBF welcomed more than 4,000 attendees and an all-star lineup representing the best in literature for teens.

“We've begun working on our events and author list for TTBF 2017 and we are so excited to get started building another lineup of the best authors in YA literature,” said Shawn Mauser, TTBF Festival director. “Connecting YA fans with their favorite authors is one of the best and most magical parts the Festival.”

A program of the Texas Book Festival, the TTBF is presented in collaboration with BookPeople, a dedicated team of librarians, and venue sponsor St. Edward’s University. Major sponsors include H-E-B and Brigid Cockrum and family, and the program is made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Headlining authors for the Texas Teen Book Festival will be announced later this spring.  For more information, please visit and keep up with announcements at, and on Twitter and Instagram @TXTeenBookFest.

(Information from organization’s press release)