Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Austin Cool

The glow of Austin and the Texas Book Festival lingers. I'm still gleefully hugging my free books and perusing literary journals. However, beyond words, Austin prides itself on music. In the spring, they host SXSW - a huge conglomeration of concerts and music lover sessions.

Austin's pride is the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. Here his statue hangs riverside. I personally think the sculpture is standing too straight. Stevie was always bent over a guitar, wailing the blues.

6th Street - clubs vie for patrons ears, and a lot of musicians pound the pavement in Austin seeking a break. It's a cool vibe in a hot town. The arts survive and thrive in the middle of Texas.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tween Austin

Texas night sky - can't be beat. This was in route from Austin to Bedford. I'm not religious, but this does make you drop to your knees.

On the grounds of the Texas State Capitol - Texas Pioneer Woman. She holds a baby in her arms and gazes defiantly. I, personally, would have hopped the first train back east once I heard the crazy wind howl on the prairie. I work in Justin, Texas and at times want to scream from the screeching wind. Buffeting is a severe verb.

The Texas Book Festival hosted some tango dancers. Rather improv. They needed better costumes to add to the ambiance and flavor. Somehow sloppy jeans and an untucked shirt didn't usher Spanish hot flavor.

Nifty courtyard and fresh air. So, there were tents for adults (free literary journals and books), plus very nice children story telling booths. But what about that forgotten sea of teens? I saw a few young girls - no doubt advanced readers who could attend adult sessions and enjoy the humor. But what about the Lost Boys? That is an issue in the world of publication. Harry Potter captured a lot of readers. Now what??

I do hope that someone can capture that tween market. Girls are easier - romance is a freebie. Boys are still on the fence - action/adventure, fantasy, science fiction - what do young men want to read???? If anyone has answers, let's inform the Texas Book Festival for 2011.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Session Choices: Great Tomes

Clear blue skies gleamed as book lovers of all ages descended upon Austin for the 15th annual Texas Book Festival. Saturday, October 16th and Sunday, October 17th welcomed over 40,000 people to hear over one hundred authors. (Plus 80,000 books were sold) Too many choices, not enough time, and the added bonus of music, book sellers, and other publishing exhibitors.

The stately Capitol building still shrouded in scaffolding loomed large over the proceedings. Various sessions were held in chambers, including the labryinth basement extension rooms. P.J. O'Rourke (latest book Don't Vote: It Only Encourages the Bastards) gave a no shouting rousing speech on free markets, baby boomer responsibility, and political insights, all with his usual sharp witty observations. We were off and running. Writers on Reading featured J.Courtney Sullivan (Commencement) and Dr. Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone). Their insight on the process and joys of writing was invigorating. Plus Anchor/Vintage publishing handed out bookbags filled with FREE books. Thank you!

Julie Klausner (I Don't Care About Your Band) kicked off our Sunday morning regaling the crowd with dating stories. Her pop culture references, feminist views, and sheer raucous humor with her infectious laugh had me in stitches. The Not All That Noir session with Lou Berney, Mark Haskell-Smith, and Jonathan Woods showed crime and humor mix well with these quick-tongued witty authors.

These statues salute schoolchildren and the book festival introduced young fans to the love of books. Kids wearing Cat in the Hat hats sat entranced at readings. Others begged their parents for books - money well spent. I was pleased to see parents pushing strollers or following their eager youngsters into the next booth.

On the road home - painted canvas. A session, 110 Degrees in the Shade, demonstrated that for Southwest writers it's all about the sky. Each author - Martha Egan, Carrie Fountain, Tom Miller, and Bryan Woolley - mentioned the love of the land and its role in their stories.
The Texas Book Festival provided education, culture, and inspiration. The written word is alive.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Austin Adventure

My book bag is packed. I have my schedule ready ... well actually it's overbooked. There are far too many authors, in too many locations, at overlapping times, appearing at the Texas Book Festival , and I want to see them all. This will be my first time in Austin for this event, and I'm excited to be amongst my people - word nerds unite.
Next year at this time, Chilean miners will have books published and shall probably be keynote speakers. In the meantime, I'm tempted by P.J. O'Rourke (the man is funny), a humor writer for The Onion should heighten snarkiness, a panel entitled 110 in the Shade caught my eye - writing in the Southwest, plus the gentleman who created Dexter (my new fave NetFlix rentals) provides insight on character creation. Also, Laura Bush, Meg Cabot, and Justin Cronin (The Passage), to name three out of over one hundred authors, are featured.
Austin shall buzz and the crowds should demonstrate that the written word is not dead, there are multitudes of readers, and literary hope prevails.

Monday, October 11, 2010

History in 3D

Home from work, I strolled by the front window on the way to my den office, and glimpsed something you don't see every day - a 1969 British tank. With an impish grin, my neighbor Pat said in his delightful accent, "It's England's answer to road rage." Actually, he and his son have had this restoration project going for five years, and the tank is officially ready for shows, parades, and a trip to the neighborhood.

Pat's grandson and a friend had a grand time in the turret position. It got me thinking about how to get young folks to read - history in 3D. Now, I have no idea, but I would guess that this project incited some interest in British history and the role of this tank in wars. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I bet there's some grand stories behind this solid piece of machinery.

As a youth in Pennsylvania, my family had lots of daytrips to historical sights. The trips then piqued my interest and I went through a Revolutionary War phase, a Civil War phase, etc. Whether it was Johnny Tremaine or Gone With the Wind, I devoured historical fiction. Hands on experiences kick-start the imagination and bring words on the pages to life.

Education is intertwined - history, English, social studies, science (i.e. the mechanics behind this mammoth beast and its Rolls Royce pistons). If nothing else, these young men are also working on their social skills. Pat said they stopped at a red light, and had time to flirt with some young ladies. They are already asking, "May we drive it to prom?"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wordsmith Documentaries

Tales From the Script features various screenwriters/directors discussing their craft. Highly entertaining, this documentary left me wanting more. William Goldman (The Exorcist, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption), and others regaled the camera with tales of re-writes, stories about production meetings, and in general, the amount of time and effort they put into their art, often without success or a screen credit. I chuckled as one man said, "So, I can't walk into an operating room and tell the surgeon to chop more to the left. BUT, anybody and their uncle on the street corner feels they can comment on what's wrong with my screenplay." I laughed at loud at this ( too true) fact. Everybody has an opinion.

Documenting the advertising world, Art and Copy explores Madison Avenue and demonstrates that everything's an ad these days. We are bombarded with product placement, snazzy slogans, and artistic vision. Goodby, Silverstein and Partners' motto is "Art Serving Capitalism". They created the Got Milk? campaign. They were an interesting pair. Silverstein posts on his door "Brutal Simplicity." Goodby goes for the laughs and writes "Simple Brutality."

Weiden/Kenedy's Nike Just Do It advertising exceeded all expectations. They have signs on their desks like "Don't Feed the Creatives" and "Fail Harder".

Mary Wells, famous for Braniff's campaign, said, "Fear is a powerful depressive. Rejection is tough." She's been in the business a long time - smart, intriguing interview.

The participants in these two documentaries (available to stream on NetFlix) are talented wordsmiths. They are proud of their art and dismissive of people producing schlock that demeans their business. Over and over, I heard the same message - Rewrites, rewrites, and more rewrites.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Being a Writer

The pictures today don't really follow a theme. These are from my Saturday in Granbury. Old buildings (for Texas) that struck me. Apropos of nothing here's a quote from a very smooth writer - F.Scott Fitzgerald: The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun dials and brick walks and burning gardens - finally when it reached the house drifitng up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run.
The Gordon House in Granbury. History, people., life. Fitzgerald wrote - Action is Character. From the Great Gatsby: They were careless people. Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

I'm going to be lazy today and just quote other people. My good friend, JB Harlin, sent me this quote and I truly appreciate him thinking of me:
Ernest Hemmingway: All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all of it happened to you and afterwards it belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and the sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get that so that you can give that to the people, then you are a writer.