• Okay, So That Went Well

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 4 comments

    A festival is only as good as its crowd. Bad attractions but good crowd always trumps good attractions/bad crowd. Anytime you help organize a festival, obviously you hope for good/good. But sometimes, no matter how much time and work you put into the planning, you get bad/bad. And sometimes things go from bad to worse. The second annual Texas Observer Writers’ Festival was one of those sometimes. Awful attractions, rancid crowd. I mean, the whole day just. plain. stank.

    The paragraph above is called a “hook,” and a hook is designed to entice you to continue reading. And it’s working, isn’t it? You’re still here. Complaints and controversy are always more interesting than flowers and rainbows. Had I started this blog post with “Boy oh boy, the festival was real swell,” you’d probably be off looking at YouTube by now. But I hope you’ll continue reading once I tell you that I was just kidding about the bad/worse thing, that the festival actually was real swell, that our panelists and sponsors knocked it out of the park, and that the crowd–estimated at over 200–came ready to revel in Austin’s burgeoning literary scene.

    (I think this is the second day in a row I’ve used “knocked it out of the park.” Baseball fever, I guess. Although I do prefer a good 1-0 game over a 13-12 dongfest.)

    (Note that “dong” is baseball lingo for a home run, and not–at least in this case–a euphemism for male genitalia.)

    First of all, Pine Street Station at 5th & Waller is one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever been inside of. And I’ve been inside of literally dozens, maybe even hundreds, of buildings in my life. Consider it for your next event.

    The panels brought together some of the best literary minds this area has to offer, starting with a poetry reading/discussion, ending with a chat on writing about “The Lege,” and offering lots of goodies in between. I got to help organize a panel entitled “Why Do So Many Writers Call Texas Home?” with Austin all-stars Oscar Casares, Doug Dorst, and Ruth Pennebaker. And headliner Sarah Bird’s reading—not to mention crowdsmanship (not a word/should be a word)—was stellar.

    As fiction editor at the Observer I had to pull a bit of double duty, but I was able to spend a fair amount of time at the WBN table, where I had the pleasure of meeting many local writers. It’s always encouraging to hear that so many people are wrapped up in literary projects, and we at WriteByNight look forward to hearing more from you all down the road.

    We also thoroughly enjoyed the initially-secret-then-not-so-secret afterparty at WBN HQ. About twenty festival attendees, panelists, and sponsors made the exhausting trek from 5th & Waller to 6th & Attayac to enjoy keg dregs, wine, and some good, quality talk about the Kardashians literature.

    Special props go out to Jose Skinner, MFA Program Director at UT-Pan American in Edinburg. Jose drove five hours to get to Austin for the event, and even though he was facing the five-hour return trip, he was the last to leave WBN. That, my friends, is dedication to literature. And if that doesn’t merit y’all looking into his story collection Flight, I don’t know what does.

    We were also thrilled to see Jim Hynes, author of the Austin-set novel Next, which was a semifinalist in this year’s Tournament of Books. For a dude with so much talent, he is way down to earth. Check out the book here, or read from our (very marked-up, dog-eared and loved) copy at a future Write Here.

    There are many other people to thank. Brandon Ney, Amanda Kimmerly, and Zakk Pollard of the local writers’ collective We Put Words on Paper volunteered their time and man- and womanpower to help set up, tear down, and procure the keg of Shiner beer. They also went on a late-morning coffee run that really saved all our asses.

    Thanks to Cyndi Hughes of the Writers’ League of Texas for moderating the fiction panel. Check out their upcoming events for more local literary happenings.

    Manuel Gonzales and S. Kirk Walsh of the Austin Bat Cave helped promote the event and set up a table. Check out their upcoming offerings, which include readings/workshops with a WBN favorite, Kevin Brockmeier. Florida workshoppers, you’re sure to remember his short story “The Ceiling.” Not all of you happily …

    Cecily Sailer and Giuseppe Taurino of Badgerdog, publishers of American Short Fiction, set up a lovely table, and on their site you’ll find even more workshops and events. Lots of good stuff happening here in Austin, folks.

    We also enjoyed chatting with Bryce Milligan of Wings Press, who woke at the butt-crack to make the drive from San Antonio.

    And Julia Austin, Associate Publisher at the Observer, wins the gold star for the day. Her massive amount of work in the weeks leading up to the festival guaranteed success, and if anyone is due for a week of vacation, she is that anyone.

    Expect even better things from this event next year, folks. In fact, mark your calendars now. We haven’t picked a date yet, but it will certainly be a Saturday or Sunday (or both?), so just go ahead and mark every Saturday and Sunday of 2012 “Potential Observer Writers’ Festival.”

    I realize that this is now the second day in a row I’ve written a blog post gushing with thanks. Never you fear, WriteByNighters—tomorrow I’ll go back to being totally selfish and ungrateful. Apologies for the aberration.

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    I’m sorry I missed it! Any chance you could make it a Friday instead? I’m one of those nerds who works weekends…

    David Duhr

    Yeah, some sort of Friday night teaser. A pre-festival festival.

    Actually, I can envision some sort of litmag panel for next year. Know anyone, Laura?

    […] this month, WBN was lucky enough to have a small hand in organizing the Texas Observer Writers’ Festival and subsequent afterparty. It’s always interesting to get a peek behind the curtain and see everything that goes into […]

    […] this month, WBN was lucky enough to have a small hand in organizing the Texas Observer Writers’ Festival and subsequent afterparty. It’s always interesting to get a peek behind the curtain and see everything that goes into […]

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