Clay Smith Departing the Book Festival

  • October 6, 2021
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SABF announces the departure of Clay Smith, who has served as the festival’s Literary Director since the organization’s inception in 2012. Clay has accepted the position of Chief of Literary Initiatives at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. His last day with SABF is Friday, October 8, 2021.

Though saddened by his departure, the SABF team is excited for Clay, grateful for his contributions to the festival over the past ten years and extremely proud of his accomplishments. During his time with SABF, Clay increased the number of participating writers from 40 to more than 200. He brought notable high profile writers like Ann Patchett, Sonia Manzano, Lawrence Wright, Luis Alberto Urrea, Jason Reynolds, Jorge Ramos, Tayari Jones and others to San Antonio. He also introduced new and vibrant cultural programs to San Antonio, such as Literary Death Match and The Moth Mainstage.

“Clay has left an indelible imprint on our Book Festival over the last 10 years,” said San Antonio Book Festival Executive Director, Lilly Gonzalez. “His gift in selecting books and writers that captivate San Antonio audiences got us to our 10th anniversary. We are both undeniably sad to lose him and eternally grateful that he lent us his talents for as long as he did.”

Prior to joining the SABF team full-time, Clay worked with the festival part-time while serving as the editor in chief of Kirkus Reviews, one of the nation’s leading book review publications. Clay was part of the original trio of SABF, which included then San Antonio Public Library Foundation President Tracey Bennett and SABF founding Executive Director and Governing Board Chair, Katy Flato.

“From the very beginning, Clay took SABF to a high level that most established festivals could only aspire to achieve,” said Katy. “His deep experience as a journalist and literary programmer, combined with his important publishing contacts and innate sense of literary trends and current topics allowed our start-up festival to punch way above our weight. Simply put, we could never have achieved the success we have without Clay. Plus, he is a joy to work with.”

Clay will serve as the Chief of Literary Initiatives at the Library of Congress. That office curates the National Book Festival, oversees literary programming and ambassadorships including the United States Poet Laureate, the National Ambassador for Youth Literature, among other Library of Congress ambassadorships and initiatives. The chief of the Literary Initiatives office serves as the Library’s literary expert, providing guidance and inviting authors for programming to retain and attract new audiences to the Library.

“It’s a bittersweet moment leaving the San Antonio Book Festival,” said Clay. “I take a lot of pride in helping to found the festival, and I leave some of my heart here in San Antonio with the staff, volunteers, and audience that make this festival unique and really quite special among America’s book festivals. The opportunity to program events for the Library of Congress was a strong motivation for me.”

The SABF team wishes Clay the very best of luck in his new position and looks forward to learning about his future successes.

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