The 2015 SABF Highlights and a Look Ahead

  • July 23, 2015


As they say, three’s the charm. The 3rd annual SABF was the “best one yet” according to many participants who wrote to us about their literary adventures on Saturday, April 11, including some great recaps by The Rivard Report and San Antonio Express-News. Other festival fans used similar happy phrases to describe the all-day, free event: “world class,” “knocked it out of the park,” “beautifully organized and executed,” “enjoyable and inspiring,” “a wonderful event that is most needed in our city,” and, simply, “it was a fantastic festival.”

Our favorite praise is “you have raised ‘free and open to all’ to a new level” and the winner for the most thoughtful description is: “the Book Festival is a thought provoking, capacity building, optimism generating celebration of creativity for all ages.”

The gray skies and afternoon drizzle did not stop 16,000 attendees who wanted to meet and hear 90 acclaimed authors across the campuses of the Central Library and theSouthwest School of Art (SSA) and nearby at The Charline McCombs Empire Theatre.

With each year, SABF grows, refines and receives more recognition. The San Antonio Book Festival was the featured event for KSAT Community and was covered in more than 75 feature stories in a variety of mediums including print, online, broadcast and radio. Attendance also increased from 10,000 in 2014 to 16,000. The gray skies and afternoon drizzle did not stop the momentum of the reading public who wanted to meet and hear 90 acclaimed authors at 65 sessions in 12 venues across the campuses of the Central Library (SAPL) and the Southwest School of Art (SSA) and nearby at The Charline McCombs Empire Theatre. Augusta Street was teeming with families enjoying funactivities, including the Literacy Caravan, the Magik Theatre, the MyStory Van, H-E-B’s Read 3, Rackspace’s Connect Tent featuring the Library’s vast digital collection, Vroom, the KSAT Contest Wheel and the GeekBus. Kids got creative making pop-up books and designing thinking caps, for example, at several interactive art and education stations hosted by Artworks, San Antonio Children’s Museum, the San Antonio Museum of Art, the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, Say Si´, SSA and Spare Parts. Fiftyexhibitors, twelve enticing food trucks, Corner Store’s Fresh Choices (featuring the famous Whoopie Pies) and the Central Market Cooking Tent spread out across the SSA parking lot, while acoustic musicians played in the Frost Garden.

New Happenings in 2015

SABF also added several exciting new events this year. At our first SABF Literary Feast, held the night before the Festival, authors Naomi Shihab Nye and Lawrence Wrightintrigued and entertained 110 guests at a special salon-style dinner at the Argyle Club, hosted by Ann Ash to benefit SABF. Moderator Dan Goodgame, Vice President of Executive Communications at Rackspace, guided the evening’s conversation, which centered on current affairs in the Middle East. Congratulations to San Antonio writerGeorgia Erck, who came away the winner of SABF’s first Pitchapalooza (“American Idol for books”), where over 20 contestants pitch their book ideas, get advice from publishing pros and the winner earns an introduction to a literary agent. And, just after it debuted at SXSW, SABF screened Joe Nick Patoski’s rockin’ documentary, Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove.

Another first was author visits to area schools. Featured middle grade author and literary rock star, Jack Gantos (The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza), spoke at Education Service Center-Region 20 and spent a day teaching writing at KIPP’s Camino Academy and Un Mundo Dual Language Academy. The teachers raved about Jack’s “ability to connect” and Rey Saldaña reported, “Jack captured the attention and the allure of our KIPPsters. He’s a wonderful instructor.” As SABF grows, we will continue to add more of these meaningful teaching sessions for visiting authors.


Other uplifting news from our Educational and Community Outreach committee is that SABF again partnered with SA Reads and other non-profit organizations (Big Brothers Sisters of STX, Boys & Girls Club of SA, Respite Care of SA,South SA Bobcat Bookclub,SA Youth Commission), San Antonio ISD and Harlandale ISD’s elementary schools to host over 600 students and teachers at the Festival, where each student received a free book, T-shirt and hot lunch made by Joan Cheever of The Chow Train. Nine student winners (out of over 650 who submitted essays) in grades 7-12 collected their awards and cash prizes for themselves and their schools in the 2nd annual SABF Fiction Contest, sponsored by the Kerr Family Foundation. Participating area schools selected 17 students to personally introduce the Festival’s children’s and YA authors at their sessions. Fifteen students from the Young Women’s Leadership Academy received training fromMy Story to conduct live, video-recorded interviews with authors Isabel Quintero,Andrew Yang, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Helen Specht, Xavier Garza and Maggie Rivas. Watch the wonderful video about the students’ experiences at the Festival and their author interviews.

SABF’s strong, diverse and multi-cultural programming covered a wide variety of current topics, such as the Latino vote, energy issues, women in war, Latino war veterans and the next generation of entrepreneurs. The lineup was also particularly deep in fiction writing and featured novels by many award winning, nationally recognized authors covering multiple genres from mysteries to westerns to stories by soldiers about our recent wars. Once again, from this impressive lineup, a hometown star drew the largest crowd, standing room only: Jan Jarboe Russell, with her New York Times-bestselling book The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II, who presented with Richard Reeves (Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II). NPR host Scott Simon(Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime) attracted a full house, as did the always beloved and popular Naomi Shihab Nye (The Turtle of Oman) and Pulitzer Prize finalist S.C. Gwynne (Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson). Other big sessions were: artist Mark Menjivar (The Luck Archive); Smart People Should Build Things with Andrew Yang; Pitchapalooza; Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush with Geoff Dyer; the water panel with Kenna Lang Archer, Robert Gulley, and Seamus McGraw; Richard Parker and Joe Holley on Texas politics; the kidnapping panel with novelists Bret Anthony Johnston, Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, andNatalia Sylvester; Black is the Color of Strength with Mayor Ivy Taylor, Aaronetta Hamilton Pierce, and Frederick Williams; and master story teller, Luis Alberto Urrea. Of course, the highly entertaining Adrian Todd Zuniga again packed The Empire Theatre with his “Literary Death Match (LDM),” sponsored by Rico Products Company.

Roughly 450 guests were in attendance at LDM as authors Isabel Quintero (Gabi, a Girl in Pieces), Natalia Sylvester (Chasing the Sun), Lance Rubin (Denton’s Little Deathdate), andNeal Pollack (Downward-Facing Death) battled at the mic for oratory dominance. Co-chairSamuel Newman called it “the capstone event” of the San Antonio Book Festival, giving “us lit nerds a good jolt of pop culture at the end of a pretty heady day.” The proceedings were overseen by judges Luis Alberto Urrea, member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame and Pulitzer Prize finalist; Molly Cox, chief of engagement for San Antonio’s SA2020 and emcee for TEDxSanAntonio; and, from Austin, Wendi Aarons, writer of USWeekly’s Fashion Police. Quintero was crowned champion at the end of the night after an explosive silly string battle royale against finalist Pollack.

The day had begun with a special kickoff breakfast, sponsored by AT&T at Ocho, for authors, moderators and donors. SABF is grateful to Honorary Co-Hosts Speaker Joe Straus & Mrs. Julie Straus and Mayor Ivy Taylor & Mr. Rodney Taylor. Mayor Taylor, who was also a SABF author (Black is the Color of Strength), welcomed guests with childhood memories of being an early, prodigious bookworm and Speaker Straus and Representative Lloyd Doggett also entertained with personal stories of reading and appropriate literary quotes.

A thousand thanks to our generous Sponsors; Advisory, Management and Event Planning Committees; Volunteers; and Partners!
Many, many special people make this outstanding day possible and we thank all of them for their time, hard work and support! Biggest thanks to all of SABF’s sponsors. We also are grateful to our founding partners San Antonio Public Library, The Southwest School of Art and Texas Book Festival and the CEGroup and The DeBerry Group. Please read more about all of our amazing authors (90) and moderators (58) on our website.

SABF Managing Director Sherry Layman, Volunteer Manager Gabrielle Marcus, and 70chairs on our Event Planning Committee and over 450 day-of volunteers worked together on festival details from author badges to audio-visual support to make the day extraordinary for everyone participating. “Our committee chairs spent anywhere from 3 to 9 months organizing many different aspects of the festival and their enthusiasm and dedication were priceless,” explains Layman. “We received wonderful feedback about how well run the festival was and compliments about our helpful and friendly volunteers. As we say each year, our volunteers are the ’heart and soul’ of the Festival!” Marcus organized a volunteer raffle this year and adds, “congratulations to all of our winners! We truly hope you enjoy your gifts, and that they remind you of the wonderful work you put into the festival. And thanks again to the generous retailers who donated the raffle items.”

There’s More!
Photos, a new video, the list of authors and the full schedule from the outstanding day are on the SABF website. Also, C-SPAN recorded all sessions from the auditorium, which are available online, along with a great selection from last year. Please enjoy and mark your calendars for the next SABF: April 2, 2016!


Plans for the 4th annual San Antonio Book Festival are already underway, and we could not be more excited about what is to come. Please enjoy and mark your calendars for the next SABF: April 2, 2016.

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