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San Antonio Book Festival Aims to Ignite Literary Culture 

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Armed with practical expertise from founding partner the Texas Book Festival, valuable resources from the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, 300 dedicated volunteers and partnerships with the Southwest School of Art, the Las Casas Foundation and others, the San Antonio Book Festival is upping the ante of its inaugural run last year. Boasting 90 authors, a wide range of engaging panels, a giant literary marketplace, food trucks, kids’ activities, live music, tapings for C-SPAN and a presentation by Jane Pauley, the packed, one-day fest is flexing some serious literary muscle to get the Alamo City inspired and reading. SABF Director Katy Flato (former managing editor of Texas Monthly) spoke to the Current about festival highlights, from its educational outreach to the Literary Death Match.

How has the festival changed since last year?

We really bumped up our educational and community outreach. ... We added a fiction-writing contest for high-school students [and] had over 140 entrants in 30 different schools. ... For all of the children’s book authors and middle-grade authors, we have students introducing [them]. So, educational outreach was big. ... We also have a technology tent this year [focusing] on Central Library’s large digital collection.

Can you give us a preview of the Literary Death Match?

It’s a brilliant and wacky concept created by Todd Zuniga. ... I describe it as Survivor meets Charlie Rose, but I think he would describe it as American Idol for authors. ... Four of our festival authors each read seven minutes from a passage they think is the best thing they’ve ever written, which in itself is interesting. Our three judges are Molly Cox, chief of engagement for SA 2020; Jake Silverstein, the editor of Texas Monthly; and Maria Cristina Marrero, editor of Siempre Mujer. One judges on literary merit, one judges on performance and one judges on intangibles.

What can you tell us about the panels?

We’ve been very vigilant about covering certain themes that I feel are important to our community. In general those themes are: energy, the border, Latino voices, water, the military, biography and a lot of things that deal with sense of place.

How does the festival go about addressing literacy in San Antonio?

The best way to combat [illiteracy] in kids is to have role models who read. And to have those readers read to kids to get them started early. We have a lot of picture book authors at the festival. SAReads is our partner [and] is bringing in 150 kids who are struggling with reading. … Any kid that comes to the festival that wants a free book gets a free book.

How does the festival appeal to a non-bookworm?

We can make a reader out anybody. ... If you are not a bookworm, not a book lover, this is the very best thing for you, because you’re going to fall into sessions—you might just wander into something ... and you will leave there thinking, “Wow … I want to go get that book or I want to start writing or I want to learn more.” And that’s the point: sparking ideas and getting people interested in reading, writing, libraries and literary culture.

[Extended Q & A with Katy Flato]

Keep up with all of our San Antonio Book Festival coverage, here.


San Antonio Book Festival

Free (panels), $10-$50 (Literary Death Match)
10am-5:30pm (panels), 6:30-8pm (Literary Death Match) Sat, April 5
Central Public Library, 600 Soledad, Southwest School of Art, 300 Augusta,
Charline McCombs Empire Theatre, 226 N St. Mary’s


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