Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Allison Devereux

“Even if you never see a word of your writing in print, there is still value in your work if you truly love and take pleasure from writing.”

-Allison Devereux

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 24th Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here. 

An Interview with Allison Devereux

Allison Devereux is a graduate of UT Austin and has been an agent at Wolf Literary since 2012. She represents up-market and literary fiction and is especially interested in global settings, every-man characters, moral ambiguity, magical realism, underrepresented voices, female protagonists, and stories set firmly in reality but that explore something fantastical or surreal. She’s actively looking for narrative nonfiction that uses a particular niche topic to explore larger truths about our culture; journalistic examinations of progressive politics, pop culture, unique subcultures, and modern feminism; and anything with a convincing narrative voice or a great sense of humor.

ad-wordpressScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Allison Devereux: I tend to be very hands-on with my authors. These days agents need to be more editorially minded than ever, so it’s not uncommon to go through 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5…) rounds of revision together before I send a book out on a submission. I also try to be as accessible, responsive, and straightforward with my clients as possible.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

AD: A distinctive, believable voice; an original or unusual concept; open-mindedness to edits and the unpredictable publishing process more generally; ideas for future books!

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

AD: No. Social media can be an incredibly useful tool if you are genuinely active and engaged with it — connecting with readers, other writers, and folks in the industry – but it’s useless if you don’t stay active, or if you’re just sending out the occasional perfunctory tweet or Facebook post. If you enjoy social media, take advantage of these platforms to self-promote and engage with the broader writing & reading communities. Otherwise, I personally don’t think it’s worth the trouble to simply go through the motions. For nonfiction, however, selling books is often platform-driven, and that frequently means an author will have some sort of presence online. I still don’t consider it a strict requirement, but it can be a big help to bring your publisher a built-in audience.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

AD: Getting published rarely happens quickly or without roadblocks. It often requires years and years of practice to hone your writing skills, and countless rejections before something gets picked up. Your first book — or even second or third — may not be the one to make it across the line with an agent or editor. And even if you never see a word of your writing in print, there is still value in your work if you truly love and take pleasure from writing.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

AD: I recently signed up a graphic middle grade series that has been a bestseller in Spain. I represent children’s books only selectively — and I don’t normally sign up untranslated books in languages I don’t speak! — but this series was too clever and fun to pass up.

Scribe: Are there any recent or upcoming releases that you’d like to highlight, to give readers a better sense of what you’re currently looking for?

AD: I’m looking forward to a debut novel called Fingerprints of Previous Owners by Rebecca Entel, which is coming out from Unnamed Press in June. The novel is timely, it takes place in an unique setting, and the voice and plot are original. I’d love more submissions like this.

Thanks, Allison!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Mark Falkin

“I really enjoy forming a relationship with authors so that we can talk about books and writers openly and with passion.”

-Mark Falkin

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30 – July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Mark Falkin

Mark Falkin has represented authors for three years, but has practiced entertainment and intellectual property law for 17 years, representing hundreds of artists (a platinum seller and Grammy® winners among them), entrepreneurs, and businesses. He is licensed in Texas and is based in Austin. Mark is also an author. He’s completed three novels (and a chapbook of poems). One, literary, is long, self-published, and well-reviewed (Days of Grace). Another, an upmarket supernatural thriller, garnered an agent at a venerable NYC agency (Howard Morhaim). The most recent is a dystopian suspense tale called Contract City, published by longstanding Baltimore indie publisher Bancroft Press, and which is currently in screen development with a studio in Los Angeles.

mark-falkinScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Mark Falkin: I’m a writer, so I tend to approach my clients as fellow writers first, “clients” second. I really enjoy forming a relationship with authors so that we can talk about books and writers openly and with passion. I try to be an open book and timely in responding to questions. While I do look for manuscripts to be in really good shape as they are, I do like getting my hands on the work itself, making suggestions, and editing.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

MF: As far as the work goes, a debut author’s work needs to stand up and sing just as a veteran’s. The marketplace doesn’t, and reader’s don’t much care, if the book is a debut as much as they care if it’s any good. I can’t say that I look for or expect anything more or less from a debut writer compared to an experienced one. That said, debut manuscripts that exhibit an uncanny sense of control and great pacing from the start will get me to sit up and pay extra attention. I suppose another way to say this is that I look for writerly confidence and a unique narrative voice.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

MF: I really don’t. It helps, particularly if you’re writing young adult and romance, but critical? No. What’s critical is whether I can put the book down or not.

I believe the internet and social media are great tools but a huge distraction. Writing is hard and takes energy. The time one spends on social media and blogging is time and energy you could and should be spending on your core work. I don’t care that a writer lacks social media presence, feeling that writers ought to, you know, write, and create meaningful, toothsome composition; rather than tweet, Facebook, blog, text, play around with technology. I realize I am very much in the minority.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

MF: Write like it’s work. Write on the days you really don’t feel like writing. Repeat.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

MF: I represent a lesbian romance novel. I specifically do not call for romance novels. The genre simply is not on my manuscript wish list. However, from the strong title and the opening passages, I felt like it was something I wanted to work with. It went on to sell really well in the genre. Another proud moment was selling a debut literary manuscript on its third round of submissions to one of the country’s great independent publishers, written by a person in circa midlife.

Scribe: Are there any recent or upcoming releases that you’d like to highlight, to give readers a better sense of what you’re currently looking for?

MF: Client Louisa Luna has a, what I believe to be certainly an upmarket, if not literary, thriller coming out with Doubleday in early 2018 entitled Two Girls Down. I tend to like dark, taut books with high stakes written in elevated prose. Louisa’s is a good example of that. I love funny stories, and boy are they rare. Those are hard to execute. If you can maintain a comedy for 75,000 words, I’d offer to represent it, no doubt. I’ve said this at other conferences and I’ll said it again here: I’d love to see a horror novel like we’ve not seen before, one that relies on tone and creep more than set pieces; something so simple in concept that we smack our foreheads for not seeing it before, yet so original and well-written that it actually changes the genre. A high bar, I know.

Thanks, Mark!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Instructor Q&A: Tomás Morin

“My practice is to always just let a new poem look however it wants to look in a first draft.”

-Tomás Morin

Tomás Morin is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas on April 29 at St. Edward’s University called “Playing with Poetic Voice: How to Discover Your Own Voice by Borrowing from Your Favorite Poets.” The class will give writers tools to revise their poems by redressing them in other poets’ styles to elevate their poems to a new level.

Scribe: The focus of the class is about reworking pieces of poetry in styles of other famous poets. Do you have a personal favorite poet whose style you enjoy working with?

Tomás Morin: Not really. What’s really fun is when I choose a poet whose style is very different from the style of the poem I’m working on at the time. For example, if I’m working on a poem that’s fragmented and lyrical, then a Frank O’Hara style will really open my draft up. Likewise, if I’m writing a poem that is chatty about the ordinary moments of my life, and there are many, then the electric and sharp style of Lucille Clifton will be fun to try on.

Scribe: Do you think the process of reworking is a tool that should only be utilized if a poem gets stuck, or is it acceptable (or even encouraged) to start writing a poem with a particular poet’s style in mind?

TM: I think one can certainly start with imitation in mind if that’s what seems to call to you. My practice is to always just let a new poem look however it wants to look in a first draft.

Scribe: Are some styles better for applying to a poem? Are some styles incompatible? In other words, how might writers go about determining which writing style would be ideal for them to try rewriting their poem in?

TM: For me, it’s all about trial and error. The process is more about discovery than it is about following a formula. That said, all styles that are not the one you’re using would be ideal because they’re different. The more different the style is, the more your poem will have to open up and expand.

Scribe: Do you have any poems or poets you would like to recommend in preparation for the class, or for readers in general?

TM: I think any poet who has a very unique style would be great, the kinds of poets we couldn’t imitate because they sound so much like themselves that we would end up sounding like them if we imitated them. Folks like W.S. Merwin, Lucille Clifton, Wislawa Szymborska, Mark Strand, Yusef Komunyakaa, Natalie Diaz, etc.

Thanks, Tomás!

Click here to register for Tomás’ class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Tomás Q. Morin‘s poetry collection A Larger Country was the winner of the APR/Honickman Prize and runner-up for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. He is co-editor with Mari L’Esperance of the anthology Coming Close: 40 Essays on Philip Levine, and translator of The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda. His poems have appeared in SlateThreepenny ReviewBoulevardPoetryNew England Review, and Narrative. His latest collection, Patient Zero, is forthcoming this spring from Copper Canyon Press.

Meet the Members: Walt Gragg

“Getting published is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s those writers who understand that and continue to persist, despite all the rejection along the way, who will succeed.”

-Walt Gragg

A member of the Writers’ League of Texas who recently rejoined after having previously been a member in the early 2000s, Walt Gragg lives in Georgetown.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Walt Gragg: Military thrillers.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

WG: Tough question. It would likely be James A. Michener, Leon Uris, or James Clavell. Question — “How in the world were you able to write the incredibly complex stories you so masterfully wove together?”

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

WG: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

WG: A tremendous amount of things. Attending a number of the annual conferences really helped me to learn how to interact with agents and pitch my work. That paid off when I pitched my soon-to-be agent, Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency at ThrillerFest in New York in 2014. If asked to give advice to an aspiring writer, I would probably say the most important thing you need to learn is getting published is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s those writers who understand that and continue to persist, despite all the rejection along the way, who will succeed.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

WG: If you ask my agent and editor, they would tell you the sky’s the limit. I was lucky enough to sign with a vice president and editorial director (Tom Clancy’s editor) with the Berkley Publishing Group at Penguin Random House. So I have one of the most highly respected editors and the force of the world’s largest publishing house behind me. My debut The Red Line comes out on May 2, 2017. In the February 13 edition of Publishers Weekly, I not only received a glowing “starred” review, but out of the 100 or so books they reviewed, The Red Line was one of only two books to received the highly coveted “boxed” review.  I’m getting up in age so will probably only write another five books or so, but I hope to eventually be on the New York Times bestseller list. On top of that, we’ve already signed with a producer in Hollywood who is looking to turn The Red Line into a blockbuster movie trilogy. So — so far, so good.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

WG: The Right Side of Wrong by Reavis Wortham.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

WG: I’m told The Red Line is a great book. Something really special. Big, bold, and unique. Publishers Weekly confirmed that in their review. I hope it really is a novel everyone will want to read. We are having a huge release party hosted by Gather at 5540 N. Lamar in Austin on May 6, from 1 pm to 4 pm. Food, drink, free parking, and music by Austin’s great Beatles cover band, The Eggmen. There will also be 2-3 guest authors signing their work. We would love for the Writers’ League members to come out, have some fun, and chat a bit with us about writing.

Thanks, Walt!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Instructor Q&A: Natalia Sylvester

“Even if it doesn’t make it into your story, write different conversations and be willing to explore the fluidity of your characters as they move through the world and communicate.”

-Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas called “Talk to Me: Writing Dialogue that Rings True & Speaks Volumes” on April 22 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. The class will provide writers with tips and strategies to tackle all the different aspects of dialogue to help bring their characters and stories to life. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Scribe: 
Using different languages or specific jargon can play a huge role in creating the world of a novel; however, it can also slow the reader down. What do you think about using these different elements, and are there any guidelines you suggest for when to hold back?

Natalia Sylvester: This is a fascinating question to me. To think about “slowing the reader down” means there’s an assumption of a very specific reader who won’t understand or appreciate the presence of different languages or jargon, and we too often center this as our only reader. But language and jargon are windows to the world of our characters; it’s part of their culture, whether we’re talking about a character who immigrated from another country or a character who’s spent their whole career in the corporate culture.

It’s interesting to me that this conversation often takes the approach of “when should we hold back,” as if we should be afraid of making readers who are unfamiliar with these cultures uncomfortable. I’m far more motivated by the idea of making readers who will recognize themselves in these cultures feel understood, and helping those who are unfamiliar with them learn and grow by seeing the world through perspectives new to them. So my advice to writers would be to create their world truthfully and fearlessly.

Scribe: Many stories have large casts of characters. Any tips for helping writers generate distinct voices for each of their characters?

NS: How we speak is so heavily influenced by who we are, so generating distinct voices is truly an exercise in character development. For example, someone who grew up in Miami (like me) is going to have different word choices, idioms, and expressions than someone who grew up in Minneapolis. The same goes for people who have different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. That’s just one layer of it, of course, because characters who share all these things won’t (and shouldn’t) sound the same.

Think about who your characters are below the surface of this information. What are their passions and obsessions? How do they see themselves and their place in the world? A character who’s a pessimist will have a completely different way of speaking than one who’s an optimist. A character who grew up obsessed with solving riddles and puzzles will likely speak very differently than one who spent their whole childhood winning little league games. And then, once you’ve delved deep into what shaped each character into who they are, explore all the ways this changes.

The truth is, not only do people have voices different from others, they also have different voices depending on who they’re speaking to and what their intentions are. Do you speak differently to your mother than you do your boss? Even if it doesn’t make it into your story, write these different conversations and be willing to explore the fluidity of your characters as they move through the world and communicate.

Scribe: What is one common mistake you see writers make when developing dialogue that you would like to warn against?

NS: There’s a road in Austin called “Exposition Blvd” and I chuckle to myself every time I find myself driving past it because I’d love to warn writers to stay far away from loading their dialogue with exposition. Particularly when characters begin sharing information with each other that they already know, but that we as readers don’t. The best way I can describe it is it’s like watching an infomercial; you know those prescription drug commercials where two actors are having lunch and just casually speaking about the benefits and side effects of a specific drug? We all know that no one really speaks like that, so we don’t really buy into it. This kind of dialogue makes us lose trust in the storytelling and in the voices of the characters themselves.

Scribe: Are there any exercises you can recommend for writers to do to help them fine-tune the dialogue in their stories?

NS: Listen, listen, listen. Listen to how people you know talks. Listen to how strangers at coffee shops and hospitals and grocery stores and the DMV talk. Listen to how people who grew up the youngest of six children talk. Listen to how authority figures talk and how people of different ages talk. And then write how each of those people (or each of your characters) would tell a loved one at the end of the day the exact same thing — say, if they got into a car accident on the way home from work. No two conversations and reactions would be the same.

Scribe: In the class description, you mention the class will be looking at examples of well-written dialogue. Any specific authors you’d like to recommend writers towards, for guidance with dialogue writing?

NS: One of my favorite scenes of dialogue is the opening pages of Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing. It is simply a phone call between mother and daughter, but it is so incredibly rich in information about the characters, the setting, the conflict, that it sets up the entire story brilliantly. I can’t wait to dissect this scene with the class and use it as a springboard for a writing prompt!

Thanks, Natalia!

Click here to register for Natalia’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel Chasing the Sun and the forthcoming Everyone Knows You Go Home. She is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University. Her work has appeared in Latina magazine, Writer’s Digest, and NBCLatino.com. Her Twitter and Instagram handle is @NataliaSylv.

Celebrating Texas Independents: Deep Vellum Books and Brazos Bookstore

“Texas is all about surprises, and our indie lit scene reflects that in the best possible way.”

-Benjamin Rybeck

What a wonderful month we’ve had of Celebrating Texas Independents! From Odessa, to San Antonio, to Austin, and Dallas, we’ve so enjoyed meeting our great literary state’s wonderful writers and readers, as well as independent booksellers, publishers, and journal editors.

This entire month wouldn’t have been possible without the great independent bookstores that hosted our events. We interviewed Anne Hollander of Deep Vellum Books in Dallas and Benjamin Rybeck of Brazos Bookstore in Houston, who each hosted as at their respective bookstores, about the literary landscape in Texas.

Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape — what makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, publishers, and booksellers?

Anne Hollander: The Texas literary scene is blooming with talented writers and authors who are gaining recognition for their work, both with voracious audiences as well as within the circles of the traditional, institutional publishing houses. We love Merritt Tierce, David Olimpio, Joe Milazzo, Sanderia Faye, Ben Fountain, and the dedicated swath of poets, essayists, and other writers who visit us often, and who are producing fantastic work.

Deep Vellum customers are clamoring for literary works as though they’ve been starved–without a doubt, there is plenty of opportunity both for publishers and booksellers here in Texas. One of the more surprising aspects to outsiders is the genuine spirit of collaboration within the Texas literary world. To Texans, this is completely natural: we’re raised to get involved, to lend a hand, to build and utilize networks, and to celebrate our collective successes. This is especially evident in the literary scene and we’re thrilled to take part in uniting writers and readers, publishers and booksellers.

Benjamin Rybeck: I grew up in New England, where my perception of Texas was always cowboys, soulless skyscrapers, traffic jams. Are these things untrue? Either way, it’s not the full story. I have never found a more welcoming literary community anywhere I’ve lived, and folks underestimate Texas’s lit scene at their own peril. There are indie bookstores, present (Brazos, BookPeople, Twig, Murder by the Book, Blue Willow, Wild Detectives) and future (my former boss Jeremy Ellis is going to do some stellar work with Interabang in Dallas, I’m sure) that rank among the nation’s best and most exciting. There are exciting indie publishers (A Strange Object, Deep Vellum, etc.). There are a slew of literary magazines that push the boundaries of what’s expected (I recently joined the board at Gulf Coast, where they’re featuring one of the nation’s only lit journal-sponsored translation prizes). Texas is a whole playground of forward-thinking ideas about art and culture ready to be explored.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents in Texas’s literary community (publishers, journals, booksellers) and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do at your bookstores?

AH: I think the role of independents is to both nurture a network of readers and writers and to challenge the long-held commandments of how things should be done. Independents have the agility and local-to-global pulse that larger institutions lack. I strongly believe the the future of media–bookstores, publishers, authors, writers, readers, distribution, production–will be defined by the ideas, concepts, standards, and processes we’re experimenting with today.

Which is the most rewarding aspect of our work at Deep Vellum: given the same source materials, we’re creating something completely different and enabling multiple creative collaborations to flourish within the bookstore. Our local literary scene, as I said, is blooming with a surprising amount of talent, and where before there was a lack of infrastructure (i.e., consistent welcoming places to meet, perform, collaborate, network, critique), Deep Vellum opened its doors with a singular purpose: to be that place where the creative community comes together. To sit in the back with a cup of coffee and experience what our community creates–it’s the most rewarding work I’ve done in my career.

BR: Cities like Houston are inclusive major metropolitan areas that want everybody to have a high quality of life, and the indie lit community in Texas is there to reflect this. Texas is all about surprises, and our indie lit scene reflects that in the best possible way. The most rewarding part of the job to me is when somebody comes to Brazos and leaves not only with new books but also with ideas about what Houston’s arts community is. “I didn’t know places like this still existed” is something we hear every day, and I always have to suppress my giddy smile for fear of looking like a freak.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about a program or event that you have upcoming that exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas.

AH: Our mission is as easy as ABC: accessible books & culture. This mission manifests itself in a variety of different ways, including collaboration opportunities with local businesses and institutions within the cities we serve, curating strong book and event programming to reflect the needs and desires of the communities we serve, and creating an inclusive environment to stimulate growth, change, and activism within the store locale.

You’ve caught us on the cusp of several announcements: we’re soon to announce a handful of collaborative partnerships here in Dallas to extend the reach of great books across the city–some of which are non-traditional outlets. We’re very close to a new bookstore location in Denton, and we’re excited to provide space, structure, and support to a quickly evolving creative community (which is growing by leaps and bounds every day!). And we’re within a couple weeks of announcing the results of a big data-driven project we’ve been working on since December–more on that as soon as we release the results.

BR: I’m excited–as I am every year–about Independent Bookstore Day (April 30), but this year especially, because our day-long programming gives us a chance to highlight the deep partnerships we’ve formed in Houston with other literary organizations, museums, graphic designers, movie theaters, nonprofit educational organizations, etc. This, to me, demonstrates the openness of Houston’s arts community: you can get pretty much anyone on the phone and propose a weird idea and pretty much everyone says “let’s do it!” Indie bookstores are not only retail spaces and cultural hubs; they’re bastions of weird ideas. Luckily, Texas–with its always-evolving sense of itself–is usually game. I wouldn’t want to do this job anywhere else.

Thanks, Anne and Ben!

You can visit our website for details on the past month of panels and read interviews with our panelists here on our blog. We’ll also be posting a podcast version of our Austin panel on Soundcloud soon, so stay tuned!

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in a future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

 

An Interview with Clay Smith of the San Antonio Book Festival

“Texas writers are given such a limitless gift by writing about–or being from– this place.”

-Clay Smith

We can’t believe it’s already April! The schedule for the 2017 San Antonio Book Festival is out now, and we couldn’t be more excited about this year’s lineup. The festival will be held on Saturday, April 8, from 9 am to 5 pm at the beautiful downtown Central Library and Southwest School of Art. A program of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation (SAPLF), SABF celebrates national and local authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination.

This year, as in years past, we’re excited to feature our members at our exhibitor booth. You can find us in the Festival Marketplace at Booths 35-36. The list of WLT members who are signing and selling their books at our booth can be found here on our website.

To learn more about the San Antonio Book Festival, we talked with literary director Clay Smith about planning this year’s program as well as the literary landscape of Texas.

Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape — what makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, publishers, and booksellers?

Clay Smith: Texas writers are given such a limitless gift by writing about–or being from–this place. Not just the myths of Texas (and its actual history that inspires those myths), but Texans have a strong sense of themselves and a strong sense of what they think Texas means. That’s a real gift to a writer that I don’t think all American states offer to their writers.

Scribe: What have been your favorite aspects of developing this year’s SABF programming?

CS: The best part of this job is considering which aspects of and issues in our culture people are really thinking about and finding authors who write in thoughtful ways about those topics. So we’ve got events about terrorism, immigration, the environment—hard-hitting topics like those. But we’re also featuring a lot of thoughtful poets and fiction writers who help us re-imagine our world. The joy of the job is mixing those writers together and letting San Antonians engage with our writers, make up their own minds, and be in conversation with other readers about these big ideas.

Scribe: Can you tell us about one or two pieces of programming that are new or different from years past?

CS: This is our first year to bring The Moth to San Antonio (its first time in the city), so that’s been a really wonderful process. The approximately 100 writers who are chosen by us to appear at the Festival are chosen for very specific reasons (namely, because we think they are doing excellent writing and have something unique to say about this world), but the five storytellers chosen by the producers of The Moth aren’t necessarily writers. They are people who have figured out how to tell stories from their lives that are funny or poignant or some mix of those qualities, and I think The Moth is a great addition to this year’s programming. The Moth takes place on the Friday night before the Festival, April 7, at the Majestic Theatre. The Texan-Off, a contest based on former TexasMonthly.com editor Andrea Valdez’s book How to Be a Texan, is going to be a lot of fun, too. We’re asking native Texas writers and a few non-native ones to be contestants to see who has the best Texana knowledge.

Thanks, Clay!

Visit the San Antonio Book Festival website for more information and the schedule of events.

Clay Smith is the Literary Director of the San Antonio Book Festival. He is also the editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews and former literary director of the Texas Book Festival. He was elected to the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle in 2015 and has written for the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. He is a graduate of the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at NYU and began his journalism career at the Austin Chronicle and talks about books regularly on the public radio program “Texas Standard.”