the sxsw of stories

A writer's guide to the best of the Texas Book Festival — sex included

A writer's guide to the best of the Texas Book Festival — sex included

It is upon us! That behemoth of books festivals, that leviathan of literature, that SXSW of stories — you get the point. It’s the Texas Book Festival, and man, there are a whole lot of author appearances at a whole lot of venues in and around the Capitol. Unless you can be in 12 places at once, you’re going to need a game plan. 

Here’s mine. (All times and venues for events mentioned are listed at the end of this article; complete schedule here.)


Wake up early.

Drink lots of coffee. 

Go over the schedule, take inspiration from how many amazing books are published every year. 

Fantasize about my own future appearance at the Texas Book Festival. 

Wonder if my brilliant novel will be spurned by philistine publishers, once I actually write it.

Worry that there won’t be any publishers left in 2024 anyway. 

Remind self that there’s a place for everything in the publishing world, from a cookbook devoted to “silly” breakfasts to a biography of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina.

Try to decide whether it will be more fun to listen to Naomi Wolf ramble about her nethers in front of Texas Monthly editor Mimi Schwartz, or watch Kinky Friedman joust with Chuck Thompson in a showdown over whether the North would be "better off" without the South. 

Nix both in order to see memoirist and advice columnist Cheryl Strayed, on the off chance she’ll tell me how to move past my anger issues and finish my novel.

Realize I’ve missed Tony Danza’s early talk about education reform due to changing my outfit several times to appear more “literary.”

Look up YouTube clips from Who’s the Boss in search of Tony’s catchphrase, which I can’t believe I’ve forgotten. (It’s “Whoa.” You’re welcome.) 

Watch two panels in a row about funny ladies — Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. “The Bloggess”) reading from her hilarious memoir, followed by a discussion of We Killed: The Rise of Women in Comedy with the author, Yael Kohen.

Congratulate self on having attended two nonfiction panels. So rigorous! Reward self with doughnut. 

Divide self in half in order to see storyteller Stephen Tobolowsky crush his opponents in the Literary Death Match while simultaneously attending Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Program with up-and-comers Anna Kesey, Andrew Porter and Emma Straub. (Previous "discoveries" Jennifer Egan and Jhumpra Lahiri have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes.)

Worry about why I haven’t been discovered yet. Am I too old to be a “new writer”? Maybe I should have stayed home and finished that novel.

Ask Cheryl Strayed about it. Get life solved by Cheryl Strayed.

Attend Lit Crawl, where I spill a beer on Cheryl Strayed, but she says it’s okay, because life is a long, lonely road through a craggy wilderness, and she can tell by my kind eyes that my novel will win the Pulitzer some day. 

Pass out.


Wake up early. Take Tylenol. Go back to bed.

Wake up again, much later.

Drink lots of coffee.

Realize I’ve missed the early discussion the newly annotated version of Jane Austen's Emma, which is just as well, because the word "annotated" reminds me of grad school.

Look up YouTube clips from Sense and Sensibility. Find the scene where Emma Thompson starts sobbing uncontrollably after spending the whole movie just being, like, stoic about maybe not marrying Hugh Grant. Watch several times. Stare moodily into the middle distance. 

Pull myself together in time to make the Secret Sex Lives session. Congratulate self on yet another nonfiction panel. Reward self with doughnut.

Wonder if having sex before dinner once in a while counts as a “secret.” Resolve to come up with a secret sex life that people would actually be interested in knowing, like group sex or a zombie fetish or being obsessed with Tony Danza.

Travel back through time via "tesseract" to catch the Madeline L’Engle tribute featuring graphic novelist Hope Larson. (Why did they put it opposite the sex panel? Why?)

Round out the day listening to Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz discuss his new short story collection, This is How You Lose Her. Recall that Diaz was once featured by the Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Program.

Go home.

Have secret sex.

Finish novel.

Get to bed early.


Bill and Claire Wurtzel (Funny Food: 365 Fun, Healthy, Silly, Creative Breakfasts), Sun. 11:00-12:00, Cooking Tent

Naomi Wolf (Vagina: A New Biography), Sat. 4:15-5:00, Sanctuary at First United Methodist Church 

Chuck Thompson (Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession), Sat. 3:45-4:45, Paramount Theatre

Tony Danza (I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I’ve Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High), Sat. 10:00-10:45, Paramount Theatre

Jenny Lawson (This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir), Sat. 11:15-12:00, Paramount Theatre

Yael Kohen (We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy), Sat. 12:15-1:00, Capitol Extension Room E2.014

Literary Death Match, Sat. 12:45-1:45, Paramount Theatre

Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Program, Sat. 1:00-2:00, Lone Star Tent

Cheryl Strayed (Wild: From Lot to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and Tiny, Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from “Dear Sugar”), Sat. 4:00-4:45, House Chamber

David Shapard (The Annotated Emma, by Jane Austen), Sun. 11:00-11:45, Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004

Suzy Spencer (Secret Sex Lives: A Year Spent on the Fringe of American Sexuality), Sun. 2:00-2:45, Capitol Extension Room E2.036

A Tribute to Madeline L’Engle, Sun. 2:30-3:30, Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004

Junot Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her), 4:15-5:00, House Chamber


Texas Book Festival
Courtesy photo
austin photo set: news_sept_2012_amy_texas book festival tony danza
Actor Tony Danza on being a first-year teacher
austin photo set: news_sept_2012_amy_texas book festival the fifty year sword
Experimental writer Mark Z. Danielewski's latest release
austin photo set: news_sept_2012_amy_texas book festival jewel
Jewel's That's What I'd Do