Texas Book Festival returns with hybrid event for 2021

After the success of its extended and first-ever virtual event in 2020 amid the height of the pandemic, the Texas Book Festival is cracking the spine on its 26th annual fall festival: a hybrid event featuring virtual sessions as well as its in-person festival weekend in downtown Austin.

On Monday, May 17, the Texas Book Festival announced this year’s event will take place Monday, October 25 through Sunday, October 31, first with virtual sessions throughout the week, culminating in the in-person weekend events on the grounds of the Texas Capitol and along Congress Avenue downtown.

Additionally, the 2021 Texas Teen Book Festival will be part of this year’s hybrid fest, and include conversations with acclaimed authors in the young adult genre. And the annual First Edition Literary Gala will take place in person on Friday, October 29, and include indoor and outdoor seating options for attendees.

As usual, the festival promises a “robust, diverse lineup of established, emerging, and debut literary talent for readers of all ages,” and given that the author submission deadline isn’t until June 1, it will be some time before the official lineup is released.

But book fest fanatics are surely hoping the festival takes a page out of last year’s playbook, as the virtual festival included more than 175 authors, illustrators, poets, journalists, and artists, among them some pretty significant names: Matthew McConaughey, David Chang, Dean Koontz, Kevin Kwan, Sigrid Nunez, Isabel Wilkerson, Natasha Trethewey, and Erin Brockovich.

And despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the festival’s virtual First Edition Literary Gala raised more than $600,000 last year to fund the nonprofit’s literary and literacy programs. And the organization was able to give $100,000 in grants to Texas public libraries, in addition to providing more than 14,000 books to students through its Reading Rock Stars and Real Reads programs.

“The constraints and challenges last year only strengthened our resolve to reach readers in any and every way we could,” says Lois Kim, TBF executive director. “We are proud that we were able to connect more than 75,000 people to authors through our 2020 virtual programming efforts and excited to use all that we learned about digital programming while welcoming people back to enjoy a safe, outdoor, in-person festival this year.”

Highlights of the 2021 festival include outdoor tented sessions; the in-person and virtual Exhibitor Marketplace (which features titles from book publishers, university presses, booksellers, and independent authors, and other literary items); literary panels; food trucks; and the popular Saturday evening Lit Crawl. And, of course, it’s fair to expect some literary juggernauts.

“Festivalgoers have shared with us how eager they are to see us return downtown, safety permitting,” says literary director Matthew Patin. “And now, encouraged by growing vaccination numbers and only after many conversations with authors, publishers, attendees, partners, other event organizations, and the City of Austin, we’re eager as well. We’ll never abandon what we learned about virtual, though; readers told us they enjoyed that too. Stepping into the hybrid space provides everyone the opportunity to participate in a big, vibrant, diverse festival program, virtually or in person.”

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