On April 8, 2017, an estimated 20,000 people descended upon the Central Library and Southwest School of Art in downtown San Antonio for the 5th annual San Antonio Book Festival. It was, by all accounts, the biggest Festival yet. We had 95 authors (after a handful of flight cancellations) from all over the country participating in 76 sessions. It was an amazing weekend that drew attention to our city, displaying it for thousands of Festival goers as a literary destination. Read on for Book Festival highlights.
“In spite of its five years, the San Antonio Book Festival is quickly becoming one of the best book festivals in the South.” – S.C. Gwynne
At a Glance
With so many moving parts, it’s often challenging to convey the Book Festival’s success and impact. Fortunately, we collect plenty of data to help us out. Here are some quick facts about the 5th annual Book Festival:
- 95 authors presented (the result of a handful of flight cancellations) in 73 sessions
- 20,000 attendees of all ages
- 550 volunteers
- 54 exhibitors in Festival Marketplace (a record that led us to add children’s exhibitors to the McNutt Garden)
- 550 children brought by nonprofits and organized school groups
- $3,000 awarded to fiction contest winners and their schools by Texas Cavaliers
- Five authors (Diane Gonzales Bertrand, Kendare Blake, Raúl Gonzalez, René Colato Laínez, Guadalupe Garcia McCall) visited San Antonio schools, presenting to more than 500 students in Bexar County
- 425 people attended the Book Appétit Literary Feast fundraiser featuring Ann Patchett the day before the Book Festival
- Nearly 1,400 people attended San Antonio’s first-ever Moth Mainstage show at the Majestic Theatre
- 40 people attended Book It luncheons at Club Giraud
The two-day Book Festival weekend generates more than $1 million for the San Antonio economy. Read more about the Festival’s economic impact HERE.
The most well-attended sessions were in our West Terrace and in our Holt Family Children’s Reading Tent.
- “Commonwealth author Ann Patchett in conversation with Elizabeth McCracken”
- The Magik Theatre presents “The Three Little Pigs”
- “Amor Towles talks about his bestselling novel A Gentleman in Moscow” (Moderator: Bob Rivard)
This year we are proud to report that we had standing room only in several sessions, spanning across all genres. We’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the popularity of these sessions. One thing is certain: San Antonio loves its poets!
- “A Celebration of San Antonio’s Poet Laureates” with Jenny Browne & Laurie Ann Guerrero (Moderator: Naomi Shihab Nye)
- “From Soil to Sky: How Milkweeds and Monarch Butterflies Coexist” with Anurag Agrawal (Moderator: Monika Maeckle)
- “The Art of Screenwriting” with Maya Perez & Craig Johnson (Moderator: Alex Schenker)
- “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed: Poems for Unknown Heroes” with Martín Espada (Moderator: Arturo Madrid)
- “Marfa Modern: Interiors as Beautiful as the Texas Desert” with Helen Thompson & Casey Dunn (Moderator: Vance Muse)
- “Catherine Burns, the director of The Moth, on True Stories about Facing the Unknown” (Moderator: Lilly González)
- “My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive” with Julissa Arce (Moderator: Alicia Perez)
- “Cornyation: San Antonio’s Outrageous Fiesta Tradition” with author Amy Stone, John McBurney & Rick Frederick (Moderator: Elaine Wolff)
- “The New Frontier: Latin Speculative Fiction” with Gregg Barrios, Cathryn Merla-Watson, John Phillip Santos & Debora Vasquez (Moderator: B.V. Olguin)
Here are some of our favorite stories about this year’s Book Festival:
Recapping the Book Festival:
Book Festival Brings Ideas, Insight, and Entertainment to San Antonio – Rivard Report
The Border a Focus for Some Authors at S.A. Book Festival – San Antonio Express-News
Our Picks for the Fifth Annual San Antonio Book Festival – San Antonio Current
A Book Lover’s Guide to the San Antonio Book Festival – Rivard Report
How to Balance ‘Kid Fun’ and ‘Mom Fun’ at the San Antonio Book Festival – Rivard Report
The Moth Mainstage Promises One of San Antonio Book Festival’s Brightest Highlights – San Antonio Current
Texas Matters: Ann Patchett, Commonwealth, and Writing – Texas Public Radio
From undocumented immigrant to Wall Street; One SA woman’s journey to success – KSAT
Author Alexandra Zapruder shares the history of her grandfather’s video of JFK’s assassination at April 8 San Antonio Book Festival – San Antonio Magazine
Book festival features fascinating look at Jonestown tragedy – San Antonio Express-News
Amor Towles headlining San Antonio Book Festival, talking about his vibrant Russia-set novel – San Antonio Express-News
SA Book Festival Poets: Poetry Puts Blood Back in Our Words – Rivard Report
Life at the Metropol Hotel with Count Rostov, A Gentleman in Moscow – Rivard Report
Book review: ‘The Moth’ collection is storytelling at its best – San Antonio Express-News
This year we gave special focus to expanding our educational outreach. We strengthened our partnerships with nonprofits and Bexar County schools, which led to an increase in the number of students brought to the Festival. We also had the highest number of author visits to schools since the Festival’s inception in 2013. Seven authors visited schools and even a hospital throughout the year. Five of those were Festival authors whose visits coincided with the 5th annual Festival.
Our annual Fiction Contest is our four-year foray into Bexar County schools. Once again, $3,000 was awarded to the contest winners and their schools, courtesy of the Texas Cavaliers. The winners also had the opportunity to read their stories at a ceremony during the Book Festival.
We have much to say about our educational outreach this year; please head on over to THIS PAGE for the full recap and photo gallery.
Every year, we produce what we refer to as our “special events.” These are ticketed events that supplement the day of free-for-all fun at the Book Festival. For our 5th anniversary, we changed the formula of these special events.
Book Appétit Literary Feast
Book Appétit is the Festival’s singular fundraising event. What had previously been a Friday night dinner featuring a Festival author or two with 150 guests became a luncheon at the Witte’s Mays Family Center with 400+ guests in attendance to hear the New York Times bestselling author Ann Patchett. The bar was set high with our first-ever luncheon as the event generated $110,000 for the Book Festival. Guests described the event as “perfect” and “beautiful.”
We have a spectacular committee to thank: Co-chairs Wendy Atwell, Georgia Erck, Angela Rabke, and Josie Seeligson and committee members Cynthia Collins, Catherine Comeaux, Keli Davidson, Nicole Greenberg, Belinda Nixon, Tricia Smith, Lisa Spielhagen, Burgin Streetman, Liz Tullis, Cristina Wheeler, and Richey Wyatt. And special thanks to our Honorary Chairs, Ann and John E. Newman, Jr. Click HERE for a full list of sponsors.
We are proud to have brought the first-ever Moth Mainstage show to San Antonio. The Moth is an event where 5 storytellers take the stage to tell a true story, without notes. It stages shows in cities all over the world, produces a podcast that is downloaded 44 million times annually, and airs The Moth Radio Hour on public radio.
It was a big leap for us to take on a large-scale event like The Moth. We had succeeded with Literary Death Match for several years, but we felt that for our 5th anniversary, we should go bigger…majestic, if you will. The event drew more than 1,300 people to the Majestic Theatre for a lively night of storytelling that featured two storytellers with San Antonio connections and David Crabb, SA native and past Festival author, as the event’s host.
Thanks to media partners Texas Public Radio and the San Antonio Current. And special thanks to Rico’s Products and Company for underwriting the VIP after party and to EY for underwriting the show.
Book It luncheons
Once again, we offered Festival goers the opportunity to have a quick lunch with a Festival author and eight other companions. Our four Book It authors this year were Jessica Luther (Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape); Amor Towles (A Gentleman in Moscow); Bill Wittliff (The Devil’s Sinkhole); and Alexandra Zapruder (Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film).
We launched these intimate lunches in 2016 and they are gaining in popularity. We strongly encourage booking your seat for the 2018 Book Its as soon as they go on sale. It’s not often that one has the opportunity to hear from an acclaimed author, up close and personal. Past Book It attendees have remarked that the conversation they had at their Book It lunch was one of the best they had all year. This year one of the groups enjoyed their conversation so much that they talked for two and a half hours!
It takes a lot of hard work and collaboration to produce the Book Festival, and we wouldn’t be able to orchestrate it without the help of our generous sponsors, volunteers, and partners. We would especially like to thank the City of San Antonio. This event is a gift to the people of San Antonio—free and open to all—so we can all honor the literary achievements of our town and beyond. We are incredibly proud to celebrate authors, books, readers, and ideas in one epic day of literary fun.
Now there are a lot of books to catch up on before next year’s Book Festival. Get reading and save the date for the 6th annual Festival: April 7, 2018!