- October 21, 2013

Inside Scoop on Top Picks for Book Fest


Browsing through the impressive schedule for the upcoming Texas Book Festival, held at the State Capitol on October 26 and 27, 2013 I am conflicted about which events to attend. Where to go when? The selection of happenings spanning the course of the weekend is massive. So I had to call in the pro, Steph Opitz, for some guidance.

Steph Opitz serves as the Texas Book Festival’s literary director, responsible for developing and implementing year-round literary programming in Austin and other Texas cities, including the annual two-day Festival in Austin. Steph previously served as the programs and strategic communications director for the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, programming coordinator for Red Hen Press, associate editor of NANO Fiction, fiction co-chair for the Brooklyn Book Festival and has also served on the board of Late Night Library. In addition to being the TBF’s literary director, Steph is a books reviewer for Marie Claire magazine. Steph took a little time out of her very busy day to give Free Fun in Austin readers some insight into her top picks for this year’s Festival:

The festival always provides such great children’s programming — from author read-alouds to craft activities to entertainment. What are some of your “can’t miss” suggestions for families visiting this year? 

Steph: To me these are the two most important family events, because they deal with topics that families should/need to be aware of and talking about…
  • Dyslexia Awareness Month: Embracing Dyslexia documentary, followed by Q&A with Director Luis Macias Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004 Saturday, 2-3:30pm (October is Dyslexia Awareness month)
  • Haters Gonna Hate: Dealing with Bullies e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Caprice Crane, MOD Vicky Smith Capitol Extension Room E2.030 Saturday, 10-11

What is the selection process for determining which authors and illustrators are invited to participate in the festival? Are there any children’s authors that you are personally excited to meet?

Steph: Authors and publicists submit titles for consideration, from there we have a selection committee of people with a wide array of expertise and interests who help select the authors. 

Am I excited to meet anyone? YES! R.L. Stine is someone I grew up reading, I cannot wait to meet him. Katherine Applegate’s book has made such a huge impact on our Reading Rock Stars kids that I just want to meet her, give her a hug, and say THANK YOU. I’m also really looking forward to meeting Yuyi Morales (I love her book!) and I follow Bob Shea on twitter and think he’s absolutely hilarious.

I noticed that Jon Scieszka is going to emcee a “fashion show.” How can kids plan to participate? If you were participating, what costume would you choose?

Steph: Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts mean that Jon won’t be the emcee, but we’re cooking up a great alternative. Kids can simply show up in their book character costume and participate. If I was participating, I’d go as my very favorite Children’s book character: the tree from The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstien.

If moms and dads get some time to attend the festival without the kids in tow, what are some events that they should plan to check out?

Steph: This one is hard to answer, for a good reason: there is a lot to see. For politicos, stopping by the CSPAN tent at any given moment is a must. The Literary Death Match at 10am at the Paramount is pitting authors against each other dramatically reading their work while being judged by a jury of their peers; doesn’t get more exciting than that. Randal Ford our official 2013 Festival Poster photographer will be at The Contemporary Austin-Jones Center talking about the inspiration of his photographs, I can’t wait to hear about his process.

The festival surely promotes the joy of reading during the annual weekend event in Austin, but in what other ways does the Texas Book Festival encourage children’s literacy across the state?

Steph: We work closely with libraries and have raised over 2.5 million dollars for libraries across the state. A really cool thing we do is our twice-annual Reading Rock Stars program. It happens in Austin and the Rio Grande Valley — we’re really working on expanding and our growth depends on funding in areas — we bring authors from around the country into economically-disadvantaged public schools. The author presents and we give each kid an autographed copy of the book as well as a set of books to the school’s library. To see the looks on the kids’ faces when they find out the book is theirs to keep….it’ll melt your heart.


The Texas Book Festival is free and open to the public and takes place in Austin, Texas at the State Capitol and surrounding grounds on October 26 and 27, 2013.  Take a peek at our roundup of Children’s Events happening at this year’s Festival.

Freelance web producer, Heidi Okla is mom to three boys (ages 3, 5, and 7), and can’t pass up any opportunity for fun family adventures. Browse her literacy-focused kids activities on her blog, Read ‘Em and Leap.