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COMMUNITY AND ENCOURAGEMENT

Book festival aims to connect Texas authors and readers while promoting literacy

by CHELSEA KATZ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  first appeared on The Eagle online edition May 16, 2018

After having to reschedule twice, the Brazos Valley Book Festival is coming to Bryan on Saturday, bringing local and other Texas authors to the Palace Theater.

Originally scheduled for the fall, Hurricane Harvey scratched those plans and forced the event to be pushed back to the spring.

Now, the event will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Though there originally were about 80 authors scheduled to attend, that number has shifted. Nearly 60 authors will be presenting their work and talking to visitors.

The purpose of the book festival -- one of about six put on by the Texas Association of Authors and the Book Festival Network around the state -- is to connect authors and readers.

The event also benefits local libraries and schools by encouraging literacy in the community, B Alan Bourgeois, founder and director of the Texas Association of Authors and the Book Festival Network, among other programs, said.

"Education is so important. ... Being able to read is the key to everything," participating author Ernie Lee said. "If you can't read, you're not going to be very successful in very many things, because almost everything requires reading."

Aspiring writers of all ages can leave the festival having met and interacted with best-selling and award-winning Texas authors.

Bourgeois' two goals with the festival, he said, are to get people to read more -- physical or digital books -- and to give authors more exposure. He explained there are an estimated 9,000 Texas authors, growing each year, and many people do not know they exist.

The most difficult part about being an author, Lee said, is getting the word out about your books and getting that work into people's hands.

"Without book fairs around the state and country, that would be much, much more difficult," the Bryan native said.

Lee, who now lives in Canyon Lake, will not only be returning to his hometown, but he and other local authors will be bringing books to a place where Lee said he spent a lot of time as a child: the Palace Theater.

"It's just kind of a homecoming," he said, noting his fellow Stephen F. Austin High class of '65 classmate Howard Hatfield will also be participating in the first Brazos Valley Book Festival.

For Hatfield, Saturday's festival will only be his second as an author. His first was in October in Austin, where he currently lives.

"This author thing is kind of new to me," he said. "I've written all my life, but never took it this far."

In addition to gaining more festival experience, Hatfield said, he enjoys talking with people, which he will get to do at the free festival.

"I am basically a storyteller, so I've been doing that all my life," he said. "Basically my book is a collection of stories I used throughout my career to solve leadership problems. I just really enjoy talking. I meet people everywhere, and I sort of make them talk."

When he works with libraries and schools, both of which will benefit from the festivals, Hatfield wants to pass along his stories and encourage people to read and write. Although Hatfield will have just his first book with him Saturday, he said, his second is in the editing process, and he hopes it will be released in the fall. It will feature Bryan-College Station as he recounts a time when, at 16 and 17 years old, he was the youngest person working alongside his father and a group of 40-year-old roughnecks out of Bryan.

Lee said he hopes the event helps encourage others to begin writing, no matter their age. "I believe everybody's got a book in them somewhere," he said. "That might encourage them to put their pen to paper and write their reminisces down. It's important that we all do that."

Some authors write books with stories that have been in their heads for years, Lee said. "You think, 'Well, nobody will ever read it. Nobody's interested in this.' You're wrong. ... You never know what's going to happen," he said. "I never thought I would have an award-winning novel. I wrote it because I had a good story to tell." He was excited with the story and just thought others might be excited to read the story also.

Despite the setbacks earlier in the year, Lee said, "We're going to make it happen. I hope it becomes an annual event."

Middle school- and high school-age writers will have the chance to try to become published authors themselves as part of the organization's short story contest.

Saturday's festival is free, but people are encouraged to register online to be entered into a contest in which the winner will receive $50 worth of books. Anyone can attend, though, whether they registered or not.

For a list of all 58 participating authors and to register for a free ticket, go to the Brazos Valley Book Festival website at http://brazosvalley.bookfestival.network.

 

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