Wednesday, March 16, 2011


We're pleased to announce that Clay Smith is our latest Featured Sweetheart! Clay Smith is the literary director of the Texas Book Festival and a former journalist. He also works for the Sundance Film Festival, writing and editing for that festival’s website. Each year he brings us one of the best literary events in the country, the Texas Book Festival.

TXS&S: What is the mission of the Texas Book Festival?

: The Texas Book Festival celebrates authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas and imagination.

TXS&S: I can only imagine the amount of effort that goes into preparing such a phenomenal event. Can you share what that process is like? Does it involve year-round planning?

It does involve year-round planning with a staff of only five people (and we're doing more year-round events with various writers that are offered first to our members and then to the general public). There are many volunteers at the Festival - some 900 in total - but the ones we work with the most are the local writers and people involved in publishing who make up the selection committees - there's one for the adult program and one for the kid's program. We look at all the books that are submitted to the Festival and ask the writers we're most interested in to be a part of the Festival (Oct. 22-23 this year). The Festival staff and board members also go to New York every spring to meet with publishers to talk to them about writers they're touring. So part of my job is to be creative and invite writers to the Festival who are creating vital, unique narratives; the rest of my job, closer to the Festival dates, is to make sure all the writers know when and where they need to be during the Festival and organize the Festival weekend's logistical details that pertain to them.

TXS&S: Tell us a little bit about the Reading Rock Stars program?

CS: Reading Rock Stars is our organization's literacy program. It was borne out of the realization that we already had all of these great kids' authors here in town for the Festival who we wanted to share with the kids in our communities' low income schools. What makes RRS unique is that its focus is on the interaction between writer and student, and the impact that personal interaction can have on a child's passion for reading. We also get new, signed books into the hands and homes of these kids, which improves literacy and educational success. To date, we've sponsored more than 100 author visits and given away more than 35,000 books to children across Texas . RRS is just an example of the other kinds of programs the Texas Book Festival, as an organization, sponsors throughout the year.

TXS&S: Technology, more specifically eReaders, is certainly changing the literary landscape. How will technological changes such as these be incorporated into the Festival?

We've done several panels over the years about the future of reading, and we're the first book festival we know of to have an app - it's free and available to iPhone users. We are also looking into making it easy for our audience to bring their e-readers to the Festival and have our writers electronically sign their e-readers in addition to traditional books. We want to support the creative process of writing and reach readers in whatever format they're reading and all of us at the Festival think that the proliferation of e-readers is an exciting development. Times are changing and we will continue to find new ways to work with authors and readers.

TXS&S: Each year you continue to bring the best authors to Texas, something we get to enjoy for free! How can individuals get involved to help support the Festival?

CS: As you know, the Festival is free and open to the public. It is our gift to Texas readers. This would not be possible without the generous financial and volunteer support we receive. The Festival works with numerous corporate and individual sponsors and members and volunteers, all who love reading and writers. The Get Involved tab on our homepage spells out a few ways to get involved as a volunteer or join the Festival as a member. Members receive invitations to special literary events and happenings year-round. Over our 15-year history, TBF has given more than $2.5 million to public libraries across the state and reached 30,000 children through the Reading Rock Stars program.

TXS&S: Most importantly, Clay, do you consider yourself a Sweetheart or a Scoundrel?

CS: Duh! A Sweetheart.

TXS&S: We couldn't agree more! Thank you, Clay!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.


  1. Love Texas Book Festival and Reading Rock Stars. Thanks for this interview. Samantha Vamos

  2. Sam, I love the TBF, too! It's always such a great event!