WLT’s May Third Thursday event is just a day away. Join us at BookPeople at 7:00 PM, where we’ll be discussing everyone’s favorite topic: FOOD!
Our fantastic foodie panel includes Addie Broyles (Austin American Statesman and Austin Food Bloggers Alliance), James McWilliams (author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly and A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America), Angela Shelf Medearis (THE KITCHEN DIVA!), and Georgia Pellegrini (author of Modern Pioneering, Food Heroes, and Girl Hunter).
Come here these professional food writers discuss the unique challenges, rewards, and adventures that come with their careers.
Until then, we’d like to share with you a wrap-up from April’s Third Thursday, written by one of our fabulous interns, Kelsey Peters.
Writing about Books
By WLT Intern, Kelsey Peters
Our panelists this month came from very different backgrounds, but the common thread for all was that they began as voracious readers. All four of our panelists agreed, that regardless of where they are in their lives and careers, not much has changed. After all, in order to write about books, it’s necessary to read books, and as Sharyn Vane pointed out, “Austin is a fertile community for writers.” Jeff Solomon agreed by saying, “Austin is a big literary town.” All four of our panelists, who currently live in the Austin area, seem to have hit the jackpot when it comes to getting paid to read and to write about the books they love (and sometimes hate) in a city that fosters their creative side.
Sharyn Vane began as a journalist and currently works as the Books Editor for the Austin American Statesman. Today, she writes about children’s and young adult literature for the newspaper. When she’s reading for pleasure, she uses a “different brain” than the one she uses for work. She shared with us her thought process in picking books for her monthly column. She explained that she aims to give people a good idea about what the writing is like and said that in order to best do this, she will sometimes read some of an author’s previous work so that she has something to compare the newest release to.
As an avid young adult reader, Sarah Pitre runs Forever Young Adult or FYA, (“a site for YA readers who are a little less “Y” and a little more “A.”). She said that YA literature is a “much bigger thing” now than it was when she was a kid. She wanted the opportunity to provide a community for like-minded readers. FYA allows her to review and suggest books to her readers and, in the interest of fostering a community, it has given birth to over 80 book clubs across the nation so that people who share her passion for YA can meet in real life. She happily shared with the audience that the stigma against YA is going away, thanks to books like The Hunger Games series, but said (with a laugh) that it might have been slightly hindered by books such as the Twilight series. In addition to FYA, Sarah is the lead programmer at the Alamo Drafthouse and is in charge of Girlie Night and Afternoon Tea screenings.
Jeff Solomon currently serves as the editor for the books column for Texas Monthly, but he began his career as a rock critic. Somewhere down the line, he got burnt out on going to shows and interviewing rock stars. He explained that he loves to interview writers because he finds that they are articulate and love talking about their work. In reviewing books, he stressed the importance of reading “every vowel and every consonant” but said that he takes a different, less formal approach when interviewing writers.
Clay Smith began as a journalist and later became the books editor for the Austin Chronicle. Today, he edits for Kirkus Reviews, the toughest review publication in the industry. He told us that his background in book journalism gave him the chance to interview writers and get to the bottom of the beginnings of a book. Now that he doesn’t specialize in any one genre, he gets the opportunity to learn and to expand his horizons.
Though all of our panelists said they tend to give the most space in their publications to books they would recommend, there is definitely still a place for the occasional negative review because, according to Sarah, “not everything is unicorns and rainbows” and as Jeff added, “sometimes books are bad.” Clay explained that though it can be harsh, he’s proud of the consistent honesty of Kirkus Reviews. He admitted though, that in receiving eight to ten thousand books a year for review, it’s possible to become jaded.
During the Q&A portion of the evening, Jeff took the time to ask the audience whether they were interested in reviewing books or getting their own books reviewed. The response was mixed, and Sarah encouraged those of us who want to review to read a lot. Not only that, but she challenged us to pretend that we’re reviewing for a publication that we admire, whether it be the Austin Chronicle, the Austin American Statesman, Kirkus Reviews, or Texas Monthly.
Overall, the sentiment echoed by all four of our panelists was the encouragement to write about what you know. Not only do they recommend this, but they embody it in their work.
Kelsey Peters is a native Austinite and a senior English Writing and Rhetoric major at St. Edward’s University. She is an intern for The Writers’ League of Texas’ Third Thursday program.