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The latest: Texas Book Festival pivots from in-person to mostly virtual

Michael Barnes
Austin 360
Texas authors gather in the Capitol Rotunda for a group picture commemorating the first annual Texas Book Festival in 1996. The fest had planned to have more in-person, outdoor events this year but has shifted back to mostly virtual.

No in-person sessions on the Capitol grounds. None at nearby downtown spots. 

No exhibitor tents. No sales tents. No tented cooking demonstrations.

The 2021 hybrid Texas Book Festival, slated for Oct. 23-31, will take place mostly online. In May, the fest announced a hybrid plan that included a return to in-person events on the Capitol grounds and some of the surrounding streets. The summer COVID-19 surge has changed those plans again.

Virtual children's programs and the Texas Teen Book Festival — with its young-adult authors and panels — will take place Oct. 23-24.

Virtual programs for the regular festival on fiction, nonfiction, poetry and cooking will follow Oct. 25-31.

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Only three in-person events have been announced: On Oct. 30, the Read Me A Story session will feature children's picture book authors at Symphony Square. The fest's popular Lit Crawl is scheduled for that night. On Oct. 31, unspecified adult programs will be staged at the Austin Central Public Library. Details are still to come on all three in-person events.

All in-person sessions will be free, but with limited capacity and with spots reserved in advance.

The festival also has postponed its popular fundraiser, the First Edition Literary Gala, to Feb. 11.

"We will not have in-person sessions in downtown Austin or at the Capitol this year and will be hosting the in-person portion of the festival in venues where we can better monitor attendee numbers and enact proper safety guidelines," the festival said in a news release about the changes. 

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The fest plans to announce the full author lineup on Sept. 22 and the schedule the first week of October, according to the same release. Colson Whitehead and Sandra Cisneros are among the authors already announced.