Tuesday, September 29, 2015

West Texas Book Festival

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

Friday morning Cookbook Workshop
The West Texas Book Festival was launched in Abilene in 2001. The founder and chairman of the Festival is Glenn Dromgoole, author of nearly 30 books, former editor of the Abilene Reporter-News, syndicated columnist of “Texas Reads,” and a member of the Texas A&M Journalism Hall of Honor. Glenn and his lovely wife Carol own the Texas Star Trading Company – The National Store of Texas. The popular downtown book store also features a tempting array of Texana gifts.

Friday lunch crowd
The West Texas Book Festival is strongly supported by the Abilene Public Library and by the Friends of the Library organization. The Festival is a week-long event –Monday through Saturday – held each September. Additionally, each spring Glenn Dromgoole and the Abilene Public Library conduct a Texas Author Series. A few years ago Glenn invited me to the Texas Author Series, and I provided a lunch program at the Library on what then was my most recent book, The Johnson-Sims Feud: Romeo and Juliet, West Texas Style. This book was published in 2010 by the University of North Texas Press as Number 9 in their A.C. Greene Series. Greene was a legendary West Texas writer, and for the West Texas Book Festival, the author of the year would be presented the A.C. Greene Award. Indeed, the 2001 Award was presented by Greene himself, to another legendary West Texas author, John Graves. Later recipients included such superb authors as Elmer Kelton, Sandra Brown, John Erickson, Mike Cox, Don Graham, and Stephen Harrigan.
Friday lunch program

A few months ago I was contacted by Glenn Dromgoole with the astounding news that I had been selected as the 2015 recipient of the A.C. Greene Award. I personally knew some of the previous recipients, and of course I was familiar with the work of all of them. I felt that I was not in their league, but of course I was elated and proud to become a member of the A.C. Greene Award company. In addition to my response at the Awards Luncheon, I was asked to be part of two other programs.

With Bill and Gayla Neal
The week before the Festival, I had a delightful phone interview with Janet Van Vleet, a reporter for the Abilene Reporter-News. She wrote an excellent article that was featured, along with a color photo, in the Sunday Reporter-News, which came out the day before the 2015 Festival began. Each day an inexpensive lunch was provided at the library, and one or more authors offered programs about their most recent books. On Thursday evening a “Texas Cookbook Gala” was held at the Abilene Country Club. On Friday morning a workshop, “Write Your Own Cookbook,” was provided at the library.
For the Friday lunch session I presented a program on my most recent book, Texas Gunslingers, while Roger Moore gave a PowerPoint on his new book of Texas history cartoons, Texas Our Texas. On Friday evening Karon and I were part of a small dinner party hosted by Glenn and Carol Dromgoole at the excellent Cypress Street Restaurant downtown.
The Texas Star Trading Post

On Saturday the Festival moved to the Abilene Civic Center. Beginning at nine o’clock, “Conversations” were held with seven Texas authors. Their entertaining interviews were held on a stage in front of a large and responsive audience. My “Conversation” was the final interview, which was expertly conducted by Jay Moore, an Abilene author and history teacher. During our half hour Jay touched a lot of bases with me, but I was pleased that he gave good coverage to the office of State Historian.
Friday night author dinner with: (L to R) Barbara Brannon,
Mary Sprecht, Penny Klostermann, Glenn and Carol
Dromgoole, Karon, and Kay Ellington.

Following the interviews we gathered in the vast ballroom for the annual Boots and Books Luncheon. We enjoyed a delicious barbeque meal, and the event featured a lively performance by the exciting Cowboy Band of Hardin Simmons University. The crowd exceeded 300, and I was enormously impressed by the powerful support extended by the Abilene community to the West Texas Book Festival. Glenn Dromgoole introduced featured authors Penny Klostermann, Jay Moore, Mary Helen Specht, Barbara Brannon and Kay Ellington, who each offered remarks. I was announced as the 2015 recipient of the A.C. Greene Award by City Librarian Lori Grumet, who provided an introduction which I greatly appreciated. In my response I tried to express my deep gratitude for the A.C. Greene Award, which was represented by a handsome painting created by H.C. Zachry, a noted Abilene artist and an accomplished businessman. Following a book signing, Karon and I headed for home, talking non-stop about the courtesies that were extended to us during one of the most exciting events of my tenure as State Historian.

For more information:

Saturday Conversation with Jay Moore

Hardin Simmons Cowboy Band

Introduction by Lori Grumet.

Note the stage decorations for the Boots & Books Luncheon
With Glenn Dromgoole and the H.C. Zachry painting

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