Monday, September 30, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of September 30-October 6, 2019 compiled exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life by Texas Book Lover. 

38th Annual American Journalism Historians Association National Convention, Dallas, October 3-5

SCBWI - North Texas Fall Retreat, Waxahachie, October 4-6

Waco WORDFEST, October 4-6

West Texas Book Festival, Abilene, October 4-6

Boerne Book & Arts Festival, October 5

Houston Loves Books: An Indie Romance Book Binge, October 5

Red River County Public Library’s Author Showcase, Clarksville, October 5

San Anto Zine Fest 2019, San Antonio, October 5

Houston Indiepalooza, October 5-6


Humanities Texas exhibit: Shakespeare, Austin, September 1-October 1

BookPeople, Raymond Caballero discussing and signing McCarthyism vs. Clinton Jencks (in conversation with Mayor Steve Adler), 7PM

Cleburne Public Library, Julie Kibler reading and signing Home for Erring and Outcast Girls, 6:30PM

First United Methodist Church, Arts & Letters Live presents Kristin Hanna, author of The Great Alone (in conversation with author Kathleen Kent), 7:30PM [ticketed event]

Meadow Wood Elementary School, Blue Willow Bookshop presents Max Brallier reading and signing The Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade, 5PM [kids event]

South Library, Dear Sweet Pea launch party with Julie Murphy, 7PM

San Antonio
Southwest School of Art, San Antonio Poet Laureate Octavio Quintanilla discusses his exhibit, "FRONTEXTOS," 6PM

University of the Incarnate Word, "Borders and Identity": a discussion with Norma Elia Cantú, author of Cabañuelas, 5:30PM

Half Price Books - Southpark Meadows, YA author Cy Young signing Death Load Onions, 1PM

Lazarus Brewing Co., LOGOS no. 15 featuring poets Victoria Prescott and Chucky BLK, 7:15PM
Native Hostel, Austin Poetry Slam, 7:15PM

The North Door, 6th anniversary of Owen Egerton's One Page Salon, 7:30PM
Dallas Museum of Art, Arts & Letters Live: Casey Gerald presents There Will Be No Miracles Here: A Memoir, 7:30PM [ticketed event]

Half Price Books, Syfy science columnist and sci-fi author Wil McCarthy discussing and signing Antediluvian, 7PM

Hotel Crescent Court, World Affairs Council of DFW presents Josh Campbell discussing and signing Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The FBI Today, 6:30PM

UT Dallas, EODIAH Fellow Talks with Kent Boyer (Ekphrastic Poetry and Abstract Expressionism: “Why I Am Not A Painter” by Frank O’Hara 1956) and Eman Al-Habashneh (A Relentless Quest for Identity), 4PM
Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Poetry Open Mic, 8PM

Brazos Bookstore, Fierce Reads Fall 2019 Tour: Sara Faring (The Tenth Girl), - L.L. McKinney [A Dream So Dark (The Nightmare Verse Book 2)]Margaret Owen (The Merciful Crow), and Katie Rose Pool (There Will Come a Darkness), 7PM

The Menil Collection, Book Launch and Discussion: Cy Twombly, Treatise on the Veil, 1970, 6PM

San Antonio
Central Library, Meet the Poet: Chibbi Orduña, member of PuroSlam and founder of Laredo Border Slam, 6PM

The Mix, PuroSlam featuring DJ Donnie Dee, 9:30PM

The Twig Book Shop, Raymond Caballero discussing and signing McCarthyism vs. Clinton Jencks (in conversation with San Antonio Express-News columnist Elaine Ayala), 5PM

The Witte Museum, the DoSeum presents the 10th Annual Outside the Lunchbox Luncheon featuring keynote speaker Dr. Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World, 11:30AM [ticketed event]

BookPeople, Josh Campbell discussing and signing Crossfire Hurricane, 7PM

Bullock Museum, High Noon Talks: Mary S. Black discussing Secrets in the Dirt: Uncovering the Ancient People of Gault, 12PM

Malvern Books, an evening with Austin-based poet Usha Akella (in conversation with Chaitali Sen), 7PM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, New York Times bestselling author Max Brallier reading and signing The Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade, 6PM [sold out]

SMU, a lecture by Arthur C. Brooks, author of Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt, 6PM

SMU, Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics With Gretchen Carlson, author of Be Fierce and Getting Real, 8PM

University of North Texas, UNT Visiting Writers Series presents Laird Hunt, 8PM

Amegy Bank Tower, World Affairs Council of Greater Houston presents Fatima Bhutto discussing and signing New Kings of the World: Dispatches from Bollywood, Dizi, and K-Pop, 6:30PM
Avant Garden, Write About Now Poetry Slam featuring April Neal, 7:30PM

Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Brazos Bookstore presents Kristin Hannah discussing The Great Alone (in conversation with Katherine Center), 7:30PM [ticketed event]

Murder By the Book, David Rosenfelt reading and signing the newest Andy Carpenter novel, Dachshund Through the Snow, 6:30PM

San Antonio
Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, Chicanas Read the Poetry of Healing, 7PM

Igo Library, Igo Mystery Club Author Event with Susana K. Marsch, 6:30PM

BookPeople, Naomi Klein discussing and signing On Fire (in conversation with Andrea Valdez of the Texas Observer), 7PM [ticketed event]

WTAMU, Poetry Reading: “Language, Literature and Loss” with Jenn Givhan and Vanessa Angélica Villareal, 6PM

Anjelika Dallas Theater 7, Dallas Videofest's Docufest presents a screening of the new Flannery O'Connor documentary, Flannery, 7PM

The Wild Detectives, poet Joe Milazzo presents From Being Things, To Equalities In All, 7:30PM

Brazos Bookstore, Leslie Jamison discussing and signing Make It Scream, Make It Burn, 6:30PM

Murder By the Book, Heather Harper Ellett reading and signing Ain't Nobody Nobody, 6:30PM

River Oaks Bookstore, Brendan and Timothy McNulty signing The Meanest Man in Congress, 5PM

Texas Tech, TTU Creative Writing Reading Series presents poet francine j. harris, 7:30PM

University of Houston, American Book Review Reading Series presents Christine Hume, 11AM
Fabled Bookshop & Cafe, a Q&A with Jeremy Everett, author of I Was Hungry: Cultivating Common Ground to End an American Crisis, 7PM

Front Street Books, Jerry Lackey presents the Pioneers of Texas’ Frontier series, 6PM

BookPeople, Augusten Burroughs discussing and signing Toil & Trouble, 7PM [ticketed event]

BookWoman, Loving, Grieving & Surviving: Poetry of Community & Mental Health with Jen Yanez-Alaniz, Carmen Tafolla, Jen Mendoza, ire'ne lara silva and Ilza Garcia, 7PM

Tusculum Brewing Company, cocktail reception with Stephen Harrigan, author of Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas, 6PM [ticketed event]

Interabang Books, John Eisenberg discussing and signing The League, 6PM

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, a conversation with Anne Farris Rosen, co-author of Deep South Dispatch, 1:30PM

El Paso
B&N - Fountains at Farah, Lani Sarem signing Handbook for Mortals, 5PM

Brazos Bookstore, Mark Haber reading and signing Reinhardt's Garden, 6PM
Discovery Green, WITS Youth Performance Poetry Session, 6:30PM [kids event]

Murder By the Book, Raymond Khoury reading and signing Empire of Lies, 6:30PM
The House of Rebirth, Velvet: The Rebirth - An Intimate Performance Series & Benefit, 8PM

Interabang Books, Muslim women author panel featuring Sara Bawany [(W)holehearted], Afshan Malik (Pieces), and Tayyaba Syed (The Blessed Bananas), 1PM

The Bearded Monk, American Literary Review Lightning Round Reading, 4PM

El Paso
Armijo Library, Tumblewords Project workshop: "Writing Flash Fiction and Non-Fiction to Build Longer Narrative Books" with Lex Williford, 1PM

Galveston Bookshop, Chris O’Shea Roper and Tom Linton signing Legacy of the Early Gulf Coast Cowboys, 2PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Ava Morgyn launches her new YA novel, Resurrection Girls, 11AM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Eddie Jackson discussing and signing his new cookbook, Game-Day Eats, 3PM

The Book Scene, Freddy Cruz signing When America Fell Silent, 1PM

Discovery Green, WITS Young Writers Workshop, 10:30AM [kids event]

Freed Montrose Library, Public Poetry Library Reading Series featuring Daniel Carrington, Dede Fox, Gabrielle Langley, and Jasminne Mendez, 2PM

Kaboom Books, Escritores Cronopios Houston presents "Letras de otoño," 6PM

Moody Center, Inprint's Poetry Buskers at Moonlight at the Moody, 7PM
Writespace, Workshop: "What We Talk About When We Talk about Cliches" with Matthew Hefti, 9:30AM

Writespace, Workshop: "Micro Essay" with Justin Jannise, 1PM

Centennial Library, a performance and book signing with John Erickson, author of the Hank the Cowdog series, 10:30AM

Haley Memorial Library, Annual Fall Storytelling Gathering, all day

San Antonio
Dead Tree Books, Reynaldo Garay signing When Eagles Fly, 2PM

The Twig Book Shop, Ed Crowell signing Barton Creek, 11AM

B&N - Town Square, Jeff Morris signing Legion Rising, 1PM

Sugar Land
B&N, Sharon Hanzik signing Raccoons Don't Use Spoons, 2PM [kids event]

Fabled Bookshop & Cafe, Celebrate the grand opening of Fabled Bookshop & Cafe with books, treats, and special activities, all day

B&N, 2019 Poetry Out of Bounds: a kick-off event for the Houston Poetry Fest featuring Melissa Studdard, many of the festival’s juried poets, and poets from across Texas, 1PM

The Woodlands
B&N, Lost Restaurants of Houston book signing with Paul Galvani, 1PM

Carl and Mary Welhausen Library, Writer's League of Texas workshop: "Texas Writes" with Stacey Swann and Jessica Wilbanks, 10AM

First United Methodist Church, Arts & Letters Live: Ann Patchett presents The Dutch House, 7PM [ticketed event]

Half Price Books Mother Ship, Horror Author Panel: a special All Hallows author panel with four local horror/fantasy authors signing their works, 1PM

B&N - Stonebriar, A Tale of Magic...(B&N Exclusive Edition) book signing with Chris Colfer, 2PM

Inprint House, Taller de escritura con Raquel Abend Van Dalen (with Tintero Projects), 6PM

Half Price Books, Local Author Sundays: meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Michael Earney signing The A to Z Book of Wildflowers, 12PM

Monday, September 23, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar September 23-29, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of September 23-29, 2019 compiled exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life by Texas Book Lover. 

Banned Books Week 2019, nationwide, September 22-28

Texas Tribune Festival, Austin, September 26-28

American Christian Fiction Writers Annual Conference, San Antonio, September 26-29

Pachanga de Palabras, San Antonio, September 28

4th Annual Pflugerville Lib Con, September 28

Monster-Con, San Antonio, September 28-29


Humanities Texas exhibit: Shakespeare, Austin, September 1-October 1

BookPeople, Amy Chaplin discussing and signing Whole Food Cooking Every Day, 7PM

BookWoman, Dr. Faith Harper discussing and signing Unfuck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers, 7PM

The LINE Hotel, American Short Fiction presents Lit City with Jamel Brinkley and Rachel Heng, 7PM

SMU, "The New Lone Star: Societal Revolution and Political Realignment" with author and journalist Richard Parker, 12PM

SMU, Arts & Letters Live: Margaret Atwood discussing The Testaments with Krys Boyd of KERA, 7:30PM [ticketed event - VIP sold out]

Fort Worth
Northwest Library, Banned Books Film Series: The Color Purple, 5PM

B&N - Stonebriar, The Beast book signing with Ally Condie, 6PM


Alley Theatre, Banned Books Week: Banned Together: scenes from shows that have been censored or challenged on America’s stages, 7:30PM

The Ballroom at Bayou Place, World Affairs Council of Greater Houston presents Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis discussing Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, 7PM [ticketed event - sold out]

Blue Willow Bookshop, author Bob Shea and illustrator Zachariah OHora reading and signing their picture book, Who Wet My Pants?, 5PM [kids event]

Christ Church Cathedral, Brazos Bookstore presents Marie Forleo discussing Everything Is Figureoutable, 7PM [sold out]

San Antonio
Trinity University, "Mothers, Daughters And Butterflies": a reading with Reyna Grande, followed by a book signing, 6PM

Twig Book Shop, Oonagh Duncan discussing and signing Healthy as F*ck: The Habits You Need to Get Lean, Stay Healthy, and Kick Ass at Life, 5PM


Central Presbyterian Church, Book People presents Marie Forleo discussing Everything Is Figureoutable (in conversation with Rachel Hollis), 7PM [sold out]

Native Hostel, Austin Poetry Slam hosted by Christopher Michael, 7:15PM

Interabang Books, Heather Harper Ellett reading and signing Ain't Nobody Nobody, 6PM

The Wild Detectives, The Writer's Garret presents a Stone Soup poetry workshop, 7PM

El Paso
B&N - Fountains at Farah, Louis Bodnar signing El Paso Sunrise, 10AM

The Station, Barbed Wire Series Open Mic Night, 8PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Poetry Open Mic, 8PM

East Berry Library, Banned Books Film Series: The Color Purple, 5:15PM

The Black Labrador, Houston Writers House meeting with guest speaker, 6:30PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Trenton Lee Stewart reading and signing The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages, 5PM [kids event]

Brazos Bookstore, Leigh Richards reading and signing Messages from Mooseville, 6:30PM

Murder By the Book, Joelle Charbonneau reading and signing Verify, 6:30PM

San Antonio
The Mix, PuroSlam featuring DJ Donnie Dee, 9:30PM

Trinity University, Willson Lectureship Series: "Racism as Sin: Confessions of a Southern Church Leader" with professor and author William H. Willimon, 7PM

Westfall Library, "Being the Backbone: The Military Spouse Today & Yesterday" with Marian McCarthy, author of Beneath the Wild Blue, 2PM

Spiderhouse Ballroom, the Library Foundation presents Banned Books Bash, a variety show celebrating the right to read, 7PM [ticketed event]

Terrazas Branch Library, Aural Literature Reading with Chicon Street Poets, 7:30PM

B&N - Preston/Royal, Kevin P. Gilheany signing Minding the Helm: An Unlikely Career in the U.S. Coast Guard, 5PM

The Dallas Institute, "The Border: Epicenter of Our Homelands" with journalist and author Alfredo Corchado in conversation with Tom Huang of the Dallas Morning News, 6PM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson discussing and signing Land of Wolves, the latest book in his Longmire mystery series, 7PM

Hotel Crescent Court, World Affairs Council DFW presents the 2019 Mel Kusin National Security Lecture: Michael O’Hanlon discussing and signing The Senkaku Paradox: War Over Small Stakes, 6PM [ticketed event]

Interabang Books, Rashad Jennings reading and signing Arcade and the Golden Travel Guide, 6PM [kids event]

Fort Worth
Texas Christian University, Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies book reception and mini-talks for current publications of faculty, 5PM

Avant Garden, Write About Now Poetry Open Mic featuring April Neal, 7:30PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Meg Cabot reading and signing No Judgments, 7PM

San Antonio
Johnston Library, "Being the Backbone: The Military Spouse Today & Yesterday" with Marian McCarthy, author of Beneath the Wild Blue, 6PM

Austin Book Arts Center, Tunnel Book workshop, 6PM

BookPeople, Cory Allen discussing and signing Now Is the Way, 7PM

Castroville Public Library, Banned Books Week movie: To Kill a Mockingbird, 7PM

Deep Vellum Books, Franzobel reading and signing The Raft of the Medusa, 7PM

Interabang Books, Marion Winik discussing and signing The Big Book of the Dead, 6PM

The Wild Detectives, Carlos Velázquez, el “enfant terrible” de las letras mexicanas, en la presentación de su libro de relatos, Despachador de Pollo Frito, 7:30PM [ Spanish event]

El Paso
B-17 Bombers Oyster Pub, Last Thursdays El Paso presents the Barbed Wire Open Mic Series, 8PM

Brazos Bookstore, Despina Stratogakos discussing and signing Where Are the Women Architects, 6:30PM

Poison Girl, Poison Pen Reading Series featuring Erin Belieu, Madeleine Maillet, and Anthony Sutton, 8:30PM

Rice University, Gray/Wawro Lecture in Gender, Health, and Well-being by author Deirdre Cooper Owens, 6:30PM [reception and book sales 5:30PM]

Sam Houston State, the MFA Program in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing hosts a reading with Elizabeth Cohen, 5PM

Morton Ranch High School PAC, Blue Willow Bookshop presents Rick Riordan reading and discussing The Tyrant's Tomb, 6PM [kids event - sold out]
San Antonio
Confluence Park, Gemini Ink presents the Parabola Community Reading Series featuring Ivelisse Rodriguez and Cyra Dumitru, 7PM

Encino Library, "Being the Backbone: The Military Spouse Today & Yesterday" with Marian McCarthy, author of Beneath the Wild Blue, 1PM

The Twig Book Shop, Jim Lavilla-Havelin and friends present a poetry reading: Enchantment of the Ordinary, 5PM

Urban Alchemy Coffee & Wine Bar, "Read Between the Wines" wine tasting and book signing with Kimberley Packard, C.A. Szarek, Mia London, Vanessa Foster, Susan Sheehey, and Amy Schultz, 3PM

BookPeople, Sandy Carson discussing and signing I've Always Been a Cowboy in My Heart, 5PM

BookWoman, Jann Aldredge-Clanton and Kendra Weddle discussing and signing Building Bridges, 5:30PM

Half Price Books - Southpark Meadows, Keith Rees signing One Night in Bangkok, 2PM
Malvern Books, an evening with poets John Poch and Jacob Shores-Argüello, 7PM

Modern Rocks Gallery, Kevin Cummins signing But I Remember When We Were Young, 3PM

St. Edward's U, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "Ten Steps to a Leaner, Cleaner, Meaner Manuscript" with Tex Thompson, 9AM

St. Edward's U, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "Sparkling Sentences and Glitzy Grammar" with Tex Thompson, 1PM

Twin Oaks Branch, Celebración de la Herencia Hispana with children's author Emma Virján, 11AM

B&N, Robert D. Jacobus discussing and signing Black Man in the Huddle: Stories from the Integration of Texas Football, 2PM

B&N - Lincoln Park, Ruth Chou Simons signing Beholding and Becoming, 2PM

B&N - Preston/Royal, Stacy Newton signing Creatures of the Night, 2PM

Deep Vellum Books, Banned Books Week readings and film screening with Deep Vellum Publishing, 4PM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, Kyle Mills discussing and signing Lethal Agent, the latest book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Mitch Rapp series, 2PM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, 20th Anniversary Celebration with refreshments, live music, and CEO Sharon Anderson Wright, 6PM

Interabang Books, Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger discussing and signing Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different, 1PM

El Paso
B&N - Sunland Park, Watching Wilder book signing with Sherry Lowell-Lewis, 12PM

B&N - Sunland Park, The Fire Keeper (A Storm Runner Novel, Book 2) book signing with J.C. Cervantes, 2PM

El Paso Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop: "100,000 Poets for Change - Our Desert Door: Poems and Spells to Ward off Fascism" with Rachel Achete, 12:45PM

Sergio Troncoso Branch Library, Book group discussion of Sergio Troncoco's From This Wicked Patch of Dust, 2:15PM

Fort Worth
UNT Health Science Center, North Texas SCBWI Tarrent County Area Meet-up featuring an author panel Q&A with Christine Kohler, Jessica S Olson, Janee Trasler, Beth Mills, Kathryn Lay, and Diane Roberts, 1PM

B&N - River Oaks, Ramon Sosa signing I Walked on My Own Grave, 1PM

Brasil Houston, Houston VIP workshop and slam featuring Chibbi, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Rashad Jennings reading and signing Arcade and the Golden Travel Guide, 3PM [kids event]

Brazos Bookstore, (Home)land poetry with Monica Sok and Angela So, 6:30PM

Lakehills Area Library, Writers' League of Texas presents "Texas Writes" with Donna M. Johnson and Naomi Shihab Nye, 10AM

New Braunfels
The Book Haus, House of Aces, in collaboration with local singer-songwriter Hannah Swann, present a night of New Braunfels music, poetry, and art, 7PM

The Blind Pig, Open Mic Night, 7PM

San Antonio
Gemini Ink, "The Creativity of a Narrative Arc": a master class with Ivelisse Rodriguez, 10AM

The Twig Book Shop, Christina Gallegos signing The Goat Climbs High, 11AM

Sugar Land
First Colony Branch Library, Houston Writers Guild Class: How to Research Your Novel with Mack Little, 1:30PM

B&N, Allison Jeffereys signing A Woman's Guide to Surviving Divorce, 2PM

B&N, Freddy Cruz signing When America Fell Silent, 1PM

B&N - Preston/Royal, Meet the authors of Brain Damaged: Two-Minute Warning for Parents, 1PM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, Dallas-native poet Sara Bawany signing (W)holehearted, and Dallas-native poet Linda Ann Suddarth signing The Hidden Wilderness, 1PM

The Wild Detectives, Backyard Storytelling Night, 7:30PM [submit your story here]

El Paso
Literarity Book Shop, Sergio Troncoso reading and signing A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son, 4PM

Fort Worth
Central Library, Banned Books Film Series: To Kill a Mockingbird, 2PM

B&N - Vanderbilt Square, Freddy Cruz signing When America Fell Silent, 2PM

Brazos Bookstore, Attica Locke reading and signing Heaven, My Home, 5PM [happy hour 4PM]

Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School, Inprint Cool Brains! Series presents Meg Medina and Merci Suárez Changes Gears (with the bilingual Inprint Poetry Buskers and Jasminne Mendez of Tintero Projects), 3PM

Murder By the Book, Kyle Mills reading and signing Lethal Agent, 2PM

Half Price Books, children's and suspense author Deanna King signing her children’s book, Gracie's Stories, as well as her suspense novel, Twist of Fate, 1PM

Drawing Board, Writing Workshops Dallas seminar: "How to Write Flash Fiction" with Eden Elieff, 3PM

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Banned Books Week 2019

Banned Books Week 2019 is September 22-28. Go here for Texas events, books banned in Texas prisons, and the latest report on book bans and challenges in Texas schools.

Thanks to the ALA for the poster.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


I reviewed To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel (Mutt Press) by Austin's Scott Semegran for Lone Star Literary Life. Semegran lures you in with a combination of sardonic wit and slapstick comedy, but before you know it, you’re contemplating issues of money, class, media, politics, the social contract, and the many possible definitions of success.

Scott Semegran
To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel
Mutt Press
Paperback (also available in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook), 978-0-9997-1738-7, 330 pgs., $15.99
February 1, 2019
“If any animal has a system of laws regulating the body politic, it is certainly the prairie dog.”—George Wilkins Kendall, Texan Santa Fe Expedition
J.D. Wiswall is an earnest and modestly ambitious young man from Brady (“The Heart of Texas”) come to seek his fortune in Austin, the blue beating heart hosting Texas state government. Wiswall is the newest data-entry clerk in the Texas Department of Unemployment and Benefits. His new colleagues are Rita Jackson, den mother; Deborah Martinez, policy-and-procedures manual expert; and Conchino Gonzalez, gearhead who texts his coworkers instead of speaking aloud (mostly). On his first day on the job, Wiswall stumbles across his new boss, Brent Baker (guitarist and layabout), passed out behind the Vietnam veterans’ monument on the capitol grounds.

Each of these characters has wants and needs beyond what their lives have been able to afford them, and money is in short supply. A flyer tacked to the office bulletin board sets up the inspiration and ensuing conflict:

$10,000 REWARD
For the best suggestion that saves the State of Texas money and time.
Do YOU have any ideas?

Jackson explains to Wiswall that the office has an agreement to share the reward should any of them come up with a winning suggestion. It’s that or the lottery, for which they have an ongoing office pool.

To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel is the latest book of comedic literary fiction from Austin’s Scott Semegran. This new novel is entertaining and thought-provoking. Semegran lures you in with a combination of sardonic wit and slapstick comedy, but before you know it, you’re contemplating issues of money, class, media, politics, the social contract, and the many possible definitions of success.

Semegran’s characters are diverse, working-class, complex, and supplied with backstories that inform their actions and motivations. The office cast is a collection of ordinary eccentrics who, as we all know, make the world go round. Wiswall, who I think is on the spectrum somewhere, is an innocent neophyte, seemingly a novice to the twenty-first century, though he is oddly suited to Austin, where he insists on risking life and limb riding his bicycle to work from his “backyard shack” in Hyde Park. “Even when he cussed in his mind, his cussing was toned down [Dang it!] as if someone might hear him.”

The governor of Texas is part LBJ and faux-gold-plated. “You know, Austin is a cesspool of progressives and liberals! But, where you find liberals, you will also find craft products. And liberals distill a fine whiskey.” The governor’s press conferences are parody, descending into what we used to think was farce before it became reality. Meanwhile, the media bosses are focused on clicks that deliver real gold.

Semegran has a distinctive, sly style, but he’s not a one-trick writer. His pacing is steady and generally quick, plot twists are surprising, and he knows how to close a circle. The scenes between Jackson and her adult children and grandchildren are genuinely touching, even if they often “warmed her heart to help … even though it uneased her mind.” Martinez, with her ungrateful adult offspring, car-title loan, and red wine, elicits not just sympathy but real concern from the reader.

Kudos to Semegran and team for an original, hilarious cover design, though a copyedit would benefit the next printing. My only quibble with Semegran’s writing is his habit of over-explaining: “[Baker] was diligently writing on sheets of paper, but what the others couldn’t see was that he was drawing doodles of cartoon ducks, not writing anything of importance.” Trust your reader.

The sugar ants in the office are a fitting metaphor for those individuals considered small and insignificant but who march along and get things done. They are also a cautionary tale, easily diverted from the nutritious and filling by the temporary sugar high of cheap carbs—crumbs that distract from the feast. There is no jobs ladder—it’s a pyramid. As Jackson muses, “… it was hard to pull yourself up by bootstraps when you couldn’t afford the boots …”

To Squeeze a Prairie Dog concludes on just the right note and contains depths you won’t expect.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar September 16-22, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of September 16-22, 2019 compiled exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life by Texas Book Lover. 

Big Texas Comicon, San Antonio, September 20-22

FenCon XVI: Gateway to the Future, Irving, September 20-22

DFW Literary SoulFEST, Fort Worth, September 21

Banned Books Week 2019, nationwide, September 22-28


Humanities Texas exhibit: Shakespeare, Austin, September 1-October 1

BookWoman, Matthew Riemer discussing and signing We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation (in conversation with Curran Nault), 7PM

Resource Center, World Affairs Council DFW presents Bob Satawake discussing and signing Breaking Protocol, 6:30PM

El Paso
B&N - Fountains at Farah, #ElPasoStrong Author Event with Brian Vukadinovich & R.A. Monday, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Dina Nayeri discussing and signing The Ungrateful Refugee, 6:30PM

Cullen Performance Hall, Inprint's Margarett Root Brown Reading Series presents Colson Whitehead reading from The Nickel Boys, followed by an interview with Houston author Bryan Washington, plus a book sale and signing, 7:30PM [ticketed event]

Rice University, author Dr. Sami Schalk presents "504 and Beyond: The Disability Politics of the Black Panther Party," 4PM

Richardson Public Library, Writers Guild of Texas workshop: "Strong Female Characters" with Melissa Lenhardt, 7PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Christopher Phillips, PhD. discussing and signing A Child at Heart: Unlocking Your Creativity, Curiosity, and Reason at Every Age and Stage of Life, 5PM

BookPeople, Lara Prescott reading and signing The Secrets We Kept (in conversation with Elizabeth McCracken), 7PM

Native Hostel, Austin Poetry Slam Quarterfinal 2019 hosted by Jomar Valentin, 7:15PM

Dallas Museum of Art, Arts & Letters Live presents Tracy Chevalier reading and signing A Single Thread, 7:30PM

Hotel Crescent Court, World Affairs Council DFW presents "Declassified: Secret Literature" with Lea Carpenter, 6PM

Interabang Books, Esteban Rodriguez reading from and signing his poetry collection, Dusk and Dust, 6PM

El Paso
The Back Orchid Lounge, Barbed Wire Open Mic Series presents: Writers & Músicos for Migrant Justice, 9PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Poetry Open Mic, 8PM

Bohemeo's, Glass Mountain reading and open mic, 7PM

The Hub, A special presentation, Q&A, and signing with Ralph Bivins on his new book, Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up, 8AM

Round Rock
Round Rock Public Library, get the buzz on forthcoming books with Penguin Random House at Book Buzz, 7PM

San Antonio
The Mix, PuroSlam featuring DJ Donnie Dee, 9:30PM

The Twig Book Shop, David Odle reading and signing Markus, 5PM

BookPeople, Rachel Brathen discussing and signing To Love and Let Go, 7PM [ticketed event]

Carver Library, Workshop: Come As You Are Writing Series: "Writing Your Truth" with Badgerdog's Mac Irvine, 6:30PM

Ransom Center, Poetry on the Plaza: Actors from the London Stage, 12PM

Malvern Books, Why There Are Words Austin reading series featuring “Silver Linings” with Kathryn Schwille, Kristen Staby Rembold, Mark Solomon, Marian Szczepanski, Joanna Howerton, and Michael Cross, 7PM

Monkeywrench Books, ATX Interfaces reading and open mic featuring annalyse gelman, Loyce Gayo, and Nour Al Ghraowi, 7PM

Lone Star College, Montgomery County Literary Council presents poet David Baker, 7PM

George W. Bush Presidential Center, U.S. Supreme Court justice. Justice Neil Gorsuch discussing his upcoming book, A Republic, If You Can Keep It, 6:30PM [ ticketed event]

Interabang Books, Denaye Barahona discussing and signing Simple Happy Parenting, 6PM

SMU, The Bridge Builder Lectures: "The Bridge of Faith and Religion: The Necessity of Viewpoint Diversity in American Higher Education" with author Eboo Patel, 12PM [ticketed event]

SMU, The Bridge Builder Lectures: "The Bridge of Politics: Anger, Mourning and Empathy in American Politics" with author Dr. Arlie Hochschild, 7PM [ticketed event]

SMU, The Bridge Builder Lectures: "The Bridge of Racial Difference" with author W. Kamau Bell, 7PM [sold out]

Fort Worth
Texas Christian University, 7th Annual Crossroads Lecture on Faith and Public Life: activist Mary DeMuth, author of We Too: How the Church can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis, 7PM

Avant Garden, Write About Now Poetry Slam featuring Teresa Johnson, 7:30PM

B&N - Legacy West, Open-Mic Poetry Night, 7PM

San Antonio
University of the Incarnate Word, Looking back at "No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed" and Co-creating the Future": a panel including author Dr. Cynthia Orozco, 6:30PM

University of Texas, 2nd Annual Human Library, 12PM

University of Texas, Maverick Speakers Series: "The State of the American Presidency" with Bob Woodward, 7:30PM [ticketed event]

BookPeople, Bridget Farr reading and signing Pavi Sharma's Guide to Going Home, 6:30PM [kids event]

BookPeople, Writers' League of Texas presents "Learning to Write by Watching TV?" with Wendi Aarons, Samantha M. Clark, Eugene Fischer, and Scott Von Doviak, 7PM

BookWoman, Hilah Johnson discussing and signing The Little Local Texas Cookbook, 7PM

grayDUCK Gallery, The Literary Witches Oracle launch party with Taisia Kitaiskaia and Katy Horan, 7PM

LBJ Library, the Tom Johnson Lectureship presents U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, discussing A Republic, If You Can Keep It, 6PM

Plaza Colombian Coffee, Corazón, a fundraiser for Resistencia Bookstore/Red Salmon Arts: silent arts and crafts auction and readings featuring Carmen Tafolla, Oscar Casares, Natalia Sylvester, ire’ne lara silva, Alejandro Puyana, Leticia Urieta, and Marilyse Figueroa, 7PM

Ransom Center, "Why Should We Read Ezra Pound?" with author Daniel Swift, 4PM

College Station
Texas A&M, Halbert W. Hall Speaker Series on Science Fiction and Fantasy: Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author Rebecca Roanhorse presenting “Diverse Voices in Speculative Short Fiction,” 5:30PM

Corpus Christi
Texas A&M, Windward Review reception, reading, and open mic, 6PM

Ashton Gardens, TWU Nancy P. and Thaddeus E. Paup Lecture Series: author and former Secret Service agent Kathryn Childers, 7:30AM

Interabang Books, Lara Prescott reading and signig The Secrets We Kept, 6PM

UT Dallas, Anlin Ku Lecture Series: "The Woman Who Could Not Forget" with Dr. Ying-Ying Chang discussing her daughter, author Iris Chang, and her works, 7:30PM

Brazos Bookstore, an evening of poetry with Joseph Campana and David Baker, 6:30PM

Gallery Sonja Roesch, official book release of Ariane Roesch's memoir and how-to guide, How to Build: a House, a Life, a Future, 6PM

Private home, Conversations from a Page hosting the Houston book launch for Mary Laura Philpott's I Miss You When I Blink and Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire, 8:30AM

Texas Tech, TTU Creative Writing Program Reading Series presents Nick White, 7:30PM

San Antonio
Gemini Ink, Gemini Ink Literary Programs Director Patrick Stockwell launches The Light Here Changes Everything, 2018 winner of Texas Review Press’s Clay Reynolds Novella Prize (with special guest reader Florinda Flores-Brown), 7PM

Parman Library, "Legendary Monsters in Texas" with author Ken Gerhard, followed by a book signing, 6:30PM

The Twig Book Shop, Kathryn Schwille discussing and signing What Luck, This Life, 5PM

San Marcos
Texas State University, the Lindsey Literary Series presents a reading with Luis J. Rodríguez, 3:30PM

Sulphur Springs
The Bookworm Box, Lilly Wilde Author Takeover, 7PM

Front Street Books, Raymond Caballero reading and signing McCarthyism vs. Clinton Jencks, 6PM

University of Texas, Friends of the Libraries presents Julie Kibler, author of Home for Erring and Outcast Girls, 7:30PM
BookPeople, Jonathan Safran Foer discussing and We Are the Weather (in conversation with Megan Kimble from the Texas Observer), 7PM [ticketed event]

Dallas Baptist University, Arts & Letters Live and the World Affairs Council DFW present General Jim Mattis, 26th United States Secretary of Defense, discussing and signing Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, 7:30PM [ticketed event]

Deep Vellum Books, poet Amanda Galvan Huynh reading and signing Songs of Brujería, 7PM

Heroes Lounge, Dallas Poetry Slam presents Wayne Henry, 8PM

The Wild Detectives, punk rock legend John Doe (X) reading and discussing his latest book, More Fun in the New World, 7:30PM

El Paso
Fahrenheit 180, Barbed Wire Series Open Mic, 8PM

Brazos Bookstore, Gretchen Hirsch discussing and signing Gertie Sews Jiffy Dresses, 6:30PM
Murder By the Book, Nevada Barr reading and signing What Rose Forgot, 6:30PM

Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, the KAP reading series presents Luis J. Rodríguez, 7:30PM

Port Neches
Fleur Fine Books, Dan Schilling author meet & greet, 5PM

San Antonio
Franky Diablos, PuroSlam Roadshow, 7PM

Our Lady of the Lake University, Anthony Head discussing and signing Spirit: The Life and Art of Jesse Treviño, 7PM

The Twig Book Shop, W. Caleb McDaniel discussing and signing Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America, 5PM

B&N - Town Square, Frank Gertcher signing his murder mystery series, 12PM

BookPeople, Guest story time with Mary Sullivan, author of My Name Is Wakawakaloch!, 10:30AM
BookPeople, Amy Long discussing and signing Codependence (in conversation with Amy Gentry), 2PM

BookPeople, Ian Brennan discussing and signing Silenced By Sound, 6PM

Carver Library, Austin Poetry Society meeting featuring guest speaker Joyce Gullickson, poet, co-producer of the Georgetown Poetry Festival, and editor of Blue Hole, 1:30PM

Malvern Books, L.B. Deyo reading and signing The God-Damned Fool, 7PM

St. Edward's U, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "Layering: A Structured Approach to Revision" with Chaitali Sen, 10AM


McCulloch County Library, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "Texas Writes" with Meg Gardiner and Rachel Starnes, 10AM


Dallas Museum of Art, Arts & Letters Live presents Ben Folds reading and signing his first book and memoir, A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons, 7:30PM

Interabang Books, Gerardo Delgadillo reading and signing Fractalistic, 1PM

Pan African Connection, Brandi Brown launches The Masked Verity, 1PM

El Paso
El Paso Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop: "Pick an e-Equanimity, Enlightenment, Emancipation" with Lucy Hopple, 12:45PM

El Paso Public Library, Meet Texas football legend and author Robert "Radar" Holt, 4:30PM

Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen Center, local author Edward Graves signing It Took What It Took, 12PM

Haltom City
Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum, Half Price Books and Scholastic present award-winning New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Dav Pilkey in celebration of the release of his newest book, Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls, 2PM [sold out]

Blue Willow Bookshop, Jennifer Mathieu launches The Liars of Mariposa Island, her new novel for teens, 1PM
Writespace, Workshop: "The Ins and Outs of Great Sex Scenes" with Marian Szczepanski, 9:30AM

Writespace, Workshop: "Worldbuilding" with Charlotte Wyatt, 1PM

East Branch Library, Hispanic heritage celebration featuring author Claudia Rueda, 2:30PM

B&N, Robert D. Jacobus discussing and signing Black Man in the Huddle: Stories from the Integration of Texas Football, 2PM

Port Neches
Fleur Fine Books, Rie Anders author meet & greet, 3PM

San Antonio
Institute of Texan Cultures, Mary S. Black discussing and signing Secrets in the Dirt: Uncovering the Ancient People of Gault, 11AM

The Twig Book Shop, Erik Mehlen signing Did Dinosaurs Have Dentists? and Do Penguins Have Pediatricians?, 10:30AM [kids event]

B&N - Town Square, Margaret Bryant signing Who Rescued Whom, 1PM

B&N - Preston/Royal, Frank Gertcher signing books from his murder mystery series, 11AM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, Dallas-native poet David Gibbons signing Frayed, and Dallas-native author Allison Catalani signing her new healthy cookbook, Sweeten Your Day The Healthy Way, 1PM

Interabang Books, Rosemary Wells reading and signing Max and Ruby and Twin Trouble, 1PM [kids event]

Fort Worth
Central Library, Banned Books Film Series: The Lord of the Rings, 2PM

Leaves, An Afternoon with Authors featuring Misty Hayes, D.H. Jonathan, Deanna King, and Lori Ann Stephens, 2PM

B&N - Town & Country, Healthy as F*ck: The Habits You Need to Get Lean, Stay Healthy, and Kick Ass at Life book signing with Oonagh Duncan, 1:30PM

Writespace, Workshop: "Finding The Right Voice in your Writing" with Joy Preble, 3PM

Drawing Board, Writing Workshops Dallas seminar: "Author Platform 101: Building Your Brand without Selling Your Soul" with JR Forasteros, 3PM