austin teen book festival

Instead of jumping right into all of the Austin Teen Book Festival fun I encountered this weekend, I’m going to start with the second most important thing that happened in Austin. Because dude. I visited the actual Friday Night Lights football field that the actual Panthers played on where they actually filmed the show!

Friday Night Lights Panther field in Austin, TX

As soon as my plane landed in Austin, I started asking everyone about Friday Night Lights filming locations. No one knew where the real field was. Until my driver picked me up for my plane ride home. He knew everything. He had even driven lots of the actors from the show (yes, including Taylor Kitsch, or Tim Riggins as I will always and forever think of him).

The football field was on the way to the airport. As we approached this random, dusty little road, I could see the stadium lights above the trees. I could not believe I was seeing the real Friday night lights! The field was overgrown with weeds because they finished filming a while ago, but everything still looked completely familiar. The Panther colors were still there, which had been painted over the original school colors of the Cardinals. The school has been shut down for years. You could see the old colors on a side of the field house that was never filmed for the show, and then the Panther colors everywhere else.

Friday Night Lights Panther Fieldhouse in Austin, TX

I walked up to the field with the theme song playing in my head and the chills I always get when I hear it. I’m not embarrassed to tell you that I almost burst into tears right there. I mean, this is where Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen and Coach and everyone dominated. This is where they were. But I did feel a little embarrassed in front of the driver, so I played it off like I had something in my eye.

It was really, really hard to leave.

Of course, the most important part of my trip was getting to connect with everyone at the Austin Teen Book Festival. Those readers are incredible! The place was charged with excitement the whole time. Ellen Hopkins gave an amazing keynote address. I loved that she read letters from readers. The ways in which a book inspires you or changes your life or helps you work through problems is the most powerful statement an author can make. It was so exciting to finally meet Ellen, along with author rock stars Ally Carter and Melissa de la Cruz. Here I am with Ally, Melissa, and Ellen at dinner after the festival:

Ally Carter, Melissa de la Cruz, Ellen Hopkins, and Susane Colasanti

Lots of people drove two or three hours each way just to be there. And they brought gifts. Shout-outs to Nani for making me a shiny gold star; BookPeople for the Keep Austin Weird sticker and for doing an overall amazing job; my teen escort, Julia, for making sure I didn’t get lost (Westlake HS is enormous!); and Girls in the Stacks for giving me the best peanut brittle in the whole entire world. Much love goes out to everyone who helped make the festival such a success!

I had a little time to explore Austin the night before. While I was walking to the deli Sandra Bullock owns, someone thought I was her! Which was very meta (and hilarious). The deli is called Walton’s Fancy and Staple and it’s the cutest thing ever. The guy working there told me Sandra’s there a lot. I think it’s cool that she’s so involved. There’s lots of flowers and pastries her sister makes and cozy areas like this one:

Walton's Fancy and Staple

After Walton’s, I had to go to Whole Foods. It’s the second largest Whole Foods in the world (London has the largest). I cannot describe the enormity of that Whole Foods. It was intense. I got lost looking for water. They even had an entire cupcake counter! At the festival, I heard that you can go up on the roof and everything. Obviously, I must return to Austin. See you again, city that’s proud to be weird!

21 thoughts on “austin teen book festival

  1. I’m so glad you had a good time in Austin! =)
    That’s amazing you got to see the FNL field! It’s weird that you mention having the theme song in your head, because before I read that part as I was reading and looking at the pics I had the song in my head, too!
    Now, the important question: did you get to read Catching Fire, and if so, what did you think??

    • I cannot tell you how happy I am that I was there. I was just talking to the driver, thinking that there was no way I could see the real field since I was on my way home. Of course the field was on the way to the airport! And of course he knew right where it was! Good looking out, Universe.
      Yes, I’m reading Catching Fire now. Cannot believe the developments. I’ll have to blog about it and Mockingjay when I finish them. So far, The Hunger Games had a stronger hold over me. I think this is true of any series – the first is always way better. That said, Catching Fire is still amazing 😀

  2. So glad you came and had a good time! They make casting calls for FNL extras all the time. Maybe you should consider….moving? Great to meet you!
    ~Jen Bigheart
    I Read Banned Books

  3. The cover for So Much Closer is my favorite out of all your covers. The idea was amazing! It makes me want to read it anymore. I know were you planning on reveaing it on here, but it’s out I saw it on another blog. It’s beautiful!!

    • Thanks for letting me know! No worries – ideally I’d be the first to reveal the cover or my publisher would have a page to link to, but so far I’ve always found out that my covers have been released from readers. Which makes it even more exciting, especially since you like the cover!

  4. I keep coming back, haha. Axtually your cover reminds me the picture you had posted on ehre awhile ago with you and your friend looking at the lights for the twin towers. It gives me that feeling of hope when I look at it. Seriously beautiful idea and cover!

  5. thanks for coming to visit us! i had no idea you blogged until i read sarah dessen’s entry about you. ha! my students had a wonderful time, and it was such a phenomenal experience for them. one of my kids took 7 pages of notes about what writers do! my teacher heart exploded!


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