A Literary Night Out at Brazos Bookstore

by Victoria McClendon-Leggett

We arrived at Brazos Bookstore in Houston early and had time to leisurely scan through a few books….

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

…before authors Barbara Shapiro and Tim Johnston showed up.

They arrived in a happy mood, introducing themselves and talking a bit about their latest books. For Johnston, this was The Current, a novel centered around a car accident which is conceptually similar to his previous  work, Descent. Shapiro’s latest work is The Collector’s Apprentice, a novel set in 1922 that deals with art theft, mystery, and “a bit of romance.” After speaking briefly about their newest works, they talked a little about themselves and their careers. Johnston shared with us that he has an MFA, but was working as a carpenter prior to writing his first breakout book…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

and Shapiro who has a PhD in Sociology told us that she quit a high-pressure job to pursue writing novels after a conversation with her mother.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

The two got along very well, and seemed to enjoy each other’s company and the crowd.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

Shapiro is a planner, outlining her novels extensively and even creating a color-coded notecard system.  Johnston described himself as a “pantser,” which is an author who flies by the seat of his pants.  He begins the novel with an event and characters, and then works through things to see how they turn out.

They were also different presenters.  Shapiro was very demonstrative…

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…expansively emphasizing her points with hand gestures and facial expressions.

Meanwhile, Johnston was a minimalist…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

…more introspective and displaying an economy of movement.

But the two meshed well.  When Shapiro described her publication history, noting that her first several books didn’t sell, she was thankful for her husband, and emphasized that beginning writers need a partner who “has a salary and benefits.”  Johnston quietly said, “Ah, I need a partner with a salary and benefits.”

Alas, both a highly successful now, making quite a nice living from the royalties on their books, although Tim Johnston still teaches Creative Writing at the University of Memphis.

After the discussion we had a chance to get a few books signed by the two authors who were also kind enough to pose for a group photo with us!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

indeed, with the event being so much fun, the book store manager asked the entire audience to pose for a photo with the authors.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

With Shapiro’s book being (partly) set in France, we headed a few streets over to dinner at nearby Sweet Paris Crêperie, which offers excellent service, good crepes, and amazing milk shakes.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Sweet Paris Crepes

We filed in and ordered our crêpes at the register, and they were brought to us at our table as they were ready. There was a variety of sweet and savory crêpes available at the restaurant, but as it was well into dinnertime everyone among us decided to go with savory.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Sweet Paris Crepes

Makayla tried ham and gruyere, and I had the Alaskan crêpes, which were stuffed with smoked salmon, pickled red onions, capers, and scrambled eggs, and were topped with dill sour cream and scallions. For dessert, we ordered milkshakes to go.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Sweet Paris Crepes

The best flavor by far was Makayla’s Nutella graham cracker shake or the Reese’s shake, enjoyed by Professor Yawn and Stephanie.

With sweet treats in hand, we headed back to Huntsville a little bit smarter and a lot more full.

 

Privacy in the 21st Century: Cyrus Farivar

Brazos Book Store is a LEAP Ambassador favorite. This cozy book store host a number of events every month and we love making our way to Houston for a fun evening out.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics , Brazos Bookstore, Cyrus Farivar, Habeas Data

Cyrus Farivar is a Senior Tech Policy Reporter at Ars Technica, as well as an author and radio producer. His second book, Habeas Data, is about the U.S. cases over the last 50 years that have had an impact on surveillance and privacy.SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics , Brazos Bookstore, Cyrus Farivar, Habeas Data

During his book talk, he painted a picture of events that unfolded and eventually lead to some of the most important privacy and surveillance case decisions.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics , Brazos Bookstore, Cyrus Farivar, Habeas Data

It was so interesting to hear about a tracking device used to find a meth lab or big and bulky recorders inside of phone booths used to capture illegal gambling and how the placement of such devices, timing, and not having a warrant can all effect whether the evidence was legally obtained.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics , Brazos Bookstore, Cyrus Farivar, Habeas Data

The most interesting part was when Cyrus was reading a excerpt from his book. It was describing the events of a supreme court case that took place 10 years ago where a justice speculated about a future where all vehicles have a GPS. Now, we all carry around GPS systems in the palm of our hands with cell phones.

 

After the interesting book talk, Cyrus signed our books and spoke with usSHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics , Brazos Bookstore, Cyrus Farivar, Habeas Data.

As we made our way to Azuma for dinner, the car was filled with chatter about the surveillance technology and privacy, and this was a discussion we continued at one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. 

We love to order family style appetizers and entrees and share so that we can try more food.  We ordered a sample of 10 skewers that included 8 meats and 2 vegetables such as black cod, steak, and peppers.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Azuma

For our main meal, we asked the waiter to give us 5 different of his favorite sushi rolls. He did a great job and we enjoyed the rolls he picked for us.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Azuma

Full from raw fish, rice, and soy sauce, we made our way back to Huntsville.

National Book Awards at SHSU: 2018

by Bianca Saldierna

The National Book Awards Festival returned to Sam Houston State University this April as part of an annual tradition. The NBAF–sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing, and spearheaded by Amanda Nowlin-Obanion–brought three recent NBA finalist and winners to our university.

This year, Lisa Ko, Danez Smith, and Jason Reynolds joined us for a reception and a mainstage reading & discussion which was free and open to the public. Jason Reynolds, a New York Times bestselling author, was the 2016 Finalist in Young People’s Literature for his book Ghost and the 2017 Finalist for his book Long Way Down.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, National Book Awards at SHSU, Jason Reynolds

Danez Smith was the 2017 Finalist in poetry for Don’t Call Us Dead. Lisa Ko, was the 2017 Finalist in Fiction for her book The Leavers.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, National Book Awards at SHSU, Lisa Ko

The LEAP Ambassadors are always honored to have the opportunity to meet inspiring and talented people such as these authors.

For the reception, Beatriz and I joined the visiting authors and several important and well-known community and university figures such as President Dana Hoyt, Mayor Andy Brauninger, Provost Dick Eglsaer, Vice Provost Mary Robbins, Dean Phillip Lyons, and LEAP’s life-long friends, the Woodwards! Throughout the evening, we enjoyed the delicious finger food and interesting conversations that echoed through the room. Certainly, attending to the reception served us well, as we are a few weeks away from graduation and we needed people who inspired us to live our lives more fully and creatively!

Thank you to the organizers for all their hard work and for giving us the opportunity to attend share an evening with them.

 

Talking History with Stephen Harrigan

by Brian Aldaco

Not long ago, the LEAP Ambassadors traveled to Austin, TX, and interviewed Best Selling Author, Stephen Harrigan, which Michael Foster’s wonderful crew turned into video trailer for Let’s Talk.

Already having a relationship with Harrigan and knowing much about him, we were looking forward to visiting with him again.

The Ambassadors, along with bright students interested in hearing from Mr. Harrigan, gathered at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Holcombe Room. With a wonderful top-floor view of campus, we shared and insightful conversation with Mr. Harrigan. We were familiar with his Texas Historical Fiction works and were already amazed by his writing.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo

However, his latest project had us all captivated; a multi-volume collection of Texas’s History commissioned by UT Press.  The book isn’t yet out–in April he was working on the 1970s and 1980s–but UT Press did release what amounts to a preview of the book, “They Came From the Sky.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo, They Came From the Sky

Through our conversation we were granted a glimpse of the amazing stories of our state’s past this new project will include. From comical anecdotes, like Eastland’s Old RIP, to the tragedies that have also shaped Texas, such as Charles Whitman’s UT shooting, Mr. Harrigan provided an in-depth overview of some of the most interesting events throughout the years.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo

Our now fully accomplished guest also shared his reputation-building experience from when he was a young writer in Austin. He mentioned that when he sent his first article proposal, he was amazed when the magazine publishers accepted it. Although he was shocked, he eventually wrote his article and a month later received his first writing pay-check from none other than “Rolling Stone.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo

We were all thankful that we got a chance to speak with Mr. Harrigan. After we finished our conversation, we grabbed our copies of his latest publication “They Came from the Sky” (a preview of his soon to come history of Texas) and asked for the author’s autograph. The LEAPsters will wait in anticipation for his epic publication , but there was no need to say a definite goodbye to Mr. Harrigan as we would see him later that day at SHSU’s Let’s Talk.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo