Lilly Gonzalez Named San Antonio Book Festival’s New Executive Director

  • January 21, 2019
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Lilly Gonzalez Named San Antonio Book Festival’s New Executive Director - San Antonio Book Festival

The San Antonio Book Festival (SABF) marked a new chapter in its seven-year history as it announced its first change in leadership since its founding.

Lilly Gonzalez was named executive director, succeeding founding executive director Katy Flato. Gonzalez previously served as the Book Festival’s deputy executive director. She joined the SABF team as communications director in 2015.

“Lilly’s educational and professional experiences make her the ideal executive director who will preserve the quality and broaden the impact of the San Antonio Book Festival,” said Cathy Obriotti Green, outgoing chairman of SABF’s board of managers.

Lilly Gonzalez moderating a session with Luis Alberto Urrea at the 6th annual SABF on April 7, 2018.

SABF was founded as the signature program of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation in 2012 with the Texas Book Festival, the Central Library and the Southwest School of Art as founding partners. Since its inaugural festival in April 2013, SABF has undergone tremendous growth: 64 authors and 4,000 festival goers in 2013 to 96 authors and 22,000 festival goers in 2018. Over the course of the past six years, SABF staff has expanded Festival programming to include the Get Lit Author Series, which brings renowned authors such as Alfredo Corchado, Mark Bittman, Mimi Swartz, and Julian Castro to San Antonio outside of the one day of the Festival; The Moth Mainstage, an internationally acclaimed storytelling program that features five storytellers telling true stories on stage without notes; Book It! luncheons, which feature four opportunities for Festival attendees to dine with a Festival author over an intimate lunch with eight guests on the day of the Festival; and the singular Festival fundraising event, the Book Appétit Literary Feast, the kickoff luncheon on the Friday before the Festival that has showcased Ann Patchett, Paula Poundstone, and for 2019, Ron Chernow.

Gonzalez said her charge will be to continue steering the Festival toward success and deepening its impact among San Antonio youth.

“The challenge will be in responding to the Festival’s incredible growth in a way that keeps it true to its San Antonio feel and charm,” Gonzalez said. “We also do terrific, important work in Title I schools, where we bring Festival authors to deliver presentations to students. There is such value in exposing disadvantaged youth to the power of books; I am living proof of that. I want to be sure the Book Festival is doing its part to build a city of young readers.”

Katy Flato moderating at the 6th annual SABF
A new executive director is not the only leadership change for the Book Festival this year. Flato will be assuming the role of chairman of the Festival’s board of managers, which is growing from seven to nine members. Green, Martin Acevedo, Carmen Goldberg, James Lifshutz, Chuck Parrish, Josie Seeligson, Leland Stone, Jordan Vexler Shannon, and Katy Flato comprise SABF’s new board.

“From the moment I met Lilly, I knew she would be the one to take over the running of the Festival,” said Flato. “Lilly knows how books and libraries can change lives because they changed hers. She continues to be a passionate and knowledgeable reader with keen discernment. Her years of experience working in Chicago at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; volunteering at the Chicago Humanities Festival and literary journals; her journalism and creative writing background; and her life-long passion for reading all add up to the perfect champion of San Antonio’s most successful and important annual literary event, serving all of Bexar County. It is safe to say that SABF is in excellent hands and Lilly will adroitly take the Festival to the next level. We are all lucky that Chicago’s miserable winters drove Lilly and her partner Ray back to Texas.”

SABF will be releasing its author lineup on February 7 for its 7th annual Book Festival, which will be held on April 6, 2019, once again at the Central Library and Southwest School of Art. Tables for the Book Appétit Literary Feast featuring Ron Chernow, the Pulitzer Prize winning biographer who penned Hamilton and, more recently, Grant, are available for purchase here. Tickets for The Moth Mainstage will go on sale next month.

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