Bound for D.C.

San Antonio Book Festival’s literary director leaves to write new chapter in his career

SA Book Fest’s literary director writes new chapter in his career

Clay Smith
Clay Smith is closing the book on San Antonio for a move to the Library of Congress. San Antonio Book Festival/Instagram

The literary director of the San Antonio Book Festival is closing one chapter and opening a new one.

The festival announced October 6 that Clay Smith, who’s been the organization’s literary director since its inception in 2012, is leaving effective October 8 to take on a new role. Smith has been named chief of literary initiatives at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. — arguably the country’s most prominent library.

During his tenure with the festival, Smith boosted the number of participating writers from 40 to more than 200. High-profile writers he recruited include Ann Patchett, Sonia Manzano, Lawrence Wright, Luis Alberto Urrea, Jason Reynolds, Jorge Ramos, and Tayari Jones. Smith also introduced new cultural programs to San Antonio, such as Literary Death Match and The Moth Mainstage.

“Clay has left an indelible imprint on our book festival over the last 10 years,” Lilly Gonzalez, the festival’s executive director, says in a news release. “His gift in selecting books and writers that captivate San Antonio audiences got us to our 10th anniversary. We are both undeniably sad to lose him and eternally grateful that he lent us his talents for as long as he did.”

The 10th annual San Antonio Book Festival is set for May 21, 2022.

Before joining the festival full time, Smith worked with the festival on a part-time basis while serving as the editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews, one of the country’s top book review publications. Before that, he was the book editor at the Austin Chronicle and literary director of the Austin-based Texas Book Festival.

At the Library of Congress, Smith will guide the yearly National Book Festival and will oversee literary activities such as the U.S. poet laureate program. The chief of literary initiatives also serves as the library’s literary expert.

“It’s a bittersweet moment leaving the San Antonio Book Festival,” Smith says. “I take a lot of pride in helping to found the festival, and I leave some of my heart here in San Antonio with the staff, volunteers, and audience that make this festival unique and really quite special among America’s book festivals. The opportunity to program events for the Library of Congress was a strong motivation for me.”