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The Texas Bookshelf is for single, specific books' reviews and author interviews . The Texas Parlor ranges more broadly than my other websites. The Young Texas Reader focuses on the youngest through teenagers. Texas Blog Notes surveys blogs of historical and literary interest. I've started a Will's Texana Youtube collecting channel where 1,000 videos are collected in 100 playlists . Find Will in Houston or at willstexana {at} yahoodotcom

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Introduction to the Texas Institute of Letters

An Introduction to the Texas Institute of Letters

(July 2007 issue of Will's Texana Monthly)

Upon discovering there was no readily available simple listing of winners of the Texas Institute of Letters annual awards, I set out to close the gap. Darwin Payne, one such award winner, now at SMU and also secretary of TIL offered large blocks of citations which I augmented and fininished into a final list. During the period I also collected some historical and organizations infomation about TIL and fashioned it into a preface. The list was then added. The total was sent to subscribers in July 2007 as the first in what has become an occasional mono-thematic series of WTM.

If you wish to receive a full electric copy, simple request it through willstexana at yahoo dot com

[[ TIL subsequently adopted the responsibility of posting that list of award winners on their own new webpage at

The Table of Contents (of the July 2007 WTM)

What is the Texas Institute of Letters? - page 4
TIL Webpage – page 5
Officers as of January 2007 – page 6
List of Previous Paisano Ranch Residents: 1967-2000s – page 7
TIL Press Release of Award Winners for Works Published in 2006 – page 8
Finalists for the Publication Year 2006 - page 10
Active Members as of January 2007 – page 13
List of Previous Winners: 1939 to 2006 – page 16
Alphabetical Index by Winning Authors – page 31-36

The prefatory "What is the Texas Institute of Letters" is below

What is the Texas Institute of Letters?

A recent press release describes itself, “The Texas Institute of Letters was founded in Dallas in 1936 during the Texas Centennial to stimulate interest in Texas letters, to recognize distinctive achievement in the field, and to promote fellowship among those interested in the literary and cultural development of the state.”

The TIL webpage notes, “The Texas Institute of Letters is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to stimulate interest in Texas letters and to recognize distinctive literary achievement. In addition to promoting fellowship among those especially interested in the cultural development of the state, the TIL annually gives awards for published work and, with the University of Texas at Austin, supports the Paisano fellowships for writers.”

John Edward Weems in a Handbook of Texas article on the Institute mentions that “Membership is offered to persons associated with Texas who have been nominated by a member, approved by the council, and elected by the active members. The members are novelists, poets, essayists, historians, journalists, playwrights, and other writers, but the emphasis for membership has always been on authorship of quality.”

The idea for the organization came from William H. Vann, later author of The Texas Institute of Letters: 1936 – 1966 (Austin: Encino Press, 1967). Vann’s seminal idea and continuing interest across the decades allows the bestowal of the title “Father of the Texas Institute of Letters.”

Originally, the basic purpose was discussion among the members and an undefined public role. Frank Dobie soon became the Institute’s lightning rod, center of gravity, or trail boss, as the occasion would allow. Beyond their convocations in the earliest years, the members began to give awards for the publication year of 1939. Over the years, the categories have changed and remained the same. Some awards are for books, others for periodical issues, and yet more for physical design and special categories. Most are adult works, but some are for children. Not all winning books are Texas by content but are by Texas authors treating a topic in a civilized and literate manner. The members enjoy the continuing discussion on the relationship of the regional perspective and broader literature and civilization. After Dobie’s death in 1964, his Paisano Ranch was purchased by friends, presented to the University of Texas and went to use by the Institute as a place of literary residency for selected “Fellows” who typically stayed there for a six month period.

Read a brief history to the middle of the 1960s by John Edward Weems in the Handbook of Texas Online at or Weems’ other version in "History of the Texas Institute of Letters," Texas Libraries (vol. 47, no. 1, Spring 1986). Or find the Directory and History (1948, history by Dobie, mimeographed and rare). Margaret Patton Steigman wrote a thesis “An Evaluation and Record of Selected Novels and Authors Honored by the Texas Institute of Letters,” (East Texas State University, 1976).

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