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Preserving Lone Star Literary Culture

Out in the western region of Texas, two aspiring writers and innovative owners of a small-town newspaper, Barbara Brannon and Kay Ellington, were disheartened by the decline in book coverage and literary critique across publications, particularly in the Lone Star State. They noted that by the 2010s, “93 percent of the state’s newspapers provide no regular books coverage whatsoever.”

These enterprising women were concerned that Texas authors, despite their deserving talent, were not receiving adequate recognition. Thus, on Groundhog’s Day in 2015, they launched a new online newsletter targeting Texas readers, writers, and librarians.

During a 2017 panel discussion, it was emphasized that Texas, with its substantial population ranking second only to California, should be a dominant force in the literary world.

Initially conceived as a side project for Brannon and Ellington, who have authored a series of novels, the venture evolved over the years. Their company, Paragraph Ranch LLC, now owns three newspapers in the vicinity of Lubbock: the [ppp1], the [ppp2], and the Floyd County [ppp3].

Over the following nine years, Lone Star Literary Life expanded its reach, garnering a dedicated following of 6,000 subscribers, including librarians, independent booksellers, publicists, and writers from Texas.

In 2018, the reins were passed to school librarian Kristine Hall, who successfully navigated Lone Star Lit through the challenges posed by the pandemic, a period when many Texans turned to reading and writing from the comfort of their homes. However, in April 2024, the future of the venture was at risk due to financial constraints stemming from its commitment to offering valuable yet affordable (or free) services to the literary community.

The journey of how a group of independent female entrepreneurs and book enthusiasts in Texas established, expanded, and now strive to sustain this small enterprise is a compelling saga.

From its inception, Lone Star Lit demonstrated ambition by providing a Texas-focused newsletter featuring book event announcements, a statewide bookstore directory, and reviews of works by Texas authors across various publishing platforms.

Hall’s involvement early on, along with her creation of a network of bloggers supporting Texas authors through Book Blog Tours, significantly contributed to the platform’s growth. The initiative not only promoted literary works but also enhanced book-related tourism by expanding the statewide directory and highlighting noteworthy literary destinations in Texas.

In December 2018, Ellington and Brannon, with their background in the newspaper industry, passed the torch to Hall, who took on multiple roles within the organization. Despite facing challenges in balancing her responsibilities as a part-time librarian and a mother, Hall continued to nurture Lone Star Lit’s community.

As controversies surrounding book bans intensified, Lone Star Lit’s readers sought ways to support the literary scene in Texas. The platform served as a rallying point for individuals looking to contribute positively amidst the challenges faced by the literary community.

Through the years, the Texan literary landscape witnessed the emergence of new independent booksellers and literary festivals, underscoring the growing enthusiasm for literature across the state.

As Hall announced her retirement in early 2024, the future of Lone Star Lit seemed uncertain. However, the response from dedicated readers, coupled with offers to acquire the business, breathed new life into the venture.

By May 1, Lone Star Lit will transition to new ownership under Amy Kelly, a fervent advocate for reading freedom and storytelling. Kelly’s commitment to upholding the platform’s core features and mission signifies a promising continuation of Lone Star Lit’s legacy.

As the narrative unfolds, the perseverance and passion of those involved in Lone Star Lit exemplify a shared dedication to promoting Texas authors, indie bookstores, and the literary community at large.