Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Frito Pie at the Smithsonian?

Kaleta Doolin, TAMU Press author and granddaughter of Fritos founder C.E. Doolin, recently appeared at the Smithsonian food exhibit in Washington, D.C. The Fritos story was included in a section titled, “Snack Nation.” The museum displayed many “Fritos” collectibles, including the Frito kid figurine, a corn-shell shaper and fryer, some photos of Casa de Fritos, a Fritos display from 1950, the covers of the Recipes and Menus for Buffet Entertaining with Fritos by Daisy Dean, and a photo of the production line in Los Angeles.

Doolin was present at both the press conference and a book signing of her book, Fritos Pie: Stories, Recipes, and More (TAMU Press, 2011) after the private opening of the exhibit.

To see pictures and read more about TAMU Press author Kaleta Doolin’s honor at the Smithsonian, check out the Dallas Morning News website.

--Madeline Loving

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The First Thanksgiving: Fact or Fiction?

Think you know everything there is to know about Thanksgiving and its traditions? What about the first Thanksgiving—was it really an event that we have seen depicted in paintings and school textbooks? Probably not. Americans have adapted and changed the celebratory holiday even further from the “traditional” Thanksgiving to fit their own preferences. These can include gathering with family and reminiscing on all the things their thankful for, running a turkey trot race, watching football, or even eating Mexican food.  However you celebrate Thanksgiving, you can learn the truth behind the myths associated with the first Thanksgiving. We’ve provided a few below!

Myth #1 The Pilgrims dressed in black and white, wore pointy hats and bonnets, and had gold square belt and shoe buckles.
No one really knows where we got this image from. Although the Pilgrims wore black on Sundays, they wore other colors every other day. These included green, white, gray, and brown. Another false image America has produced is the attire of the Native Americans. They covered up a lot more than what America depicts in its Thanksgiving décor. It was freezing cold in the Northeast during the fall—they were fully covered!

Myth #2 The first Thanksgiving meal was served on a big, long table on many large serving dishes.
The first Thanksgiving “meal” was not a sit-down occasion. It was a celebration that lasted over the course of 3-4 days. The food was eaten sporadically; whenever someone was hungry. It wasn’t on a long table eaten with plates and forks either—they didn’t have forks. The food was placed on any flat surface available, and diners grabbed what they wanted and ate with their hands.

Myth #3 The Pilgrims and Indians ate Turkey on the first Thanksgiving.
There probably aren’t too many people who still eat what was eaten at the first Thanksgiving. Although it’s possible they could have eaten Turkey on the first Thanksgiving, there is no evidence to support it. The only thing historians know for sure they ate was “venison and wild fowl.” It is quite possible there was dried fruit and corn there as well. But there were no potatoes, cranberry sauce, turkey, dressing, or pumpkin pie, that’s for sure!

Myth #4 The Pilgrims and Puritans were the same thing.
They most definitely were not the same thing. The Pilgrims came on the Mayflower and settled in Plymouth. They came in search of riches, a utopian land, as well as for religious reasons. A decade later, the Puritans came and lived in Boston. The Puritans came solely to be able to practice their religion freely. They believed there was hope in church reform, unlike the Pilgrims. They both share in common their hate for the Church of England.

Myth #5 Thanksgiving was about family.
The first thanksgiving was not a family affair. It was a multicultural gathering. All that is recorded is by the Plymouth Colony Governor, Edward Winslow, who wrote that the colony had dinner with Chief Massasoit and 90 of his men.

To read more on these popular Thanksgiving myths, check out the Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Day Myths on the History News Network website.
Happy Thanksgiving from TAMU Press!
--Madeline Loving

Friday, November 16, 2012

Best of TAMU Press

Best of University Press: Charles Backus Edward R. Campbell ’39 Press Director

1. Race?  Debunking a Scientific Myth, by Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle (2010)
Named to the shortlist of the Royal Society's Winton Prize for Science Books and praised by American Scientist as "a beautifully presented book, elegantly reasoned and skillfully written," this volume by eminent authors at the American Museum of Natural History is an exemplary distillation of best scientific research for a general audience, creating a forceful argument that "race is little more than skin deep in scientific terms."

2. The Country Houses of John F. Staub, by Stephen Fox, photographs by Richard Cheek (2007)
Aside from the book's magnificent photographs and exquisite production standards, this award-winning volume does more than recount the important and distinctive work of Houston's favorite architect.  It also provides a brilliant and perhaps the fullest social history of that city's emerging elite during the twentieth century.

3. The Two Thousand Yard Stare: Tom Lea's World War II, by Tom Lea, edited by Brendan M. Greeley Jr. (2008)
This book offers the unforgettable images and equally compelling words of Tom Lea, created during his World War II assignments as an artist-correspondent for Life magazine, from the North Sea to the South Pacific.  It is a beautifully edited and designed volume, a haunting evocation of war through art.

4. With Santa Anna in Texas: A Personal Narrative of the Revolution, by José Enrique de la Peña (1997)
If there is a single book for which Texas A&M University Press is widely noted, it is probably this translated eyewitness account of the fundamental battles from which Texas emerged as an independent state.  It is also one of the few university press books to earn both commendations and death threats for its publisher.

5. The TOS Handbook of Texas Birds, by Mark W. Lockwood and Brush Freeman (2004)
This rich resource, compiled in association with the Texas Ornithological Society, is the Texas birders' bible—and, because Texas is such an important birding mecca, an authoritative source for ornithologists throughout North America and the world.

Best of TAMU Press:

Best of University Press: Dianna Sells, Financial Manager, TAMU Press

1.      If I remember correctly, the first book released for publication was Storms Brewed in Other Men’s World (TAMU Press 1981)  by Elizabeth John. This is the first book that I remember being released and the beginning of my career with the Press; so, I would choose it because it is symbolic of my career and the successful publishing program of TAMU Press.
2.      Then, I would choose Texas Heartland because of the printrun & the design process involved.  Second book published, also in 1975.
I said that we would have to reprint the book within 3 months and we ran out in that timeframe; no one believed me.  James (Jim) Bones was a perfectionist and he had the pages and redid the entire book when Ray accidentally sent him the markup without keeping a copy.  Ray, our designer, had to redesign the entire book. 
3.      Then, I would have to choose BlackJack by Frank Vandiver.  He was such a pleasant person to work with and it began our military history presence.  Frank became the president of Texas A&M University.   At one point, Frank and his wife, Margaret, lived downstairs in our old office building, the board of directors building.

4.      Then, I would choose With Santa Anna in Texas.  The introduction to our Texas History list.  A seller to this day and a notable history book that has stood the test of time.  Third release, in 1975.

5.      Of course, there would be the Centennial History of Texas A&M and the PictorialHistory of Texas A&M, because they established our Centennial Book Series and were the first history books published by the press.

6.      And, then I would choose E M (Buck) Schiwetz portfolio and books.  He was the Texas A&M artist in residence when I came to work at the Press.  He was commissioned to paint the buildings, so we decided to put together the Aggieland Portfolio, which was not a book, but prints of the paintings. He lived down stairs in the old board of directors’ building, the original building in which Texas A&M University Press was housed.  I would spend my lunch hour watching Buck paint and we would go to McDonalds and eat a Big Mac together.  He was such a character and would tell me his life stories.  I remembered the story he told me about a lady coming up to his dinner table one night at a nice restaurant in Houston and she asked him to sign her napkin.  He was “not very happy” about it.  He couldn’t even eat lunch alone.
So, when we had the big gathering of authors for a signing at the library we had many an author there.  I walked up to Buck in this large audience and said, “would you please autography my hand?”  He laughed and signed it with a permanent marker.  Then, author and Houston Chronicle columnist Leon Hale grabbed my other hand and signed it also with a permanent marker.

7.      Grasses of Texas by Frank Gould.  Frank was a wonderful teacher and leader in this field and a contributor of permanent knowledge

8.      I would have to choose the Tom Lea book, The Two Thousand Yard Stare, because of his many talents and the fact that he created the TAMU Press logo.  He was such a wonderful person to meet and know and a talented, well-known artist.

9.      And, I can’t forget about Leon Hale’s books because he was an Amazing Writer and a personal friend to me.
Now as for some of my recent favorites—
10.  DOUGWELSH, I have been an avid fan of his for decades because I love gardening.

11.  Heirloom Gardening in the South—Welch and Grant

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Best of TAMU Press

Best of University Press: Kyle Littlefield, Promotional Design and Electronic Marketing Manager

The author's recollection of meeting Somerset Maugham -- one of the author's literary heros -- struck a chord with me. Having the occasion to meet a few of the people I looked up to as a teen, it brought to the surface those nervous feelings of wanting to register on that person's radar and say the right things in the fleeting moment you have with him or her. 

It's amazing how much you can learn about people and culture through the study of the lowly potato. 

I love the photos of the abandoned movie theaters in Texas featured -- some of them constructed in incredibly opulent taste. The contrast between the evident disuse and the obvious splendor that the theaters offered when they were still shiny says much more than words can. Although the author does a good job in his own right as well.

4.      Lighthouses of Texas

When I think of Texas I don't immediately think "Lighthouses" -- and I grew up on the coast. T. Lindsey Baker does his usual excellent job of exploring his subject showing that Lighthouses are as "Texas" as oil wells. Also the paintings are quite peaceful. 

Unless you are a Burroughs scholar, you probably don't know much about his time in Texas and Mexico other than the infamous "William Tell" episode. The author unearths new material, fleshing out this little-known time in Burroughs’s life and how it shaped him and his writing as he tried to move beyond it.

The Value of a University Press--University Press Week 2012

As a tribute to AAUP’s University Press Week, Texas A&M University Press and 24 other university presses are partaking in a nation-wide blog tour. These blog entries highlight the importance of university presses as well as their influence and contribution to readers everywhere. We are pleased to have author Loren Steffy guest blogging for us as part of the University Press Week blog tour. The tour continues today at  Georgetown University Press. A complete blog tour schedule can be found here!
“The value of a university press, like an ancient shipwreck, can't be measured in dollars or commercial success.”

Loren Steffy’s publishing relationship with Texas A&M University Press began with his late father J. Richard Steffy – an electrician and shipmodeling enthusiast with no formal education, who ultimately changed the emerging field of nautical archaeology in the 1970s.

Here, as we celebrate University Press Week the Houston Chronicle business columnist and author of The Man Who Thought Like a Ship, describes his personal journey as an author with Texas A&M University Press.

My career as an author began with a smirk.

I was having dinner with one of my father's former colleagues, and he asked if I had considered writing a book about my father's amazing journey from a small town electrician with no formal college training to the world's foremost authority on ancient ships.
I told him I thought it was a great story, but outside of the field of nautical archaeology, my father was an unknown. Who, I asked, would publish such a story? He replied with a wry grin but he said nothing.

The next day I got an email from an editor at the Texas A&M University Press. She said she'd heard “through the grapevine” that I might be interested in writing a book about my father. If so, the press would love to publish it.

Now it was my turn to grin. Many years before, when I was still in high school, I told my father I intended to be a writer someday. He told me when I had something I thought was good enough, I should let him know. His contacts at the A&M Press would be able to help me get published.

My father developed a long-running relationship with the Press during an academic career that took him from non-degreed lecturer to MacArthur Foundation fellow to emeritus professor. He wrote two books for the Press and contributed to numerous others.

I quickly realized there was no better home for my book. The editors knew my father's work, which was a huge advantage. My father rebuilt ancient ships that had been rotting on the bottom of the sea for centuries. It's an arcane field, but one with which the editors were already familiar. I didn’t have to explain, for example, that nautical archaeology was not treasure hunting or that my father had no interest in the Titanic or that he never searched for Noah’s Ark.

My book, The Man Who Thought Like a Ship, was published as part of an ongoing series of nautical archaeology books. The editors at the Press not only understood the field, they knew how to target the marketing for the book – what associations to approach, when key conferences were held.

After the book was published, my father's smirking colleague told me how happy he was it had all worked out. It was, he said, the perfect fit. I couldn't agree more.

As if to underscore that point, the book's publication prompted an important discovery. My father got into nautical archaeology as a hobby. He built models of ancient ships using techniques that would later become the basis for his research methods.

I wrote about one of his earliest models, an Egyptian ship, in the book, but I never knew what happened to it. I discovered some letters in my research that indicated it may have been donated to a museum in Philadelphia and later discarded.

After the book was published, I was contacted by a woman in Philadelphia who'd worked with my father years ago. She offered to check with museums in the area to see if the model might still exist.

A few days later she called to say it was sitting in a storeroom, where it had been for almost 50 years. The museum had been unsure what to do with it. I arranged to travel to Philadelphia, pick up the model, and return it to Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M. Beginning in the spring of 2013, it will be used to help students, who still study my father's work, better understand how he developed his methods.

Without the publication of the book, this rare find – one of only four of my father's models that still exist – might have been lost forever.

The value of a university press, like an ancient shipwreck, can't be measured in dollars or commercial success. Commercial publishers may deal in popular books, in books that can make money. University presses specialize in the books that need to be published – important stories that might otherwise never be told.

My father's story is one of scientific discovery, but it is far more than that. It's the story of a man who dared to pursue his dreams. It's a tale of perseverance, of failure, of heartbreak and of achievement. It is, in other words, a human story. Without a university press, it never would have been told.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Best of TAMU Press:

In Our Opinion…

As part of our ongoing celebration of University Press Week, we’ve asked a few members of our spectacular staff to curate a list of their all-time favorite books from Texas A&M University Press.

Check back to the blog over the next few days to read about our favorite books, and why we can’t get enough of them!

Shannon Davies, Louise Lindsey Merrick Editor for the Natural Environment

1.. Called by one reviewer a “spectacular celebration,” Coastal Texas: Water, Land, and Wildlife by John L. Tveten (1982) confirmed the press’s commitment to the Gulf coast; established a foundation for books of fine nature photography and writing; and launched an author who would become one of the state’s most respected, prolific, and beloved naturalists. Two decades later, the press held another celebration with the publication of three volumes of Tveten’s essays written in his almost quarter-century tenure as the nature columnist for the Houston Chronicle. The forerunner to a wide selection of books on the coast, Coastal Texas helped pave the way for the long-running and successful series Gulf Coast Books, supported by Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

2. We are grass. From Frank Gould’s best-selling Common Texas Grasses (1979) to his classic books, The Grasses of Texas and Grass Systematics (with Robert Shaw) to Shaw’s own recently published, definitive Guide to Texas Grasses (2012), Texas A&M Press recognized early on what Texas ranchers had long admitted: they don’t raise cows; they raise grass. Grasses of the Texas Hill Country (2006) by Brian and Shirley Loflin was the first book to feature full-color photographs of Texas grasses, welcoming a lay audience into the beautiful and essential world of grass.

3. Chimney Swifts by Paul and Georgean Kyle represents to me the best kind of university press publishing: an authoritative book for the public, about something no other publisher would consider, by authors no one else would approach, on a topic that could change forever the way humans view the world they live in.

4. With the publication of Texas Wildlife: Photographs from Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine (1982) the press began a long relationship with TPWD that produced original best-selling and indispensable volumes such as Hummingbirds of Texas and Rare Plants of Texas as well as the forthcoming Texas State Parks and the CCC by Cynthia Brandimarte. This book was also the debut volume of the Louise Lindsey Merrick Natural Environment Series, which has since supported almost 50 titles.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Did You Know?

Fun Facts: University Press Week

·     There are over 130 university presses across the world.

·    The Texas A&M University Press was founded in 1974 under the direction of Texas A&M University president and chancellor Jack K. Williams. The first director of the press, Frank H. Wardlaw, had previously helped to establish the University of Texas Press and the University of South Carolina Press.     

·    The first University to publish its own book was in 1455 when Gutenberg and Fust printed the Bible, twenty-three years later, in 1478, a commentary on the Apostle's Creed was printed at Oxford University

·    Following the September 11th attacks, AAUP established its "Books for Understanding" program in recognition that scholarly presses publish knowledge that often cannot be found anywhere else. Now featuring a list of 85 need-to-know topics—and growing apace—the books represented provide deeply researched information on issues and events of international import. Whether the topic is North Korea or water rights in the Southwest, a university press book has the answers, and the questions, you are looking for.

·    AAUP (Association of American University Presses) member presses produce more than 12,000 works per year, in both print and digital form. It is also AAUP's 75th anniversary this year!

Friday, November 2, 2012

25 Presses Kick Off University Press Week with a Blog Tour

The Association of American University Presses will celebrate University Press Week November 11-17. This week long celebration started in the summer of 1978 when President Jimmy Carter proclaimed a University Press Week “in recognition of the impact, both here and abroad, of American university presses on culture and scholarship.”

In the spirit of collaboration that pervades the university press community, Texas A&M University Press and 24 other presses will come together for a blog tour during University Press Week. This tour will highlight the value of university presses and the contributions they make to scholarship and our society. Bloggers include authors, book review editors, university press staff members, interns, booksellers, and university press advocates.

Harvard University Press kicks off the tour on Monday, November 12, and it continues coast-to-coast with stops in Canada and Hawaii before ending on Friday, November 16, at Oregon State University Press. The tour comes to Texas A&M University Press’s blog on Thursday, November 15, with a post by Loren Steffy, Houston Chronicle business columnist and author of The Man Who Thought Like a Ship. Download a complete University Press Week blog tour schedule at:

In addition to the blog tour, the AAUP and other member presses are planning several features and events for University Press Week. To celebrate University Press Week, Texas A&M Press will also open its doors for a book sale Wednesday and Thursday, November 14 and 15. For more information, visit