Talking Book Program 2020 Poetry Contest Winners

2020 Texas Talking Book Program Poetry Contest Winners Announced!

We are pleased to announce the winners of the Talking Book Program Poetry Contest. Thank you to all that participated this year! We received a wide range of poems – some were inspiring, some were sentimental, and some were downright funny.

First Place


Have you ever been in the woods on Halloween?
I have, and it’s the spookiest place I’ve ever seen!
There were witches and goblins behind every tree,
And I saw shiny eyes staring out at me.
The wind was blowing and all over the ground,
There was shadows and lights and ghosts dancing around.
And I heard a hoot owl away off somewhere hollering –who, who—
Who goes there?
Now, I wasn’t scared and that’s a fact,
But I thought Mom might be worried, so I hurried back.
I heard the frogs croak, and the crickets sing,
Or was that a witch or a goblin scream?
The limbs on the trees waved and reached for me,
But I didn’t look back, there was nothing to see!
Now I see something up by my house,
With lots of teeth and a great big mouth, with a triangle shaped nose and glaring eyes.
Oh! That’s the jack-o-lantern I made after Mom made her pies.
Now this is all good and I was really having fun,
But it was getting late and I thought I’d better run.
I ran through the door and up to my room,
And I locked out the shadows, the ghost and gloom.
I took off my clothes and jumped into bed.
I snuggled down close and I shook my head,
And all the witches and goblins were gone,
But heck, I wasn’t scared. I was just puttin’ on!

Second Place

LIFE CHANGES by Donna Wilson

My eyes are dim. I cannot see.
My specs are little use to me.

An accident from afar; suddenly a speeding car,
Left my body painfully bleeding and ajar!
My wheelchair became my best friend,
I thought my life was at an end.

My days were long and empty then,
My unread books stared at me from dusty bins.

Then the mail came with a new surprise,
The TALKING BOOK CLUB catalog arrived!
I anxiously scanned its pages,
Filled with adventure and mystery for all ages!

I quickly placed my audio tape,
Into the space I found agape

Now my days fly by with ease,
As I explore deep seas and mysteries.
I would be quite lost and bored,

Honorable Mention


With limitless use
Of stories from my bookshelf,
I experience!

NLS Wants Your Input for Technology Products and Initiatives!

The NLS Reading Technology Advisory Group (RTAG) needs new members! RTAG meets twice a year to provide feedback on new NLS products and initiatives. Currently, RTAG is focused on updates to BARD, the Braille eReader project, and a “smart speaker” voice-controlled device. Each of these initiatives will have its own working group within RTAG. Meetings—to be attended online—will resume in fall 2020. Although RTAG members can be network library staff, hardware repair volunteers, and other subject matter experts, NLS patrons are especially encouraged to apply to join RTAG. For questions, please contact your local network library or email questions directly to Applications—a statement of your background and qualifications (no more than two pages)—should be submitted to by Wednesday, September 30.

Employment Study

A research team comprising of blind and sighted scholars at the Envision Research Institute is investigating the experiences of blind and visually impaired individuals at different stages of the employment cycle as these relate to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The goal is to understand the hiring and retention policies that are effective for including blind and visually impaired people in the workforce.

Volunteers selected as study participants will be instructed to complete a questionnaire. The complete study might take about 45 minutes. A follow-up interview may be necessary to clarify some responses on the questionnaire. Upon completion of the study, the participant will receive a $25 gift card as a token of appreciation.

If you are interested in participating, or have a question about the study, please contact Marco Tarantino at; or call 316-440-1524). Please reference project title: “Experiences of Blind and Low Vision Individuals at Different Stages of the Employment Cycle as These Relate to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Regulations Implemented in 2014” in the subject line of the email

After a year of suspense, the Swedish Academy announces Olga Tokarczuk is the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature

Olga Tokarczuk, the 57-year-old Polish writer had already received the 2017 Man Booker International prize for her collection of short stories Flights, and in a surprise announcement, on October 10th, 2019, The Swedish Academy reported it was awarding her with the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature. The 2018 Nobel Prize announcement was postponed by a year due to jury-related scandals, and now they have ended the delay by selecting an awardee that was unexpected to some and pleasing to others. Olga Tokarczuk is a feminist, wears dreadlocks, and is an engaged political activist “who does not shy away from criticizing Poland’s right-wing government” says the BBC in their profile of the author. We have two of Olga’s books available for download on BARD:

FLIGHTS by Olga Tokarczuk          DB 92242

An award-winning collection of short stories. A Dutch anatomist dissects himself. A woman returns home in order to poison her dying high school sweetheart. A man goes mad after his family disappears and reappears. Translated from the 2017 Polish edition. Some strong language, some descriptions of sex. Commercial audiobook. Man Booker Prize. Bestseller. 2017.


Living in a remote Polish village, Janina has developed a reputation as a crank and recluse. When a neighbor turns up dead and other bodies are discovered in strange circumstances, Janina inserts herself into the investigation. Translated from the 2009 Polish edition. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2018. Translated to English by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Get spooky, the Texas way!

October is here! Halloween is right around the corner and this time of year we start getting calls from patrons asking for spooky tales, ghost stories, and witchy legends. In case you didn’t know, one great subcategory of these types of books is what we like to call ‘spooky tales of the Loan Star State’ and we have those available to borrow. So how about this year you get in the spooky spirit with one of these books about haunted Texas.

GHOSTS ALONG THE TEXAS COAST  by Docia Schultz Williams   DBC14328

Accounts of strange occurrences and unexplainable presences in the Texas coastal area. Violence.


Steeped in history and tradition, San Antonio has numerous buildings and locations that, many claim, are also home to ghosts. Accounts of these haunts are given here.


Stories of ghostly encounters on the Texas plains, including accounts of early settlers and Indians and reports of ghosts and hauntings connected with the old West Texas forts.


Texas history buffs and travelers have an eerie need for this book, which offers an unusual twist to seeing the sights in the Lone Star state. Organized by region–Gulf Coast, Rio Grande Valley, South Texas, Central Texas, North Texas, and West Texas–this book is the complete guide for both hardcore ghost hunters and more earthly tourists seeking to add some spirited fun to their travels. 2017. (Book in process. Coming soon)

GHOST STORIES OF OLD TEXAS by Zinita Fowler    DBC12016  

The author, a longtime schoolteacher and librarian, has collected twenty-seven ghost stories for the young reader and the young at heart. Among the stories are “Revenge of the Ghost Buffalo,” “The Ghost Rider of Stampede Mesa,” and “The Mal Ojo” (or Evil Eye). For grades 6-9. 1983.


In 1983 when Zinita Fowler began telling the ghost stories from her first collection, her listeners would often relate tales that she had not previously heard. Those stories formed the core of this second volume of folktales that are genuinely part of the Texas heritage.


A collection of eighteen ghostly tales illustrating the cultural heritage of Texas. Includes ‘The phantom light of Old Ford Stockton, ‘Uninvited guests at the Governor’s Mansion, and ‘Haunted bridges’.

Discount on Laptop Computers

During the month of September, Computers for the Blind (CFTB) are selling refurbished laptop computers with assistive technology for $150, which is $35 less than their standard fee of $185.

The laptop computers include one year of free JAWS screen reader and ZoomText magnifier software.

For more information, contact Computers for the Blind at 214-340-6328, or visit

NASA: Fiftieth Anniversary of the Moon Landing

The Wolfner Library in Missouri created a recommended reading list about NASA and its history. We at the Texas Talking Book Program have altered it to include our Braille and large print copies. To order any of these titles, contact the library by email, mail or phone. You may also request these titles online through our online public access catalog OPAC. All books listed are linked to Braille and Audio Reading Download site (BARD) for downloading. Happy Reading!



Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly
Read by Scott Kelly. Reading Time: 13 hours, 9 minutes.
DB 8952

LP09186; 603 pages

Astronaut and American record-holder for most consecutive days in space examines his life and career. Discusses growing up with identical twin brother–and fellow astronaut–Mark, challenges he faced to become an astronaut, and the physical and emotional impacts of long-term spaceflight. Some strong language. 2017.

John Glenn: A Memoir by John Glenn

Read by Randy Atcher. Reading Time: 16 hours, 13 minutes.

DB 49106

The first American to orbit the earth, who in 1998 became the oldest man in space at seventy-seven, discusses his career as an astronaut and his lengthy service in the marines and the U.S. Senate. He recounts growing up in Ohio, marrying his childhood friend, and raising a family. Bestseller. 1999.

Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell

Read by L. J. Ganser. Reading Time: 15 hours, 55 minutes.

DB 40691

Apollo 13 was to have been the fifth mission to the moon. But two days into the trip, on April 13, 1970, the oxygen tank exploded in the command module, placing the three astronauts in grave danger. Lovell describes those terrifying days as astronauts, contractors, and Mission Control struggled to bring Apollo 13 safely back to earth. Basis for the movie Apollo 13. Bestseller.

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut by Mike R. Mullane

Read by Jake Williams. Reading Time: 18 hours, 17 minutes.

DB 62819

Autobiography of one of the first space shuttle astronauts. Mullane, a West Point graduate, aeronautical engineer, and Vietnam veteran, describes with humor and candor his selection process, training program, and space flight experiences. Recounts three missions and discusses NASA’s role in the 1986 Challenger disaster. Some strong language. 2006.

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

Read by Robert Kurson. Reading Time: 12 hours, 22 minutes.

DB 91450

Profile of the Apollo 8 space mission, which launched in December 1968 after a year of turmoil in the United States and was the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. Also profiles the crew, including astronauts Frank F. Borman II, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders. Unrated. 2018.

Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon by Craig Nelson

Read by Lou Harpenou. Reading Time: 17 hours, 42 minutes.

DB 69775

Prizewinning author retraces America’s race against the Soviet Union to be the first to land on the moon. Chronicles NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 mission using interviews and declassified documents. Provides glimpses into the personal family lives of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins. 2009.

The Ordinary Spaceman from Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut by Clayton C. Anderson

Read by David Rutherford. Reading Time: 14 hours, 33 minutes.

DB 82817

Anderson recounts applying to the astronaut program fifteen times in as many years before his ultimate selection, and describes the struggles and successes of his subsequent career–including spending 167 days on the International Space Station and more than forty hours on space walks. 2015

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Read by Dennis Quaid. Reading Time: 15 hours, 45 minutes.

DB 90395

LB 03137

Inside view of the early astronauts (Carpenter, Cooper, Glenn, Grissom, Shirra, Shepard, Slayton) strips away the media image of the men and reveals what makes them tick. Narrated by the actor who played Gordon Cooper in the 1983 movie adaptation. Some strong language. 1979.

Too Far From Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space by Chris Jones

Read by Erik Davis. Reading Time: 10 hours, 54 minutes.

DB 63506

BR 17198; 3 volumes of Braille

Describes the experiences of Americans Donald Pettit and Kenneth Bowersox and Russian Nikolai Budarin, astronauts who became stranded on the International Space Station after the space shuttle Columbia exploded in 2003. Recounts the efforts of mission control in Houston and Moscow to rescue them using an old Soyuz rocket. 2007.

Ground Crew and History:

Venus Revealed: A New Look Below the Clouds of Our Mysterious Twin Planet by David Harry Grinspoon

Read by Len Mailloux. Reading Time: 16 hours, 3 minutes.

DB 46319

Reviews the evolving concepts about the planet Venus from early mythological associations to modern scientific discoveries. The author, who worked on the 1990 Magellan space probe, describes the task of mapping the surface of Venus and explains the hostile environment of a planet that is much less like the Earth than once believed.

Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz

Read by Steven Carpenter. Reading Time: 16 hours, 22 minutes.

DB 51600

Memoir of a flight director for NASA’s mission control, providing an insider’s perspective on the space program from the 1960s Mercury days to the final Apollo mission.  Kranz recalls the highlights of his career and explains his role in bringing the three Apollo 13 astronauts back safely to Earth. 2000.

Flight: My Life in Mission Control by Christopher C. Kraft

Read by Lou Harpenau. Reading Time: 14 hours, 43 minutes.

DB 53219

NASA’s first flight director offers an insider’s view of the early days of the space program in the 1960s. He describes past achievements such as the first manned launch with Alan Shepard, and the glitches, near disasters, and successes, culminating with the astronauts walking on the moon. Some strong language. 2001.

The Rock from Mars: A Detective Story on Two Planets by Kathy Sawyer

Read by Mary Kane. Reading Time: 15 hours, 57 minutes.

DB 63539

Journalist recounts the 1984 Antarctic discovery of a Martian meteorite and its delayed identification at NASA’s Houston space center in 1993, when scientists also found possible evidence of fossilized organisms. Examines the ensuing scientific debate and its impact on the space program and efforts to understand life on Earth. 2006.

Space Race the Epic Battle between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space by Deborah Cadbury

Read by Butch Hoover. Reading Time: 14 hours, 23 minutes.

DB 64644

Examines the superpower rivalries that fueled the race to the moon and the engineering masterminds behind it: Sergei Korolev in the Soviet Union and Wernher von Braun, a former Nazi, in the United States. Discusses the political paranoia of the cold war era and the technological advances it produced. 2006.

Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean

Read by Kerry Dukin. Reading Time: 13 hours, 20 minutes.

DB 82410

BR 20928; 5 volumes of Braille

Dean recounts the history of American spaceflight, NASA, and Florida’s Space Coast and reflects on what has been achieved. She interviews NASA workers, astronauts, and space fans alike, exploring the ramifications of the end of the American space shuttle program. Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.   2015.

Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA by Amy Shira Teitel

Read by Kerry Dukin. Reading Time: 12 hours, 8 minutes.

DB 83941

Journalist chronicles the agencies and institutions–along with key personnel–that were precursors to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which was created in 1958. Details research into rocketry in both America and Germany, as well as the impact of World War II and the Cold War. 2016.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Read by Emily Ellet. Reading Time: 12 hours, 15 minutes.

DB 86234

BR 21798; 5 volumes of Braille

Daughter of a NASA engineer profiles the black women who worked for NASA, and its predecessor NACA, as human computers. Discusses their lives prior to joining NACA/NASA, the challenges they faced due to gender and race discrimination, and their impact on the space program. Basis for the 2016 movie. 2016.

Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger

Read by Brian Troxwell. Reading Time: 11 hours, 10 minutes.

DB 88328

LB 09197; 551 pages

Author of Journey beyond Selene (DB 50687) chronicles the Apollo 8 mission–manned by Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders–which was the first to successfully orbit Earth’s moon. Discusses behind-the-scenes interactions in Mission Control, at the astronauts’ homes, and in the labs tasked with making the mission a success. Some strong language. 2017.

Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew by Michael D. Leinbach

Read by Gregory Maupin. Reading Time: 11 hours, 12 minutes.

DB 90380

Chronicle of the investigation of the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia over Texas on its return in 2003. Discusses the cause of the accident, interagency work protocols, and the contributions of volunteers, which allowed for the recovery of crew remains and forty percent of debris. 2018.

Unmanned Missions:

Far Travelers the Exploring Machines by Oran W. Nicks

Read by Butch Hoover. Reading Time: 10 hours, 50 minutes.

DB 29427

Personal account of NASA’s unmanned space exploration programs, in which the author shares some of the technical aspects of space flight. The people, machines, and incidents are depicted in an informal manner.

The Hubble Wars: Astrophysics Meets Astropolitics in the Two-Billion-Dollar Struggle over the Hubble Space Telescope by Eric Chaisson

Read by Butch Hoover. Reading Time: 22 hours, 48 minutes.

DB 41889

After its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was found to be embarrassingly out of focus. Astronomers were devastated, politicians disgusted, the press critical, and the public perplexed. Astrophysicist Chaisson chronicles the mismanagement and competing agendas among science, government, and industry that led to the Hubble boondoggle.

The Planet Mars: A History of Observation & Discovery by William Sheehan

Read by Butch Hoover. Reading Time: 10 hours, 3 minutes.

DB 48355

Chronological history of astronomers’ fascination with Mars from Kepler’s discovery of its elliptical orbit in 1604 through the Viking missions of 1975-76. Includes a chapter on Percival Lowell and his controversial theory about canals on the planet’s surface.

Mission Jupiter: The Spectacular Journey of the Galileo Spacecraft by Daniel Fisher

Read by Butch Hoover. Reading Time: 10 hours, 1 minute.

DB 57435

Award-winning German columnist describes the landmark discoveries of NASA’s Galileo space probe, which reached Jupiter–after passing by Venus and two asteroids–in December 1995, more than six years after liftoff. Fischer provides mission history and specifications, focusing on what the project data revealed about the planet’s moons and atmosphere. 1998.

The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell

Read by Jim Bell. Reading Time: 7 hours, 46 minutes.

DB 80893

President of the Planetary Society details his work with the data sent back by the Voyager missions, which launched in 1977 when the author was a high school student. Looks at the development of the missions and describes the planetary flybys of the probes. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2015.

Mars: Uncovering the Secrets of the Red Planet by Paul Raeburn

Read by Jake Williams. Reading Time: 8 hours, 40 minutes.

DB 48758

A National Geographic chronicle of Mars exploration. Focuses on the Viking missions of the 1970s, whose primary goal was the search for life, and on the July 4, 1997, Pathfinder landing on Mars’s surface. Explains the design, engineering, and results of the projects. Discusses plans for future missions. For senior high and older readers.

Journey beyond Selene by Jeffrey Kluger

Read by Richard Hauenstein. Reading Time: 11 hours, 40 minutes.

DB 50687

Chronicles the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s unmanned exploration of Earth’s solar system with robot spacecraft. Describes the pre-1969 testing of the Moon’s surface in advance of the manned landing. Recounts the subsequent deep-space probes of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and their moons. 1999.

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto by Alan Stern and Dr. David Grinspoon

Read by Alan Stern. Reading Time: 9 hours, 19 minutes.

DB 91641

Planetary scientist Stern and astrobiologist Grinspoon provide a behind-the-scenes account of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and beyond. Discusses science, politics, personalities, and public expectations involved in the development of the mission. Gives short overview of the history of the study of Pluto. Unrated. 2018.

Talking Book Program Team Attends NLS Conference

Posted on behalf of Jaclyn Owusu, Public Awareness Coordinator for TBP

Earlier this month, TBP hosted the National Library Service Southern/Western Libraries Serving the Blind & Physically Impaired Conference in San Antonio. The three-day conference featured TBP staffers Saidah Ochoa, Laura Jean Norris, John Berkeland and Todd Rusch presenting information to the 70 attendees from around the country about our outreach to Spanish speaking users, our YA books collections and our new Duplication on Demand service.

On Wednesday night, author and blogger Lisa Fain, known for her cookbooks and her blog, The Homesick Texan (link goes to The Homesick Texan website), was a featured speaker. She discussed how she used libraries to do research on her books. During the evening author reception, Craig York, who recorded her cookbook in our studio for the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD), gave a brief reading from one of her cookbooks.

Enjoy some photos and a video from the conference!

Photograph of Author Lisas Fisa Fain and Talking Book Program Director Ava Smith
Author Lisa Fain and Talking Book Program Director Ava Smith
Cover Image of  the Lisa Fain book QUESO!
Cover Image of the Lisa Fain book QUESO!
Kathleen Walls Holding Up the Homesick Texan's Family Table book
Talking Book Program Reader Services Librarian Kathleen Walls Holding Up the Homesick Texan’s Family Table book
TBP Director Ava Smith, Karen Keninger, NLS, Lisa Fain, author and Mark Smith, Director and Librarian, Texas State Library and Archives Commission
TBP Director Ava Smith, Karen Keninger, NLS, Lisa Fain, author and Mark Smith, Director and Librarian, Texas State Library and Archives Commission
Craig York reading an excerpt from Lisa Fain’s cookbook.

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is coming and many people in the US like to celebrate by having a get together with plenty of guacamole and beer. That’s great! It would also be good if people knew a little bit more about what they are celebrating. If you ask around, the most frequent answer is “Mexican independence?” Nope. Actually, May 5th celebrates the Battle of Puebla. A historical episode in which the Mexican army (headed by liberal President Benito Juárez) squashed the French army’s attempts (under Napoleon III) to occupy Mexico. So there. Now you can eat guacamole to your heart’s content and also sound super-smart when asked “What are we celebrating again?”.


Discusses the historical events of May 5, 1862, when Mexico defeated the powerful French at the Battle of Puebla and the growing popularity of celebrating this date. Includes suggestions for planning a Cinco de Mayo fiesta. For grades 3-6. 2003.


Cinco de Mayo is a very important holiday for Mexican-Americans. On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army defeated the French army. This victory ended the efforts of foreign powers to invade North America. The author describes the Cinco de Mayo holiday and its celebration.


Beginning with a description of the early Indian cultures, Miller, a scholar of Mexican and Latin American history, outlines the Spanish takeover, the various rulers over the centuries, the war with the United States, the Revolution, and the birth of modern Mexico. He highlights the accompanying changes in the shape of the country and the makeup of the population.


A narrative history of Mexico, beginning with the empire of the Aztecs and carrying through to the early twenty-first century. Includes discussions of religion, technology, ethnicity, ecology, and the many events, institutions, and individuals that have shaped the modern nation. 2010.