Austinite creates alphabet book for city


“A is for Austin, our local home base. It’s the beautiful setting where this story takes place.”

So begins Lori Otto Samocha’s love letter to her hometown. In “W Is for Weird: An Austin Alphabet,” Otto Samocha writes of the things that make Austin unique. “I always felt, as all Austinites do, that there’s something special and unique about the city,” she says. “There’s a sense of charm, a sense of honesty.”

Her love of Austin is strong. The advertising writer has never left home. She went to Westwood High School, then to the University of Texas for her undergraduate and master’s degrees. After living around Austin, she moved back to the Northwest Austin neighborhood where she grew up.

While she doesn’t have children, some of her friends do. She wanted the book to be a primer for the next generation of Austinites, living here or living elsewhere, but with Austin roots. “There’s a lot of Texas books out there, but Austin isn’t Texas,” she says.

In colorful puffy letters with illustrations by Lauri Johnston of what that each letter represents, the book tells what makes Austin, well, Austin. The first three letters were easy: A is for Austin, B is for bats, C is for Capitol. Other ones were more tricky. She did her research, both by asking friends and by delving into the history of Austin. That’s how V became for Violet Crown, the nickname that notes Austin’s purple-hued sunsets.

Sometimes she had to get creative: X became for Crossroads at SXSW. Y is for y’all.

It took her about a month to figure out what each letter was but three years to turn the ideas into a self-published book. “We both have day jobs,” she says of herself and Johnston. “This was our passion project.”

She hopes families will use it as a guidebook to go explore the city. She also hopes schools will use it as the basis of a field trip curriculum, maybe even developing a passport to the city to check off all the things they see that are also in the book.

She would love to do a second version of the book with all the words she couldn’t get in — especially Mount Bonnell. M for music and B for bats were already taken.

But first, she’s reading the book on Saturday at BookPeople during story time, and Johnston is leading an art activity for kids to create their own Austin letter.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Lifestyle

Five Austin parties we loved so much
Five Austin parties we loved so much

One can relax during the Feed the Peace Awards for the  Nobelity Project at the Four Seasons Austin Hotel. You know why? Because even when the AV system crashes or a stray joke bombs,  Turk and Christy Pipkin are going to smile, glide back on stage and make it all better. Wardaleen...
Austin 'Black Panther' fans put on their Wakanda best this weekend
Austin 'Black Panther' fans put on their Wakanda best this weekend

It has come to pass as many (eventually) thought it would: experts are predicting “Black Panther” will deliver a $235 million-plus debut over the four-day weekend, making for the third highest four-day gross in history.  As Box Office Mojo noted, it is only the fifth movie to debut with over $200 million over its opening...
Flipside Austin parties before, during and after SXSW
Flipside Austin parties before, during and after SXSW

SXSW muscles its way onto Austin’s social calendar in a couple of weeks, but you can wrestle down plenty of other options for parties before, during and after the main event. Feb. 23:  Wonders and Worries Unmasked. JW Marriott.   Feb. 28:  Austin Music Awards. ACL Live. March 1:  ...
Cyclist who died Saturday wrote about supplemental testosterone use in cycling
Cyclist who died Saturday wrote about supplemental testosterone use in cycling

Andrew Tilin died after he was struck by a car as he changed a flat tire while driving on FM 620. Mark Matson for American-Statesman   Andrew Tilin died Saturday, after he was struck by a vehicle as he changed a flat tire on the side of the road. I wrote about Tilin, who wrote a book called “The Doper Next Door,” in September...
Austin runner shatters personal record, hopes to encourage others with Down Syndrome
Austin runner shatters personal record, hopes to encourage others with Down Syndrome

Kayleigh Williamson dances at the finish line of the Austin Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson An Austin runner who in 2017 became the first woman with Down Syndrome to complete the Austin Half Marathon shaved an hour and 45 minutes off her finish time this year. Kayleigh Williamson danced happily as she crossed the finish line...
More Stories