By Maria Elena Hernandez
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Most Texans know “Stories from Texas” – and its signature tagline, “…and some of them are true” – as a radio program and podcast. Now that radio program, produced by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, is being adapted into a book. “I’m excited about it because it’s my first creative work. I've done textbooks, academic works before,” said Dr. William F. Strong, the UTRGV communications professor who created the radio program. He called the show “a kind of an accident, really.” “I had this idea that I would like to teach Texans and non-Texans alike with these great stories that a lot of people don’t know, the great literature of Texas that a lot of people aren’t aware of,” he said. He reached out to the staff of the Rio Grande Valley’s NPR-affiliate KMBH-FM, now 88FM, with the idea. The first segments covered fun, pop culture stories, like the history of Whataburger and the 12 words Texans mispronounce most. The show’s popularity grew, and Strong produced more segments. “Other NPR stations started picking them up, and that surprised me,” he said. He gets feedback from listeners, like story suggestions, but he also gets one particular question about the stories featured – “Which ones are true?” Strong chuckles at that. “Some people take it perhaps a little too literally, but I guess the inside joke from my perspective is that they are 99 percent true. I work really hard to nail them down and get it nailed down to fact. If there are two interpretations of it, or two possibilities or two understandings, I'll give you both of them and you choose.” The UTRGV professor said the early stories he shared involved Texas folklore and tall tales. “So I said, well, that’s kind of what we’re known for – stretching things – so I’ll just say that some of them are true,” he said. Strong is excited about wrapping up the book, which he started working on three years ago. He also said he’s fortunate to know several photographers who are giving him photos of Texas landscapes and more to include in it. “I'm doing the audiobook right now. That is quite an ordeal,” he said. “I'm even experienced in doing a lot of recording, and I assumed, ‘Oh, I'll just go and read the thing.’” He records in a special audio booth housed at UTRGV, with the help of Juan Ramirez and Ricardo Camargo, members of the video team in the UTRGV Marketing and Communications Department. Strong learned he can only record segments for about 20 to 30 minutes before losing quality. “I found it’s difficult to do in long stretches,” he said. When the book is complete, Strong will do a book tour. “I’m excited about going on tour around Texas to do readings and talk about the book,” he said. Interest already has built up for the book release, and it was featured recently in “Texas Country Reporter,” which airs across Texas and on a national cable channel. While the book is scheduled for release in June, you can check the 88FM schedule to hear the latest “Stories From Texas,” or listen to past episodes online.