Last Saturday turned out to be a literary puzzle of several interlocking pieces, making this picture of the day:

Life in Spades for Ms. Terry McMillan (Authors Pavillion, Congressional Black Caucus)

Life in Spades for Ms. Terry McMillan (Authors Pavillion, Congressional Black Caucus)

My morning started out with notice that a book review for Life in Spades had been posted.  Probably the thing that made me most nervous after sending my novel out into the world for readers to read it, wass waiting for reviews.  Readers have posted on Goodreads and Amazon (thank you!), but this was a book-blog review, a little something different.  Thanks to for posting their thoughts, rating Life in Spades with 4 “chairs” out of 5. They mentioned that “if you enjoyed Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale, you’re going to love Life in Spades.”  That was piece one.

High on those comments, I finished up my coffee and went to the Congressional Black Caucus Author’s Pavillion.  And as it turned out, who was on the panel?  Ms. Terry McMillan,  along with fellow authors Victoria Rowell (yes, Drucilla from The young & The Restless) and Chyla Evans, and representatives from popular bookclubs discussing the relevance of bookclubs in the digital era of reading.


The Authors Pavillion at the Congressional Black Caucus


Author Terry McMillan, Chyla Evans, Victoria Rowell on Authors Pavillion panel

Victoria Rowell has written several books on her adoption as a child and the adoption of her child.  Chyla Evans, interestingly, wrote her novel Fourth Sunday, with five other authors (the book is listed as written by B.W. Read).  They started out as a bookclub, then decided to write a book. I mentioned to her after the panel that I barely got along with myself while writing, I was impressed that they were successful with six writers.

Chyla Evans and a few of her fellow writers, who make up "B.W. Read"

Chyla Evans and a few of her fellow writers, who make up “B.W. Read”

The panelists made a few points that I thought were quite useful for new writers, like myself.

  • Bookclubs want authors to be approachable. One of the women mentioned asking for an author to visit her club and the author’s agent wanted to charge a considerable amount, in the thousands. Obviously, that’s outside of the scope of your regular bookclub, so they had to pass.  Ms. Rowell reiterated this notion, mentioning how she tries to be very flexible in meeting bookclubs whenever and wherever she can fit it in.
  • The readers mentioned getting book recommendations from all over the place – reviews, word-of-mouth, online sites.  This makes sense to me as this is how I pick my own books to read.  I browse the new fiction section at Barnes & Nobles, yes, the bricks and mortar one with real books inside.  I read reviews, but admittedly, only about the first paragraph because I don’t like knowing too many details about a book before I read it.  Probably the majority of my books are from friends who said, “here, you should read this.” The take away for me was to get the book out there, get it in as many venues as possible.

Of course, I can’t go to a book anything and not come away with anything.

As Ms. McMillan signed her new book Who Asked You?, she graciously accepted a copy of Life in Spades. Will she read it? Who knows, but it felt very special to have my debut novel in the possession of one of the most successful modern Black women writers.

I picked up The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer).  It’s about a young man in African that helps to uplift his village by building a windmill.  It seems one that I can share with my children.

Here’s the line that got me to pick up the third book: “Booker’s Baltimore is equal parts The Wire and Cosby Show.” What? Two of my favorite shows of all time. It could only be better by throwing in Big Bird or a shipwrecked tour boat.  And then Sheri Booker read from her newly released Nine Years Under, about a girl growing up in one of Baltimore’s funeral homes, maybe a page or two.  Her reading was reminiscent of slam poetry – which I always think sounds so aggressive, but is very attention getting. It was the interesting contrast of this tone with the touching passage she read that caught my attention. I had the book in my pile by then, her reading just solidified my decision.


That was all piece number two of the puzzle.

The last piece, I left from there and headed to Baltimore to meet with a newly formed bookclub for their first meeting. I was honored that Life in Spades was their first pick and thank them for having me join them.

I rounded out the evening with dinner with my sister-in-law and her family, enjoying a great big bowl of shrimp and grits and peach cobbler.  Then what can you do after that, but go home and go to sleep?