Authors and readers – we have a symbiotic relationship, don’t we? We’re not much one without the other. And as a relatively new author, I definitely appreciate every reader who has picked up Life in Spades.
Since releasing Life in Spades, I’ve been fortunate to have a number of bookclubs read about Gina, Cookie, Laura, and Sherry and invite us all to their meetings. We’ve enjoyed great discussions about sisterhood, friendship, and romance over mimosas, sangria and wine, and of course, cupcakes. It’s really been a pleasure hearing from readers what they thought of these ladies and their lives – and what they thought they should have done. Thank you to all my readers for inviting Spades into your life.
Last weekend, I participated in a book weekend that celebrated the relationship between the writer and the reader, especially those readers in book clubs. The Black Authors & Readers Rock Weekend, held in Bowie, MD by the Reading Divas, is a unique event which I think may be as enjoyed by the exhibiting authors, as the reader guests. The weekend included a bookclub discussion of “Open Door Marriage”, by Naleighna Kai, a number of panel discussions with authors and publishers, and a keynote speaker, along with the opportunity to shop for books from the authors and Mahogany Books, sip drinks at the bar, and enjoy lunch. The book club attendees came dressed in their matching t-shirts and outfits, lead by the Reading Divas who donned cute pink cheetah print scarves and their “Divas” bling-y pins.
I sat on the Movers & Shakers panel with a well-published group of authors, moderated by J’Son Lee author and publisher of Sweet Georgia Press. At the table with me were: Shelly Ellis, Electa Rome Parks, KL Grady, Earl Sewell, and Nanette Buchanan. As each author read from or spoke about their novels – covering everything from romance, espionage, mystery, and of course, the girlfriend novel – it was quite evident that there is a wide berth of African-American books out on the market, and that, in fact, there is a market for diverse books, despite what some may say.
The second panel, Literary Trailblazers, was moderated by WHUR’s Harold T. Fisher. In this round, we heard from Rochelle Alers, Nina Foxx, Donna Hill, Kimberla Lawson Roby and Pat G’orge Walker. The authors talked about some of their own truths and “what no-one knows about me,” creating a new genre as Pat did with Christian comedy, the difference between romance and eroticism, and why the movie is never as good as the book (short answer: because the author rarely writes the movie script.) Kimberla, asked if she ever thought of quitting, said that she does with every book, doubtful that it will be as good as the last. This may seem odd, but that statement made me feel better about my own choice in pursuing this career of writing, knowing that that little wiggle of self-doubt is not uniquely my own.
Kimberla Lawson Roby was also the lunch Keynote speaker for Saturday. Starting out in June 1996, she put together her debut novel after-hours while working her regular government job. Once faced with selling her first shipment of 3000 copies of Behind Closed Doors, her husband encouraged her to make the big leap of faith from part-time self-published writer to full-time, then traditionally published, writer. She said she was nervous turning in her two-weeks notice and asked her husband what would they do if this writing career didn’t work? His message to her was one that’s crucial for anyone ready to step out on a dream – then you do something else, what have you go to lose? Her upcoming novel, A Christmas Prayer, will be her 21st book.
As a new writer, stepping out onto this journey, it was exciting and inspiring to be included with this group of accomplished writers, as well as interact with bookclub readers. This weekend really proved that Black Writers and Readers Rock!
More on how readers can be influencers in my next post.