One of the finest events that I have attended in many years was the National Book Club Conference in Atlanta, Georgia the weekend of July 28 to 30. This year marked the 15th Annual Conference where some of the best authors of both fiction and non-fiction mingled with the finest and best collection of book club readers in the country. The idea of bringing the writers and readers together for a weekend of what the founder calls “Literary Bliss” was the brainchild of Curtis Bunn, an accomplished writer with six novels and a seventh one due out in October of this year.
From the moment I entered the fabulous Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead, I knew I was in for a wonderful treat. Curtis kicked the conference off with a breakfast featuring Jan Hargrave as the guest speaker, a professional lecturer and author who teaches how one’s body communicates to the world around it. After the breakfast, the over seven-hundred book club attendees began to peruse the various sessions. They could visit the “Featured Authors” sessions in which the writers would read from one of their works, of course with the intent to get the attendees to purchase their book as an individual or possibly recommend it to their book club as a future read.
It was a very eclectic group of authors, and you had your choice of listening to various artists read from their novels or non-fiction works as well as poetry. Curtis aims to please and tries to make sure he fills all his attendees’ appetites for the kind of works that excite them and leaves them wanting more.
Even though I had the great privilege to be listed as a “Featured Author” (and I have written a number of books in my lifetime), my workshop was rather unique because my emphasis was on introducing the book clubs to a new and exciting publishing company, JAED Publications, a company that I serve as the Executive Literary Editor. I shared with the book clubs the concept that we have a need for a nexus connecting writer, publisher and reader within the African American paradigm. I was not there to criticize majority publishing companies, but just to let the ladies of keen literary discernment (I don’t believe there was one male book club there) know that three very dynamic Black women and one man (yes, it is sister dominated), have put their resources into a company open to writers of all ages. One of the company’s more dynamic, young authors, LaKendra Ford, joined me at the podium and shared with the attendees the theme and plot of her first novel to be released later in the year under the JAED label.
There were three key events of the conference. The first occurred Saturday afternoon when Michael Eric Dyson received the coveted Terrie M. Williams Inspiration award. The second, later that evening, when the featured authors “walked the red carpet.” As one of the authors, I felt it an honor walking down the red carpet and into the Windsor Ballroom for dinner. The third took place right after dinner, when Iyanla Vanzant received the Walter Mosley Author of Distinction Award. She then gave a rousing speech that electrified the room with encouraging words about our race, history and culture.
For all the “nay sayers” out there (where is Bill O’Reilly?) who view the incessant killings in the Black community and declare our culture is dead, should have been there that weekend. And they should have been there Saturday night when the “sisters of the race,” dressed in their finest, strolled in majestic fashion into the ballroom in overwhelming numbers, and let the world know that our culture is alive and well. Literature is the foundation of all cultures and literature was the subject for everyone in attendance. It was Literary Bliss and it can only get better. My hat is off to Curtis, who has accomplished something many might argue would be impossible to do, and that is to bring together that many African American readers under one roof. He proved that if you do put that fifty-dollar bill in the middle of the book, it will definitely come up missing if done around these sisters.
If you happen to read this post and belong to a book club, you must contact Curtis immediately and make your reservation for next year. I’ll be on the phone to him tomorrow. I just want to be there and be reminded of James Brown’s famous words to song, “Say it Loud. I’m Black and I’m Proud.”