Hundreds Drawn to Atlanta by the Same Love

Ron Harris | 8/22/2014, 1:30 p.m.
It was an eclectic bunch--retirees, school teachers, government workers, military wives, business owners, writers, a radio announcer and even a ...
Retired business tycoon Herman J. Russell spoke about his life and what he had to become a construction magnet. Russell received a special award from public relations legend Terrie M. Williams. (Photo courtesy of NBCC)

Special to The Atlanta Voice

ATLANTA – It was an eclectic bunch--retirees, school teachers, government workers, military wives, business owners, writers, a radio announcer and even a former star professional basketball player. Most of them had journeyed from across America to be together in this one place, many for the third, fourth, fifth year in a row.

Audrey Savage had come from Lansing, Mich. Gloria Pasteur was there from Clearmont, Fla. Deborah Johnson flew in from Alleghany, N.Y. Veleria Allen, Mary Blair and Patricia Wilson had driven over from Birmingham, Ala. Others had come from Baltimore, Washington, Chicago and numerous communities big and small.

They had gathered for the weekend at a Buckhead hotel because they all shared one great love – books, and it was that love, affinity for and affirmation of the printed word that had brought them to the three-day, 12th annual National Book Club Conference (NBCC).

Started and organized by author Curtis Bunn, author of six novels and former sportswriter for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, NBCC brings mostly African-American book clubs from across the nation to Atlanta annually to meet with new writers, examine new works, hear readings and hang out together.

A number of writing legends were honored, including Pearl Cleage, whose book What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day was a 1998 Oprah Book Club selection; My Haley, author and co-writer of her husband Alex Haley’s Roots and Kimberla (cq) Lawson Roby, New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Reverend Curtis Black Series, and Zhane, whose book, Addicted, is being released as a movie. Roby was named the NBCC Walter Mosley Author of Distinction. Cleage was honored during the Bebe Moore Campbell Memorial Award.

Writers and readers attended a number of workshops that covered a range of subjects, such as how to self-publish a book, making a strong book pitch and an open discussion on black book publishing. The panels featured writers and literary experts, including Monica Michelle, Petra Lewis, Cerece Murphy, LaShelle Williams, Eve Wright Taylor, James Waggoner, LaToya Smith, Linda Duggins, Bernice McFadden, Tracy Sherrod, Patrick Oliver, Nick, Chiles, Dene Milner and ReShonda Tate Billingsley.

Best-selling author, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker Terrie M. Williams presented the award named after her to industrialist Herman J. Russell and actor and author Hill Harper.

But for all the celebrities and the hoopla, readers and the writers said what brings to the NBCC is a sense of community, a chance to meet authors up close and personal and to finally make new friends and acquaintances, readers and writers said.

K.R. Raye, author of The Colors Trilogy – Colors of Affirmation, Colors of Love and True Colors – reflected most of the writers comments she said the event was a great place to meet readers.

“What makes this so different and enjoyable is that you really get a chance to meet your readers and talk to them about what they like and to hear their input,” said Raye, who had come a Maryland community just outside of Delaware. “I love this event. It is so warm.”

Veleria Allen from Birmingham said the ability to meet the authors and the other book club members was made the event special for her and her book club, Black and White Pages.

“I’ve been to other events, but this is by far the best,” Allen said. “You really get to talk to the authors about everything, but you also meet so many other wonderful people. You make friends, you create relationships with people across the country around the love of books and community service.”