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Awestruck Among The Literati
By Alvin C. Romer
Saturday, February 15, 2003
This is a short expose of a day in the life among several authors attending an literary industry conference.
The ALA's Black Caucus representing the library industry held their Fifth Annual Conference of AA Librarians in Ft. Lauderdale recently. It was a week of literary exultation and appreciation with authors, vendors, and librarians the nation over striving to take advantage. Wanting to do just that, I steeled myself to weather the storm, if not and incur the wrath of these fine book professionals as I made plans to crash their party! I was not invited, nor at the time were I a member of this illustrious group, the BCALA (that came later!)…but what I did have was a library card and the innate desire to be taken seriously as a Book Reviewer.
The expose you're about to read will reflect on the four days spent among authors I've read, admired, and were dying to acquaint myself with. I got a chance to mix and mingle with librarians who all hailed from places near and far as the idyllic South Florida landscape offered a taste of paradise accented with a Caribbean bent. I spent a few days getting to know (and getting in the way of) three authors previously mentioned on this site who not only tolerated my presence, but who in the end showed me in many ways the appreciation was warranted.
Way back when I first fathomed the thought of how I wanted to present and feature my first author for a spotlight, I didn't have a clue as to who would be the one…especially with me being so new in the industry trying to expand my web presence. Random House and its coterie of authors writing under the banner of their Strivers Row/Villard imprint gave testimony as to why (in my opinion) why they're considered to be one of the preeminent publishing operation in the industry. All of the authors representing this outfit was first class and personable. To wit: Darlene Johnson, who I think has those smiling eyes and a winning smile; TJ Butler, who looks like someone's younger sister with a disarming sense of innocence. I even had lunch with my erstwhile GRITS (Guys and Girls Raised In The South) book buddy Gwynne Forster…and the bantering went on and on as I was able to subsist off of the synergy.
The concept for TheRomerReview however, was firmly in place thinking the process out in my mind. I knew I needed someone to grace the cover and give my subject matter definition. Book Addiction, a local online book club that I was a member of solved the case for me unbeknownst to them. I found out that they were planning to host several authors that were scheduled to appear at the BCALA Conference and had agreed to book sign after the conference on Saturday.
As an avid reader who just recently decided to become a reviewer, I needed a good dose of literary medicine to keep me focused and aware that I indeed was in good company and that I would use this extra vim and vigor to achieve my goal, hoping that at least one of them would give me time of day. Alas and not to my chagrin, I immediately contacted several of those planning to attend, but only one author responded to my plea for an interview.
Tracy Price-Thompson (Black Coffee) and I hit a nerve that has transcended into mutual respect and a bonding friendship resulting in me getting preview of whom I was dealing with. She agreed to spend time answering my questions via e-mail and in between time running hither to yon. As a matter of fact, Rita Coburn-Whack also fits the description as I was able to find out why and how she was able to pen such a compelling novel as Meant To Be. I liken Tracy to a glowing ember full of spark to be the life of any party. Rita is like an all too knowing big sister, full of wisdom, advice, and a steely spiritual resolve. Christine Young-Robinson (Isra,The Butterfly) , that engaging children's writer is the epitomy of Southern charm…oozing with motherly resolve laid back and with just the right touch of flavor needed to savor good taste.
These three women scribes gave me a chance to observe authors away from the glitter, lights, and cameras. From them, I got different vibes and were able to discern what goes on the back side of an authors life complete with all the nuances that accompany being a writer. As far as I can remember and as long as I've been reading, books, libraries, and librarians were safe havens and the source that fueled my imagination. I'm a card carrier from way back, do not owe any money for overdue books, and have actually returned all books borrowed! But thrusting myself within, or even having the audacity to allow myself to rub shoulders with writers who've graduated from the school of hard knocks, and who've resided in hell's kitchen at some point learning how to write.
Breaking bread, tagging along to book signings, and sharing the angst of being away from home and the loved ones gave me all the fodder needed to label these wordsmiths human. I was able to feel the anxiety of being a part of something real to them…I watched intently as each of them read from their respective novels. Edwardo Jackson, my fellow alum from Morehouse made a believable analogy as he tried to give credence to why the antagonist of his book never hafta, or why it's always meant to be spiritually discerned when dealing with a character that Rita was able to craft.
Speaking of Rita, I marveled at how on a daily basis she reminded me in her own way how important it is to allow biblical verses to adorn your daily resolve. Reading from her book during the conference and later at a Miami book signing she possessed a calming but sturdy sense of stability, exuding confidence in a style lending itself to grace and elegance as she eloquently delivered a sound and informative expose of how her book came to be.
In closing, I'd like to think that in order for any author to adhere to all of their publisher's demands he/she must posit to have more wit, acquire the wisdom, learn the business, and possess the wherewithal to be marketable. I felt that ALL of the authors I was able to coalesce with gave me more than I thought imaginable in dismissing the oxymoronic thought that they are something that quick out of fabrication. They're human, prone to get tired, and will continue to smile…while hoping to hear the ringing of cash registers as you buy their book. I felt that the way the authors read and answered questions during the Authors' Showcase reinforced all representatives that librarians are still viable, that our libraries will retain access to embrace this new technology, and that the write thing will prevail. My awe was not withstanding of anything that wasn't represented in a positive way, nor did it dampen my spirits to continue to beg and badger for reviews when I need one.
Thank you Tracy, Rita, and Christine for allowing me to 'hang'….and to all the authors that met my acquaintance, know that I will continue to support you as long as you send those books my way!
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|Reviewed by T. S.
|"Authors in-the-flesh:" sounds like a topic that might have some commercial impact. By all means, let us hear more about your true-life encounters with famous authors.|