LUMBERTON — This year’s Book ‘Em North Carolina Writer’s Conference and Book Fair was the biggest one yet, said organizer Patricia Terrell, but even as the author paused to sign books and answer questions, Terrell said her mind was already making plans for next year.
Terrell, a Lumberton author who writes under the pen name p.m. terrell, was all smiles at Saturday’s event, which took place between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Robeson Community College. And who could blame her? After just three years of holding the annual event in Robeson County, Terrell says that attendance has doubled from last year, attracting 4,000 book lovers from all over the state.
“This is definitely our biggest year yet,” Terrell said. “Last year we had only had around 2,000 attending but I think it was affected by early morning rain. This year though, we were able to invest more in advertising around the state thanks to a grant we received from the business bureau. I think that really helped. Also, we have six headliners this year, which is more than ever.”
Terrell co-founded the Book ‘Em fund-raising organization in 2000 with police Officer Mark Kearney while living in Virginia to raise awareness of both illiteracy and the effect it has on reducing crime within a community. It wasn’t until 2012 that Terrell, after her move south, brought the event to life in Robeson County.
Though admission was free, money was raised through book sales. All of the more than 70 authors and publishers attending the event had agreed to donate 40 percent of their book sales to be divided among the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Robeson County, Friends of the Robeson County Public Library, Communities in Schools of Robeson County, and the Lumberton Police Department for their involvement in the Reading Across America program. In the past two years the event has managed to raise a combined $18,600, and this year Terrell is hoping to add significantly to that number.
“I don’t think anyone is really into writing books for the money, so I had no problem giving away a part of my sales,” said Sarah Norkus, a Virginia-based Christian literature author. “I just love book fairs, because I love dealing directly with people. I think it is just a wonderful experience.”
Among this year’s major headliners were best-selling authors Haywood Smith and Bob Mayer, authors of “The Red Hat Club,” and “The Nightstalker” series respectively, WRAL-TV broadcaster Mason Smith, author of “The Tar Heel Traveler: Journeys Across North Carolina,” cinematic book trailers filmmaker Adam Cushman, and rock icons Jamie Oldaker and John Regan.
Though neither Oldaker nor Regan have yet worked in the publishing industry, both are writers. Regan, who has worked with such artists as Mick Jagger and Peter Frampton, spoke on the topic of songwriting and how it relates to story-writing, whereas Oldaker, best known for serving as drummer to Eric Clapton, spoke on the subject of his autobiography, which is currently in the works.
“I love reading in general, mostly sci-fi, and I think it is nice to see younger authors here,” said Aerial Spooner, age 12, who arrived to the event in style via her father David Spooner’s helicopter.
David Spooner, a chief pilot with the North Carolina Forest Service, decided to bring his helicopter from Rockingham as a show of support to Terrell, and to give kids attending the event something fun to look at. Spooner and Terrell became friends thanks to Terrell’s husband, a former Forest Service worker.
“I just wanted to do whatever I could to help out,” David Spooner said. “She’s just a wonderful person.”
The Spooners weren’t the only ones to come from afar. Robin Minnick and her 23-year-old daughter Kelsey Minnick traveled from Fayetteville for the second year in a row to attend the event — though by more traditional means.
“I love that this gives exposure to writers and the workshops are truly invaluable to anyone who is interested in becoming a writer themselves,” Robin said. “We just love it.”
With several more pages of Saturday’s event yet to be turned,, Terrell said she says has already signed up 25 new authors for the 2015 event.
“I do nothing else. I really have no life outside of this,” said Terrell jokingly. “Writing books and promoting literacy is everything I do.”