LUMBERTON — Saturday was a perfect day to snuggle up with a book — or to join a large crowd at the second annual Book ‘Em North Carolina writer’s conference at Robeson Community College.
“There’s a great crowd despite it pouring outside,” said local author Patricia Terrell, chief organizer of the event intended to fight illiteracy. “Reading and rain go together. This may sound cliché, but everyone knows that the best thing to do on a rainy day is read a book.”
Saturday’s event brought together more than 75 authors, all interested in fighting illiteracy. The day’s activities included book signings, panel discussions and individual writers speaking about their works, and the writing and publishing businesses in general.
Dozens of award-winning authors attended the daylong event, including New York Times best-selling author Mary Alice Monroe. Several publishers, children’s authors and illustrators were also onhand, along with actor, writer and movie producer Chuck Williams.
“This is a great event,” Monroe said as she autographed books for those in a long line waiting to meet her. “At a gathering for writers like this there is always a lot of energy. All of us are here to support literacy and the importance of teaching children to read.”
Monroe has written 15 novels, including “The Summer Girls,” which comes out in July. She also has written two children’s books.
On Saturday, Monroe held a panel discussion titled “The Path to a Best Seller.”
Williams discussed the process involved to turn books into movies.
“Everyone who writes a book wants to know how it can be turned into a movie,” he told The Robesonian.
Williams has worked as an assistant director to such Hollywood heavyweights as James Cameron, Rob Cohen, Kathryn Bigelow, John Badham and Penelope Spheeris. He has produced films for the Sundance Channel, HBO, Showtime and SyFy.
‘This is an amazing event,” Williams said. “I enjoy anything like this that helps increase literacy and get books in the hands of children.”
Williams said that by next year he hopes to produce a movie in Robeson County or the surrounding area, adding that he scouted possible movie locations Friday and has plans to look at more potential movie sites Monday.
While the authors all praised the event, many saying they hope to be back next year, those attending the conference to learn more about the writing profession were also pleased.
“I was here last year and I had to come back again this year,” said Doris McIlwain, a Red Springs native who now lives in Wilmington. “It’s fascinating to talk with the authors and get them to sign their books. … There are people here from every walk of life, and there seems to be more children here this year than last.”
Sherry Davis of Lumberton said she had been looking forward to this year’s event, and she brought her son.
“I think it is so important to keep a book in the hands of children,” she said.
Mickey Gregory, executive director of the Lumberton Visitors Bureau, said the annual Book ‘Em conference is growing each year and drawing attention nationally. Attendees came from a number of states, including Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and California.
“This year we even had book clubs from Myrtle Beach and Georgia, as well as a publisher from Los Angeles,”Gregory said. “The event is starting to get national attention. Next year the Southern Writers Magazine wants to be one of the sponsors.”
All of the authors, publishers and illustrators volunteered their time to support literacy programs in Robeson County. The authors are donating part of their sale proceeds to the Book ‘Em Foundation. Last year’s event raised $9,000, which was awarded to local organizations providing programs aimed at improving local literacy rates and reducing crime.