In the weeks following a Book ‘Em event, I review every aspect of it, looking for things that can be improved upon and things that worked well. And this past Book ‘Em North Carolina event has left me with a lot of examples of its success.
Two authors were featured this year who attended Book ‘Em North Carolina in 2012 in search of a publisher for their first manuscripts. Cris Harrelson and Ginger King both landed contracts with Second Wind Publishing, a traditional publisher that is already committed to participating again in 2014. Seeing them at their signing tables, selling and signing their books and speaking with their new fans was definitely a shining example of dreams come true.
In the midst of the blizzard moving across the country, four women made the trek to Lumberton to meet the authors and publishers and sit in on the panel discussions. One left from St Louis, Mo.; another from Indiana; a third from Illinois; and a fourth from Maryland. Each took several days’ vacation from work and traveled hundreds of miles for this one-day event.
I met a number of people from Maryland who came as attendees after reading about the event in their local newspapers. In the weeks leading up to the event, I hired an assistant to help me get the word out across seven states — and the effort obviously worked well.
This year also included a presentation of 10 Fender guitars. Fenders are used by some amazing musicians, including Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Townsend. Scottish actor, author and musician Dirk Robertson donated five of the guitars to the Robeson County Public Schools’ Music Department and five to a church in Bladen County, which were accepted by parishioner and Lumberton city employee Connie Russ. Dirk spoke of being functionally illiterate and how music saved his life. Music, I believe, is poetry in motion. Dirk is now an accomplished musician, actor and published author.
Fewer than 30 percent of the people purchasing books at Book ‘Em North Carolina were from Robeson County, which meant that hundreds of people came to our city from across the state and across the country. The crowd was estimated at around 2,000, despite the heavy rains.
The money we raised stays in Robeson County for increasing literacy. We will meet or exceed the amount we donated last year, of $9,000, which will be divided among the same beneficiaries: the Dolly Parton Imagination Library through United Way of Robeson County, which provides books to children ages 1 through 5; Communities In Schools of Robeson County for all grade levels; Friends of the Robeson County Public Library for literacy programs for all ages; and the Lumberton Police Department, which last year earmarked the contribution to reduce crime in schools.
It’s a drop in the bucket for a cause that we hope will benefit the entire community as more and more people become better educated and more well-read, increasing their chances for better jobs and higher incomes. But it’s just a start in an event that I hope continues for a very long time.
p.m.terrell is a Lumberton resident and author, founder of Book ‘Em North Carolina and co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation. For information on Book ‘Em, visit www.bookemnc.org. For information on p.m.terrell, visit www.pmterrell.com.