On Saturday, Sept. 22, Robeson Community College will host Book ‘Em North Carolina for the seventh time since Lumberton was selected by The Book ‘Em Foundation as the only site in North Carolina sanctioned for the event. This will be the second year that the college is also organizing the event under the leadership of Crystal Edmonds, program director for the English Department.
The Book ‘Em Foundation was founded nearly 20 years ago for the purpose of raising awareness of the direct link between high rates of illiteracy and high crime rates. According to ProLiteracy.org, 75 percent of prison inmates either lack a high school education or they are classified as low literate, which impacts their ability to read, write, speak and comprehend sufficiently to function in a job and in the community.
Additionally, 43 percent of adults with household incomes at or below the poverty line do not have high school degrees, and 70 percent of adult welfare recipients have low literacy levels, according to the National Institute for Literacy. One of the major factors in attracting businesses to an area lies in its workforce, and when that workforce has a larger percentage of residents that are functionally illiterate, companies tend to move on. The result is that higher paying jobs go elsewhere while those that are functionally illiterate continue to slide deeper into poverty. It creates a downward cycle that can reverberate through the community for generations.
The annual Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair bring together authors to help raise money to increase literacy in Robeson County. Funding is obtained from the table rental that authors and publishers pay for to participate in the event as well as community sponsors. The event is free and open to the public. Both fellow writers and readers of all ages and levels are sure to find panel discussions and solo talks they enjoy in addition to visiting one-on-one with dozens of authors.
Headliners this year include bestselling author Jonas Saul, who is traveling from British Columbia, Canada, for the event. His books have sold more than 2 million copies on Amazon alone, and two of his series — the Sarah Roberts Series and his Jake Wood Series — have been optioned as television series.
Jonas is joined by Elizabeth Massie from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Elizabeth has won the Bram Stoker award twice for her novel “Sineater” and her novelette “Stephen” and she has also won awards for her novelization of the hit Showtime television series, “The Tudors.” With dozens of titles ranging from young adult to horror to historical, she is a versatile and prolific author.
Rounding out the headliners is Jeff Mudgett, the New York Times bestselling author of “Bloodstains” and the co-host of “American Ripper,” the television series shown on the History Channel and A&E. He will be traveling from Las Vegas for the event.
They are joined by a diverse group of authors that encompass history, inspiration, children’s books, mystery, suspense, romance, non-fiction, horror, science fiction and other genres. It is a unique opportunity to visit with authors from across the country, all traveling to Lumberton for this annual event.
The doors open to the public at 9 a.m. and close at 4:30 p.m. Parking is free, and all attendees can enter through the doors to the A.D. Lewis Auditorium.
For those who enjoy writing and wish to learn more about the industry, the talks given by Jonas Saul, Elizabeth Massie and Jeff Mudgett will be particularly interesting, as all three have made the leap from writing to the screen. Panel discussions will also be conducted all day on a variety of subjects for both writers and readers.
For more information, visit www.bookemnc.org, where you can view a list of participating authors and publishers, read their biographies and click through to their websites.
p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 20 books, including two series set in Lumberton. For information about Book ‘Em, visit bookemnc.org. For information about terrell, visit pmterrell.com.