LUMBERTON — Children gobbled up free books provided by the United Way, Kiwanis of Robeson and Communities in Schools on Saturday during the sixth annual Book ‘Em at Robeson Community College.
The scene was not lost on RCC President Kimberly Gold, who was attending her first Book ‘Em.
“This has been a really fun event and a great way to promote literacy,” Gold said. “I am especially pleased to see the great turnout of children. Literacy starts with children.”
As advertised, Book ‘Em had something for every book lover. For the 26 authors, who had their books laid out on tables, there was an appreciative audience.
Lumberton mystery writer p.m. terrell, who founded Book ‘Em, had her books spread across an entire table.
“This is only about half of them,” terrell said.
Monique Gojko, a professed lifelong reader from Fayetteville, was impressed with the book collection, and that she could speak with such an accomplished author.
“I do read a lot, and I come to events like this to get to know the authors,” Gojko said. “That’s why this is fun.”
Gojko, following terrell’s advice, bought the first two books in one of the author’s series, perhaps laying the foundation for a long literary relationship.
Sierra Windham and Madison Rahner, students and aspiring writers at Coastal Carolina University, came to hear Jill McCorkle, who was a headliner of Book ‘Em’s panel discussions and author talks.
“I’m really glad I came,” said Rahner, who is applying to master’s of fine arts programs in writing. “We’ve had a great time meeting so many people.”
“We studied her in one of our classes,” Windom said.
Students come in all ages, and some, like Stan and Ann Smith, are retired but still learning.
“We came to see what Book ‘Em is all about,” Stan said. “We are in Jill McCorkle’s writing class at Wesley Pines.”
Book ‘Em drew in authors from all across the region. Some, like horror writer Jordon Greene, came from a little farther away. His latest book, “To Watch You Bleed,” rose to number seven on Amazon’s best-seller list, he said.
“I’m from Concord, so I wanted to get some exposure on the other side of the state to spread the word,” Greene said. “This is an especially good event because of the focus on authors.”
Greene, who laughs easily, said “horror writers are some of the happiest people in the world, because we can let it all out on paper.”
At the next table, Deborah Earwood, of Raeford, was getting tips on publishing her book from Mike Macalupo, a published author.
“I am looking for a publisher at this point,” Earwood said. “It took me 10 years to write my book.”
Newly published author Katie Oslin, of Wilmington, said she wrote to dozens of agents, until she found one willing to work with her.
“My book will be released on Thursday,” Oslin said. “This is my very first book fair. I thought it was important to start in North Carolina.”
Jane Pait, of White Oak, was selling books and looking for a new publisher.
“I taught high school English, and I love to tell stories,” Pait said. “Unfortunately, my publisher went out of business, and I am trying to get legal control of my books.”
Help may have been down the hall. Diane Wolfe, representing Dancing Lemur Press in Pikeville, was showing a table full of books that her company has published.
“I’m here to spread awareness of my company and to network with authors,” Wolfe said. “We print all kinds of books for all ages. Science fiction is our most popular at the moment.”
Jill McCorkle closed the program Saturday with a literary journey home to Lumberton. She remembered teachers, trips to the Carolina Theatre and the beach, and many, many more people and places.
“My second-grade teacher typed and put a poem I wrote on the bulletin board,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve gotten over seeing my name in print since then.
“It is memories, both happy and sad, that are the signpost, the road maps, of our lives. In many ways, we are always eight years old.
“In elementary school, we would take field trips to Dainty Mae’s, where we sucked icing from a pastry bag,” she said. “Then, we went to the fire station, where, if we were well behaved, we were allowed to slide down the pole.”
“As a writer my voice is always tied to North Carolina,” she said. “The ocean and the interstate are always present in my work.”
McCorkle also read from “Life After Life,” her most recent novel, which traverses the terrain of old age. Earlier in the day while she was signing books, former postal worker and photographer Ted Taylor gave her a small packet of photographs of her late father, who also worked for the post office.
Like her writing, these were tangible memories of McCorkle’s youth in Lumberton, and she was visibly moved.
Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-416-5649.