The Importance of the Black Book Clubs
by Dr. Maxine E. Thompson
Twice this week, on 2-13-10 and 2-18-10, I met with Book Clubs, once at the Inglewood Library, where I did a writer’s workshop and the other day at my book club, Seniors on The Move. I was happy for the feedback, the reminiscing and the discussions. It started me to thinking about how important the Black Book Clubs have been in this Literary Renaissance.
In fact, I know one writer who is self-published and who makes a good living doing 2-4 book clubs per month. So the Black Book Clubs are definitely important. It made me want to revisit an article I wrote 2 years ago that is still apropos. Sometimes God sends an angel into our lives and we don’t even know it. When God has a plan for our lives, He will make a provision.
In 1999, I had been off my job approximately two years when I re-issued my debut novel, The Ebony Tree. Looking back, The Special Thoughts Book Club was the first Los Angeles book club–in fact the first book club–to host me as a writer. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of being hosted at many book clubs, known and some even unknown.
In 1999, when I met with the founder, Janel Stephenson, and she paid me my first check (which was sizable,) for my books, I thought, “Wow! Someone will actually pay you for your dreams.”
Somehow, in chatting, I told Janel of my dilemma. I had just received a letter offering me to return to work as a supervisor, (which was a promotion) at the Los Angeles County Department of Children’s Family and Services, or I could stay on the unknown rocky path of living the writer’s life. I had no idea what the future held, and financially, it didn’t look like I’d be able to make it. After two years, I had run through my savings, my sick leave, and my vacation time. At the time, I had two mortgages, my youngest son in college, and grandchildren, a dog, etc. etc.
At any rate, Janel encouraged me to pursue my dreams. “You’ll never know if you don’t try.” With that check and Janel’s words of encouragement, I took one day at a time, and that one day has led into almost eleven years since I was last an employee.
Looking back, when I attended the Special Thoughts’ book club meeting, I was impressed by the number of members–almost thirty readers and 50 percent of them men. They were articulate and challenged my thinking.
Last year, in celebrating the Special Thoughts Reading group’s tenth anniversary, I congratulated them.
As for the journey, I am happy to report the following:
Since my first book club meeting, I’ve either published or been published in 11 books, (2 novels, 1 short story collection, 3 self-help e-books/manuals, and five anthologies,) one that I published under my company, Black Butterfly Press, Saturday Morning, (and two pending novel deals and one pending nonfiction book deal). I’ve edited, formatted or ghostwritten numerous books for other writers or companies. Many of these books have made bestseller’s lists, some even have made the New York Times’ bestseller’s list.
I am the agent for books for other African American writers and we are now pursuing film or independent deals for some of these deals. As another business, I’ve hosted Internet radio shows for writers since March 2002 to promote writers’ works. I currently host on Artistfirst.com.
So I’d like to give special thanks to Janel Stephenson for acting as an angel and for her encouragement and continued support of Black writers. I also want to thank the Special Thoughts’ book club members for pulling me through a dark hour. Congratulations on their upcoming eleventh anniversary in November 2008.
Now, once again, we are faced as a nation with that same dilemma that I had in 1999–except the economic climate is worse. Even so, many people have a dream of either being a writer, a magazine owner, a publicist, a book store owner, an agent, actor, artist, or you name it, but the economy looks so bleak. Wall Street crashed the week of 9-15-08 and banks failed. I mean how bad can it get during a recession?
Therefore, how do we make it as Black businesspersons during these trying times? What can we do?
Well, we can work together. We can build resources through one another. We can support one another’s dreams. We can barter. We can help each other. However, what we cannot do is to ever give up hope and faith. Remember, no good work goes unrewarded. In this vein, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many Black book clubs across the country that have supported Black books, thereby promoting literacy! I give a special thanks to Special Thoughts Book Club, Rawsistaz and Apoo.org.
In behalf of Black writers, I applaud and commend you, Black Book Club Leaders and Members.
About the Author
Dr. Maxine E. Thompson is a novelist, poet, columnist, short story writer, book reviewer, an editor, ghostwriter, Internet Radio Show Host, and a Literary Agent. She is the author of The Ebony Tree, No Pockets in a Shroud, A Place Called Home (A Short Story Collection), The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell, a contributor to bestselling anthologies Secret Lovers, All in The Family, and Never Knew Love Like This Before, (Also a Kindle Bestseller), Proverbs for the People.
Hostage of Lies is her latest fiction novel, was voted a Best Book of 2009 by EDC Creations: http://edcmagazine.blogspot.com/2009/12/best-books-of-2009-our-relationships.html
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