LUMBERTON — Patricia Terrell, a local novelist, knows the challenges that fledgling writers face.
“I had a lot of doors closed in my face and I had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way,” she said. “I promised that if I ever made it, I would do something to help others have an easier time.”
That’s partly why she co-founded Book ‘Em North Carolina, a convention that celebrated its fifth year Saturday at Robeson Community College. In addition to giving bookworms a chance to mingle with their favorite authors, the annual event allows aspiring scribes to connect with publishers and sit in on lectures about the industry.
Terrell took a break from greeting fans at RCC to reflect on how Book ‘Em has grown through the years. She says the convention would have made “all the difference in the world” when she was starting out.
“The authors who come here are very enthusiastic about it and they tell their friends,” she said. “Several people have come through to say that they started writing since attending last year.”
Nearly 80 authors took part in the event, which ran from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It marked the beginning of a new chapter for Terrell, who announced that this is her final year spearheading Book ‘Em.
“I’m turning it over to RCC,” she said. “I’ll still be involved and will assist them with the transition. With the college behind it, I think we can grow by leaps and bounds.”
T.C. Hunter, a budding mystery writer, attended the convention to gain insight on marketing his work. The Lumberton resident’s second novel “From Darkness Comes …,” was released as an e-book on Amazon earlier this year.
“I got some very good tips concerning promotion and social media,” he said. “I had a very long conversation with an established author who gave me some good advice on how to hook publishers.”
For the second consecutive year, Hector Miray attended the conference as a featured author. The Lumberton pastor writes “Faith and Fandom,” a book series that explores the intersection of religion and pop culture.
“There’s camaraderie between the authors here,” he said. “I think it’s great for networking, too. I met several people last year that I interact with on a regular basis.”
Writers who received top billing this year included Shelby Stephenson, the state’s poet laureate; Malinda Maynor Lowery, a Peabody-winning historian and documentary filmmaker; Curtis Aikens, a chef who has appeared on The Food Network; and Vik Rubenfeld, co-creator of the 1990s television show “Early Edition.”
Lowery, a Robeson County native, is the author of “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South,” an acclaimed cultural study published by University of North Carolina. She has also directed several documentaries about the tribe, including 1997’s “Sounds of Faith” and 1998’s “Real Indian.”
“It’s been impressive,” Lowery said of Book ‘Em. “It shows that people are really invested and that’s a good thing. It reminds us that what we do here culturally is just as important and powerful and anything else in America.”
The conference raises money for groups that work to improve the high illiteracy rate in Robeson County. Money comes from the authors, who agree to donate a portion of what they make off book sales.
Terrell believes that illiteracy and crime rates are closely connected, hence the event’s slogan “Buy a book, stop a crook.”
During its first four years, Book ‘Em raised about $34,200 for literacy groups such as the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Communities in Schools, Friends of the Robeson County Public Library and Read Across America. The amount of money raised Saturday was unavailable as of this writing.
In a recent interview, Terrell said that the convention requires months of planning and is pulled off by a small army of volunteers.
“The event could not take place if it wasn’t for the support of the community here in Lumberton and Robeson County,” she said. “Area businesses sponsor the event and volunteers from a variety of groups assist in making it so successful.”
Terrell has authored 20 books spanning multiple genres, including a paranormal series set in Lumberton. She also writes a monthly column for The Robesonian.
Her 2010 novel “River Passage” won the Best Book award from Bengal Book Reviews and her novel “Vicki’s Key” was selected as a finalist for the 2012 International Book Awards and the 2012 USA Best Book Awards.
Although she looks forward to having more time to concentrate on her writing, the author says she’s proud of what Book ‘Em has accomplished.
“The years have flown by,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate.”
Staff writer Jaymie Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at [email protected]