by p.m. terrell, @BookEmNC
I’ve wondered lately why I’ve had no time to blog. Then the reason occurred to me: I’m organizing a Writer’s Conference and Book Fair.
The Book ‘Em conference scheduled for February 25, 2012 is the tenth one and the first to be held in Lumberton, North Carolina. It’s shaping up to be our largest, most successful one to date. And that isn’t by accident. It’s the result of hundreds of hours by dozens of volunteers.
Laying the Groundwork: I began lining up community support several years ago for Book ‘Em North Carolina, an event to raise funds for literacy programs in Robeson County. We gathered support from the City of Lumberton (always important to get local leaders involved), the Lumberton Area Visitors Bureau (instrumental for publicity efforts), area businesses (sponsorships), civic groups (volunteers), schools (school-age attendance and volunteers with boundless energy), non-profits (to whom the literacy funds will go), among others. When we were offered Robeson Community College for the location, we were ready to get started.
Lining Up the Authors: We began contacting authors in March 2011. Two librarians, Katie Huneycutt and Lisa Matthews, helped me email authors and post blogs to raise awareness of the Book ‘Em event. Thanks to Katie, we lined up two New York Times best-selling authors as headliners: Carla Neggers and Michael Palmer (necessary to attract large crowds). I developed our website, posting every author’s picture, bio and links as they registered. Over time, I added dozens of informational pages.
Sponsorships: We solicited businesses for sponsorships, instrumental for promoting and marketing the event. We lined up pillars of the community, including University of North Carolina, Southeastern Regional Medical Center, BB&T and a host of businesses who donated $250 to $2,000 apiece. We secured grants from the Lumberton Area Visitor’s Center to cover promotional efforts and Kiwanis Club of Lumberton, who provided money to buy children’s books to give away.
Publicity: We began periodic press releases in the spring, which were picked up by mainstream and Internet media. We obtained media sponsors, including Lumberton Magazine and Robeson Living Magazine, and have been working steadily with newspapers, television and radio stations. We secured billboards around the state, which will roll out after the holidays. Our big promotional campaign begins January 2. Brochures are in all the NC Welcome Centers on I-95 and with local businesses; flyers will be distributed with all Lumberton utility bills; and our full Talks Schedule will be published in the January edition of Lumberton Magazine.
Logistics: The conference and book fair features more than 75 authors selling and signing their books, which means we must have tables and adequate space not only for the authors but for traffic flow. We’ve divided two buildings into fiction, non-fiction, young adult and a special Children’s Corner, meticulously measuring hallways and classrooms. We will have five sets of talks going on simultaneously: five publishers have joined us for the Writer’s Conference, and there will be panel discussions and solo talks for every genre – plus readings for small children. Each talk requires a moderator; each hallway and conference room requires a Team Captain and host of volunteers. There will be an Author’s Lounge and the college cafeteria will be open for attendees, requiring a Food Committee. We’ll have greeters, music in the cafeteria, events in the Children’s Corner, raffle tickets, and centralized cash registers, each requiring a team of volunteers.
Contests: We kicked off short story contests throughout the Robeson County Public School System and Robeson Community College. Entries will be judged by faculty and finalists will be decided by published authors. Winners will be announced at Book ‘Em.
Afterward: When the event is over, our work is not: we’ll clean up the space used, reconcile all the funds received, pay authors and publishers their portion of the book sales, award the non-profits funding for literacy efforts, and donate remaining books to literacy groups.
Then we start the whole process over.
Book ‘Em North Carolina will be held on the last Saturday of each February in Lumberton, NC. The event is FREE and open to the public; doors open at 9:30 am on February 25, 2012. A portion of every book sale will be donated to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Robeson County, Communities In Schools, and Friends of the Robeson County Public Library for literacy campaigns for all ages. The Book ‘Em Foundation was founded by author p.m.terrell, who wrote this blog, and Police Officer Mark Kearney, to raise awareness of the link between high crime rates and high illiteracy rates.