By Givane “Gigi” Hayes
The National Book Club Conference (NBCC) was founded in 2001 by author Curtis Bunn. At the time Bunn’s first book was number one on the Essence best sellers list, and after visiting with book clubs from across the country he says he was struck with the idea of hosting the world’s largest book club meeting. The conference is now in its seventh year, with an average attendance of 550, but in the beginning no one, including Bunn, could have predicted success. According to Bunn it was difficult to get author attendance in the beginning; however, once a few authors signed on more followed. The conference is now an event authors feel they need to attend.
I loved the intimacy of NBCC, I don’t think I’ve ever attended a conference where I’ve been so up close and personal with authors I love. I was sitting in a session with author and publisher, Tina McElroy Ansa, when suddenly her very good friend Pearl Cleage sat down right in front of me. Just when I thought I could not be more overjoyed, I got to speak briefly with Dr. Bertice Berry, who told me I looked like her niece. The overall familial feeling of the conference also extends to those that attend. While standing in line for J. California Cooper’s (last time I’ll name drop) autograph and a quick picture, I spoke to one of the panelist about starting my own book club. Without hesitation she gave me her card and the offer of advice on getting started.
While the focus of the conference is books and reading the panelist and award winners, merely by virtue of who they are, broadened the scope to include mental health, community service and mentorship. Just about every panel I attended discussed the importance of reading as a tool for community development. Anyone who has ever been a member of a book discussion group can tell you that the discussion begins with characters and plot and ends with personal reflection.
Planning for NBCC 2010 is currently underway, for more information visit: www.nationalbookclubconference.com