Baltimore Book Festival: Inspiring Our People

Earlier this fall the city of Baltimore implemented its sixteenth annual Baltimore Book Festival. Though, I had never attended the event, I was elated about the featured guests and activities to take place. Upon reading the list of expected speakers, authors, and activities, I knew that I had to attend the informative and inspirational literary event. There was a variety of well-known and underground authors and poets, speakers, activists, community sponsors, etc… There were various literary games, bands, and food and wine vendors present. I was impressed by the immense variety of literary genres that were featured in the event as well. I met numerous non-fiction authors, children, Christian-fiction and non-fiction, radical, teen-fiction, erotica, and adult-fiction novelists. I was pleased to find that two of my favorite not -so -underground authors were to be featured in this event on the same day: The dynamic and New York Best Selling author Terry McMillan, and the multi-talented Kimberla Lawson Roby. I was privileged to meet and briefly converse with both well-respected novelists.
The first of these two adept authors to hit the stage was the infamous Terry McMillan. Of course we were all expecting and anticipating for her to read from her latest debut “Getting to Happy”-a page turning sequel to the classic best-seller “Waiting to Exhale”. “I will not be reading from Getting to Happy today.” she announces as soon as she hits the stage. “I am going to read from a novel that I am currently working on”. Ms. McMillan read a short, humorous, yet poignant excerpt from the up and coming novel. The book is seemingly about a dysfunctional family that is torn apart by complex issues such as drug abuse and financial woes. The excerpt left audience members in awe, and of course, in anticipation of this novel’s release.
After the reading of her novel in progress the audience members were given a chance to ask the author a series of questions regarding her writing techniques, past and prospective characters, etc… One audience member asked: “As far as your characters go, do you develop them as you write, or do you have an idea of who they are before you write them?” “Kind of both”. The writer asserts. “I know where I’m going to take them. I usually start a novel based on a question. What are these people? What are they trying to deal with? I know somewhat what their challenges are. I do these things, kind of like a job application, where I sketch out the characters but I really exaggerate. I know what size shoe they wear, if they wear a weave, if they lie, if they’re allergic to anything, what their favorite class was in school, if there is something in their lives that they could change…what would it be? And at this point, this very moment, what is wrong? What is their issue? What challenges are there that they are facing (that they’re aware of) that they’re avoiding? And that’s what I make sure I make them deal with. That’s usually what the novel is about.
Ms. McMillan is infamous for creating various characters that are facing vast calamitous situations such as: domestic violence, alcohol abuse, heartache, financial woes, racism, marital issues, or family chaos. As a writer, I admire Ms. McMillan’s swift ability to create such drastically different characters who are all facing various issues (in one book) but still manage to have at least one problem in common.
“I don’t write fairy tales “. She continues. “All of us face challenges, and there are a lot of them. For me, life is a series of hills and valleys. Sometimes, as soon as you get that first one and say ‘whew’, here comes another one. It’s (life) a series of what I call knots. How well you unravel the knot maybe determines to some extent how easier the next one will be to unravel. Some people don’t even try to unravel the knots. Some people are just victims, and I don’t write about victims. I find them boring. When you are challenged to some extent in real life, you either have to deal with stuff, or you are a victim.”
The next guest whose arrival I highly anticipated was the New York best selling novelist Ms. Kimberla Lawson Roby. Ms. Roby is infamous for her Reverend Curtis Black series that has turned out to be a nine book cycle. Reverend Curtis Black was first introduced to readers back in 2000 in the page-turning novel “Casting the First Stone”. Readers quickly found that Reverend Black lived an iniquitous, conniving, and manipulative lifestyle. Reverend Curtis’ illicit legend resurfaced itself in : “Too Much of a Good Thing”, “The Best-Kept Secret”, “Love and Lies”, “Sin No More”, “The Best of Everything”, “Be Careful What You Pray For”, “Love, Honor,and Betray”, and an up-and-coming novel that will be released next year according to Kimberla. “I never intended for there to be a sequel to Casting the First Stone” Ms. Roby states once she is asked about her infamous series. “It was just readers asking for it over and over because they could relate to him. In every single city I went to they knew who the Reverend Curtis Black was, and they would even tell me the names of their pastors. Usually, I get people asking who are you are really writing about? People swear they know who I’m writing about. But the Reverend Curtis Black is a mixture of many, many people, not just one.” Aside from the Curtis Black series , Ms. Roby has written a number of phenomenal reads including: “A Deep Dark Secret”, “Between the Lines”, A Taste of Reality”, and her latest debut that was released this year, “Secret Obsession”. I am a huge fan and avid reader of Kimberla because I admire her realistic style and the diversity of real life issues that her novels portray. Her novels address complexities such as: adultery, sexual abuse, harassment, gambling addiction, shopping obsession, sibling chaos, mental issues, and barrenness. Kimberla is now working on her eighteenth book that will hopefully be released in 2012!
I am more than ecstatic that I attended this sublime literary event and that I was able to meet dozens of other people who are also writing to educate and inspire others to succeed. I am glad that the city of Baltimore is motivating all people, but most importantly, people of color, to read and write avidly…For it is up to the future and present writers to inform , encourage, mentally -stimulate, and educate people of color so that OUR world will substantially be a better place.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.