Sharon Lucas is an author, founder/president of the Reading Divas Book Club, and the event planner of the Black Authors & Readers Rock Weekend, an annual two-day literary conference.
Since her retirement in 2010, Lucas has worked tirelessly as an advocate for African American authors and book clubs. She doesn’t claim a favorite author, but shares that she loves well-written books, especially suspense and mystery.
Her first book, Plan It! A Resource Guide for Authors, Book Clubs & Literary Event Planners, was released in October 2015. Most recently, her short story was one of twenty featured in the anthology, The Ex Chronicles, which was released on March 8, 2016.
Sharon and her husband, David, the parents of three adult sons, and grandparents of five, are both retired and reside with their two cocker spaniels, in Bowie, MD.
The Situation Room with Michelle Cuttino caught up with Sharon Lucas to discuss how books have become her new business.
Michelle: Why did you want to start a book club? What was your primary goal?
Sharon: My primary goal was to carve out some “me” time in my busy schedule. In 1998, I was the married mother of four children working a full time job. Everyone was talking about Oprah’s Book Club and Terry McMillan, I loved to read and a book club seemed like the perfect outlet.
Michelle: What do you believe is the biggest misconception when it comes to starting and maintainingTHe a book club?
Sharon: Too often people think they should invite everyone they know to join, but book clubs have a better chance of surviving if you target other readers. If you are a reader and your BFF’s aren’t, you’re setting yourself up for failure if those are the people you go after.
Michelle: What types of books does The Reading Divas read? What is the club’s niche?
Sharon: We read most genres but agree self-help and religion are personal, and should be read on our own. If we have a niche, it’s suspense and mystery.
Michelle: How are featured books selected?
Sharon: Each month a different member hosts the meeting and she chooses the book for that month.
Michelle: Tell us a little about the Black Authors & Readers Rock (BARR) literary event. How did it come to be?
Sharon: In 2008, we hosted our first “Literary Brunch” to celebrate our tenth club anniversary. It was so well received, we continued to hold it each year. In 2012, we moved to a two-day program and renamed it BARR.
Michelle: When and where will the next BARR weekend take place?
Sharon: The next BARR Weekend will be held in Bowie, MD on October 14 & 15, 2016.
Michelle: How can one purchase tickets for the event?
Michelle: What other literary events are you involved with?
Sharon: In partnership with MD Park and Planning, I am the Coordinator of the Prince George’s Spring Book Festival, which will be held on May 14, 2016 in Landover, MD. I also host several small random events during the year. Last week I hosted a “Spring Fling” for ten authors with Brown Girls Books, and on July 17, again in partnership with Park & Planning, we will hold our second annual Summer Tea where we will feature four local authors.
Michelle: Your book Plan It! The Complete Resource Guide for Authors, Book Clubs & Literary Event Planners is being deemed the “Book Club Bible.” What made you write this guide?
Sharon: I was compelled to write this book in light of the many changes that occurred as a result of the closing of most of our African American brick and mortar bookstores. These closings left a huge gap in the way our authors reach our readers, and vice versa. I believe book clubs and well-planned and executed literary events can fill that gap and to that end, I hoped others might find my experiences and best practices helpful.
Michelle: What is the book’s goal?
Sharon: To encourage readers not to procrastinate about starting a book club, to demystify the event planning process, and to help create a mutual admiration society between readers and writers.
Michelle: What do you hope readers walk away with once they’ve read Plan It!?
Sharon: A better sense of why and how they can too can start and maintain a book club or host an event.
Michelle: You are also part of the The Ex-Chronicles anthology. What is the title and theme of your featured short story?
Sharon: The title of my short story is “The Circle of Life.” After I wrote Plan It!, Victoria Christopher Murray encouraged me to try my hand at writing fiction. When I saw the call from Brown Girls Book to submit a short story about an “ex” or former relationship, I sat and allowed the characters to write their own story. “The Circle of Life” touches on mental health and moving on.
Michelle: What advice can you give to authors looking to reach book clubs and promote their novel(s)?
Sharon: Before you send books and emails of introduction or ask to be invited to their meetings, build a relationship with them. Take the time to meet and build relationships with readers and book club members and those invitations will follow. Go where your readers are – book festivals, library events, etc. and network.
Michelle: What advice do you have for individuals wanting to launch their own literary event?
Sharon: Know what it is you want to achieve. Allow yourself plenty of time to plan. Attend events in your area, and take notes. Reach out to someone who has hosted an event, and ask questions. Develop and stick with a budget.
Michelle: How can readers contact and/or follow you?
About The Book
The title of the book describes it perfectly. Plan It! is a resource guide for authors, book clubs and event planners. It specifically covers how to start and maintain a book club, how to plan and host a great literary event, and how African-American authors and readers can unite to promote the written word. Plan It! is a tribute to all overworked and underrated authors, all book clubs that have stood the test of time, and those event planners who go the extra mile.
Purchase your copy here today!