Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Celebrating... "Song of Solomon"

I remember that feeling I experienced eight years ago when my first novel was released. There was this overwhelming sense of gratefulness; this 'wow factor' at the realization that God had not only shown me my purpose, but was also allowing me to walk in it. This month, my sixteenth novel was unveiled, and that same level of gratefulness still overtakes me. "My passion, my purpose, my pen." The joy and fulfillment that the combinaton of them continues to bring never stales.
Song of Solomon hit bookstores nationally on July 1st, but the official release celebration didn't take place until Saturday, July 10th. On that afternoon, a conference room full of Mississippians joined me at the Willie Morris Library located in the capital city of Jackson to help commemorate the occasion. The hosts for the afternoon were the members of Savvy Book Club (president, Rose Wright) and Books And Beignets (BAB) Book Club (president, Sonya Ward) . . . and what a celebration it was!
One thing I never do is score the book release celebrations that are thrown in honor of any of my novels. I wouldn't dare try and list them numerically, saying which was best, which was second best, and so forth. God has been very gracious to me over the years, and trying to categorize the special events would be too difficult a task to undertake. Every book release event that I've been blessed to have for any of my novels has been applause worthy, and the Song of Solomon affair was no different. The food, the fellowship, the fun . . . in a word, all of it was fabulous!
While I refuse to even attempt to rank my book releases, I will readily admit that there was something very unique about the event that marked Song of Solomon. I experienced a few "firsts" at this event and they made it all the more special. For the first time in my literary career, a radio remote was pitched from the location of my book release. Nikki Dulaney, of 95.5 Hallelujah FM, came and broadcasted live from Willie Morris Library while we were there celebrating. I had the opportunity to be interviewed and to address her listening audience, inviting them to come and join the celebration. Add to that another first . . . An award winning, legendary gospel artist performed at my function. To be clear, I've had a nationally recognized, award winning artist to entertain at a book release event before. My friend and spiritual brother, Lowell Pye (of Men of Standard), captivated the guests who attended the Fifteen Years book release back in February of this year. But the Song of Solomon commemoration marked the first time I'd ever had one to perform who is a seven-time Grammy nominated artist. Not only a seven-time Grammy nominated artist, but he's also a three-time Stellar Award winner. Not only a seven-time Grammy nominated, three-time Stellar Award winning gospel artist, but a gospel music legend. And not just any gospel music legend.
For five decades, The Williams Brothers have been trailblazers, blessing the world with great gospel music. And for three of those five decades, they have been my all-time favorite group. And anyone who knows me well, knows that lead vocalist, Melvin Williams, is unrivaled as my best loved gospel artist. So it was more than a delight; it was incredibly humbling to have Melvin accept my request to be at the book release for Song of Solomon. And not only be there, but to perform live for me and my guests. Undeniably, his presence and participation was a personal gift for me, but there was more to my request for his presence than he was aware. I had a few surprises up my sleeves for him, and thanks to the help of his faithful assistant who worked with me behind the scenes for months, we pulled it all off without a hitch.
Melvin had no clue that I'd dedicated Song of Solomon in his honor. If you read the book, you'll see the titles of all of his solo albums (typed in italics) as a part of my expressions on the dedication page. In addition, he had no knowledge that the lead male character in the book was inspired by him. I revealed all of that at the celebration, and to top it all off, just before he took the mic to sing, the host book clubs helped me present him with a cake to honor his approaching July 21st birthday. Melvin's music, his character, and his presence has been such a blessing to me over the years (there's a testimony behind that, which I shared with the attendees of the book release), and I wanted to use the platform of Song of Solomon to show a little of my gratitude. His generosity at the event was overwhelming. Not only did he render a wonderful mini-concert for the attending supporters, but he also gave free (yes, I said free) autographed CDs to every person who purchased a copy of Song of Solomon!
The celebration didn't end with Saturday's event. Each time that I travel on tour, I make an effort to find a local church to worship with before returning back to my home in metropolitan Atlanta. While in Mississippi, I chose Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Smithdale. The shepherd of the house, Pastor Oliver Smith, is set to be the worship service speaker on Cruisin' For Christ IV when it launches next summer, so I thought I'd take advantage of the opportunity to get an advance taste of his ministry. My publicist and I rose early Sunday morning and drove from Jackson to Smithdale to be a part of the service there. It was well worth the 90-minute commute, and Pastor Smith's message was a perfect topper for our weekend. Following the benediction, he invited me to have a book signing in the fellowship hall of the church. The members of Rose Hill were extremely generous in their support, and just like he had done at the Saturday event, Melvin Williams was there at Rose Hill giving complimentary autographed CDs to all those who purchased Song of Solomon.
Quite honestly, I couldn't have asked for much more. A successful weekend book launch tour wherein I was blessed to sell an impressive number of books, spend time with friends and supporters, partake in my first live radio remote feature, worship at the church where the man I now call my "Mississippi pastor" is the presiding shepherd, and not only have my best loved singer perform at my book release, but be favored to share a signing table with him during both appearances. Is there any wonder that the Song of Solomon release celebration will forever be etched favorably in my memory banks?
Aside from the millions of thanks that I want to shower on Savvy, BAB, 95.5 Hallelujah FM, Pastor Oliver Smith, and all of the supporters in the Jackson and Smithdale areas, I would also like to send a warm heart full of overflowing gratitude to my publicist (Terrance Wooten), Melvin's assistant (Bridget Flury), and of course, to the incomparable Melvin Williams for the special parts they played in making the weekend more than special. And even though the celebratory weekend has ended, the reasons to be thankful continue.
Since our departure from Mississippi, I have received word that the Nikki's Hallelujah Book Club (on-air book club founded by Nikki Delaney at 95.5 Hallelujah FM) has chosen Song of Solomon as their featured book of the month. Additionally, Saavy Book Club has selected it for their August book of the month.
To God be the glory!


Renee said...

Amen! It was a wonderful event. God is certainly good. Thank you again for inviting me to the event, I had a great time. I look forward to reading Song of Solomon later this month...still getting settled in Mississippi;-)


Shelia G said...

Kendra, I got your book in the mail last week. I can't wait to read it.

'Cilla said...

Kendra.. thanks for sharing .. wish I've could have attended but i was there in spirit. :-)