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!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

KC Girlfriend's 3rd Annual Literary Retreat

There's a first time for everything, and it is said that the first impression of anything is the lasting one. I can't decree that the saying rings true in every situation, but for certain, it is a fitting one when it comes to the impression of my very first visit to the state of Missouri.

After eight years of being a published author and being favored with the opportunity to fly all over the United States and even travel abroad, it's even a bit mind-boggling to me when I realize that even with all of my traveling, there are still unchartered states on my personal map. At times, it may feel like I've been everywhere, but I haven't. And until Friday, June 11, 2010, Missouri and Kansas were two of the state lines I had not crossed. However, during my time serving as featured author and keynote speaker for the KC Girlfriends 3rd Annual Literary Retreat, I was blessed to visit both.

I had a wonderful time of fellowship! KC Girlfriends Book Club president, TaNisha Webb, extended to me the royal treatment from the time my flight landed. Upon picking me up from the airport, TaNisha wisked me away on a sightseeing journey which included an educational tour of The Museums at 10th & Vine (which houses the Negro League Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum). Man...I wish they allowed picture-taking in that place because it was jam-packed with awesome photos, official documents, and other memorabilia. I couldn't take pictures inside, so the best I could do was capture one from the outside. In addition, I had the pleasure of visiting Willa's Books, a local African American owned bookstore that is stocked with not only fiction and nonfiction books, but wonderful collector's items like early editions of Time, Ebony, and Jet magazines and vinyl records (albums) of music of all genres.

The book club retreat was the following morning (June 12), and KC Girlfriends, along with Chocolate Pages Book Club, put together a very pleasant affair that I thoroughly enjoyed. Despite the fact that the skies opened up and heavy rains fell, the supporters braved the weather and filed into Holiday Inn at the Plaza for great fellowship and a delicious meal. I felt blessed to be in the presence of some wonderful local authors who were also a part of the day's program. Archuleta Chisholm and Rachelle Law were a pleasure to meet and hear, as they also served as speakers during the event. The fellowship among readers and writers who gathered there was delightful.

In addition to the opportunity to have face-to-face meetings with some of my loyal readers in the area, the highlight of the retreat for me was meeting a man by the name of Mike Dodson and his wife, Cindi. Only a few weeks earlier, Mike and I spoke via telephone after he was introduced to my work by a devoted "Kendra Norman-Bellamy reader" who (I believe) lives in the Witchita, Kansas area. After never having visited Missouri in my life, God orchestrated it so that I was booked to make an appearance shortly after my telephone conversation with Mike, and in doing so, I was blessed to meet him and his lovely wife when they came to hear me speak at the retreat. My connection with the Dodsons is one of those devine ones that only God could have made happen when, where, and how He made it happen. I hope to be sharing more about that with you at a later date.

A big THANK YOU goes from my heart to TaNisha and the ladies of KC Girlfriends Book Club as well as the sisters of Chocolate Pages Book Club for rolling out the red carpet. I enjoyed my time with you all, and I hope to do it again some time!