I’m an advocate of reading and travel to bring friends together. Go On Girl! Book Club (see previous post) does this in quite a spectacular way. GOG is one of the largest national, non-profit reading organizations dedicated to supporting authors of the African Diaspora. For the past 20 years they have hosted an author awards weekend in a different location each year, usually with 150 to 250 members and guests in attendance. The chapters in the host city plan and execute a weekend full of activities that include a mixer for GOG members and authors, meetings of the national board and executive committee and membership breakfasts. They also have panel discussions, book signings and tours of the host city.
Says GOG President Lynda Johnson, “Our members love interacting with the authors, having serious one-on-one discussions with them and being treated to sneak peeks of their upcoming novels.” It sounds like the authors enjoy it, too. Says Johnson, “Bebe Moore Campbell once said to us that she really appreciated her readers because the craft of writing is a solitary art and when you hear from people who’ve read your work you know you are appreciated.”
The high point of the weekend is the awards ceremony in which the group honors its Author of the Year, New Author of the Year, Life Achievement Awardees, and scholarship winners. Says Johnson, “Walter Mosley, Terry McMillan, Diane McKinney Whetstone, Sonia Sanchez, J. California Cooper, Daniel Black, Isabel Wilkerson, Stephen Carter, and Bebe Moore Campbell are among the literary luminaries that have attended our event to accept their awards. Our members look forward to this annual event so they can bond over books, meet their favorite authors and rekindle the cross-country friendships they’ve forged with each other. We stay connected throughout the year with a membership newsletter, chapter meetings and other gatherings.”
But if events of such magnitude aren’t for your group, GOG has some ideas to spice up your book club’s interaction and activities. For example, members get together to support each other for charity functions such as donating books to libraries and schools, reading to shut-ins and even donating books to women behind bars. Says Johnson, “Our members do so much around literature such as attending and hosting book signings, inviting authors to our book discussions and bringing the books to life such as preparing meals around the foods discussed in a book. For instance, we baked the cookies from the novel Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice and listened to the music of singer Nina Simone, who is prominently featured in the story. We also visit the locations in which the books take place. Our chapters in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas visited Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, Monticello, when we read the historical novel, Sally Hemmings by Barbara Chase-Riboud.”
If your book club is looking for great African-American writers, check out the extensive list of the books GOGs have read over the past 21 years. Says Johnson, “Through the course of our book club’s existence we have discovered some amazing African-American writers and many writers who are struggling to get their work out there. What we as an organization would love to see is writers of color getting recognition on the very large literary landscape.”
Go On Girl! Book Club will host its 21st Annual Author Awards celebration from Friday, May 31st to Sunday, June 2nd at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel. The awards dinner on Saturday, June 1st will feature our 2012 winning authors, Marlon James, Author of the Year for The Book of Night Women and Karen Simpson, New Author of the Year for Act of Grace. Authors who have attended past awards dinners include, Walter Mosley, Terry McMillan, Diane McKinney Whetstone, Lawrence Hill, Jewell Parker Rhodes and many others. For more information and to purchase tickets to the awards dinner visit www.GoOnGirl.org/events.