The GOG DC #1 chapter with me and my Aunt Verlene.
This is a love letter. I've said it many times that I love book clubs, but let me say it again: The people who form groups to get together and talk about books (whether online or in person) help me keep the faith. So thank you to all the book clubs out there!
This time, I'd like to specifically address the Go On Girl! Book Club, who I had the pleasure of meeting with in Houston at their annual meeting. What a joy! About 160 smart, funny, kind, lovely, well-read and fun women (and a few "supportive husbands") showed up (out of the 300 or so members around the country) to shower lucky authors (including myself) with affection.
I didn't know much about the Go On Girl! Book Club when I sent them my book, except that they were a book club and I thought they might enjoy reading my novel. They only pick 12 books a year (6 fiction and 6 nonfiction), so it's quite an honor for them to have selected mine. Anyway, I didn't know much about them but last weekend I learned about their mission and history and I have to say it floored me. And brought me to tears more than once. Their mission is to let publishers know that black people do indeed read and they enjoy quality fiction. After they read a book, they send a letter to the author's publisher to make their voices heard, to say, in effect, "black readers exist."
The group was founded about 18 years ago, and sadly, their efforts are needed just as much today as they were then. Some might say even more. (Indeed, some of the members told me that it felt like that "we are going backwards" or said they've been hearing the same author tales of how hard it is out here for all their years in existence.)
This group's mission is basically to keep black authors going so that readers like them can keep getting good books. At the awards dinner, several of the members spoke about how they know that writing is a lonely art and they want to tell authors that we are not alone. That when we're worried or disheartened that people like them are out there rooting for us and waiting on us to write another book for them to read. This alone is balm for the writer's soul.
But on top of this, they give awards! And put together a hell of a weekend of events to almost literally heap praise and support on the writers lucky enough to attend. This year, Ravi Howard, author of Like Trees Walking won the New Author Award. Tananarive Due, Stephen Barnes and Blair Underwood won Authors of the Year (and you have never heard so many giggly women in your life when they showed Blair's video acceptance speech!). And J. California Cooper received the Life Achievement Award (and stole the show every time she opened her mouth-very wise and funny woman!).
It is a credit to the Go On Girls' hospitality that, while I wasn't an award winner, I still felt well-loved over the weekend. We had a pajama party with orange mint cookies, and I'm drinking coffee out of the GOG mug they gifted to me (along with an apron and boxes of tea)!
And, on top of all this, they give scholarships for new writers! This is a group that offers a wonderful model of walking their talk. Dear Go On Girls, you humble me, inspire me and awe me, and I am so, so grateful for your support!