LUMBERTON — Writers and book enthusiasts of all ages will have a packed schedule Saturday when Robeson Community College plays host to the third annual Book ‘Em North Carolina Writer’s Conference and Book Fair.
The event, which will take place between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., will feature 75 guest authors, literary agents and publishers who will be on hand to sign copies of their books, as well as participate in panel discussions throughout the day.
North Carolina-based author Patricia Terrell, who writes under the pen name p.m. terrell, is responsible for having organized the event each year.
Terrell co-founded the Book ‘Em fund-raising organization in 2000 while living in Virginia, where she partnered with Waynesboro, Va., police Officer Mark Kearney to raise awareness of both illiteracy and the effect it has on reducing crime within a community.
“You’ll find that communities with higher illiteracy rates routinely have higher crime rates,” Terrell said, “ … which is why we say ‘Buy a book, stop a crook.’”
In 2012, Terrell set about reviving the organization in Robeson County with the first Book ‘Em event.
“We were so surprised by how much the community of Robeson has been so helpful. Extremely helpful,” Terrell said. “It is very important, for this to be made possible, that the community is involved. This year we have more than 200 volunteers.”
Though the event is free to attend, money is raised through book sales. Each author and publisher attending the event has agreed to donate 40 percent of their sales, which is divided among the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Robeson County, Friends of the Robeson County Public Library and the Lumberton Police Department.
Among the many well-known speakers attending the event will be best- selling authors Haywood Smith and Bob Mayer, WRAL broadcaster Scott Mason, who authored “The Tar Heel Traveler: Journeys Across North Carolina” in 2010, and rock music icons Jamie Oldaker and John Regan.
Music icons such as Oldaker, best known for serving as drummer for Eric Clapton, and guitarist Regan, who have worked with Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Peter Frampton, may seem like an odd choice for a book fair. But Terrell says that she wants the fair to celebrate writing in all its forms — even songwriting.
“[Oldaker] is working on his autobiography and he will be talking about how a small boy with a big dream ended up on the world stage,” Terrell said. “And [Regan] writes songs and some of his songs have been made into huge hits. He will be talking about the art of songwriting. Both have a very deep interest in people bettering themselves.”
Terrell wanted to ensure that this year also provided plenty to do for small children, which is why the event will come with an area referred to as the Children’s Corner. In this area children will be able to participate in a variety of crafts and face painting activities, and visit with Miss North Carolina Johna Edmonds.
“The community gains in several respects from this event,” Terrell said. “One is, of course, the higher the rate of literacy a person has, the better their job opportunities, and that creates a domino effect economically. The higher the literacy, the better companies are attracted to the area, because of the area having a more educated workforce and less crime.”