"Read My Lips" is the new initiative began in November 2006 to encourage reading and writing among those both young and old. We want to help feed a passion for the written and spoken word to help individuals continue to mold the future. Want to know how you can be featured? Contact us at cawebb4@juno.com or 601.896.5616.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reading Brings Family and Friends Closer together in Rankin County

For Dana Hampton of Pearl, Mississippi, books have always been a part of her life. Now 36, the single mother finds that her daughter Kaylyn Mangold,16, have found something they can do together---and it is bringing them closer together as well.

The two ladies have become regulars at new events in Rankin County that are geared at promoting the arts, namely books and spoken word. Both are members of the Subway Conversations Book Club (3000 HWY 80E) in Pearl, MS as well as regulars at the spoken word night held there every Saturday evening.

"It is a great way to express yourself freely," says Hampton. "You don't have to be shy at the events because you're among friends."

When Dana first heard there was a book club that met in Pearl, her first thought was why she hadn't joined a book club sooner! "I like the fact that I can discuss a book in great detail and offer our own thoughts on what we thought about it. It is great for all of us to have read the same book and get different opinions and ideas from it."

So far her first book that the group discussed ("Sins of the Father" by Felicia Madlock") has been her favorite thus far. Why? "It is so realistic. And I feel like it is written about something we can all relate to."

The first book that Ms. Hampton read that still is in her mind is a classic: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

And how did her daughter get involved in the equation? "Kaylyn loves to read and write just as much as I do," Dana explained. "It's important for me at this point in her life for us to do all we can together and it will have a lifetime effect on her to know that I was supportive something that she enjoyed. As a teen there is so much more she can be doing, and she wants to read and write!"

Reading has also brought Dana and her best friend Kim Luke (also of Pearl) closer. Kim,29, and her nine year old son, Eric Brewster, have become regulars at the book club meetings and on Saturday, July 28 he became the young poet to take to the microphone for Spoken Word night!

Luke says that meeting author C. J. Domino during her tour of Mississippi encouraged her to read her book (SIDELINE HO) and now she is already 10 chapters into C-Murder's book DEATH AROUND THE CORNER.

The four of them have also begun traveling to Jackson, MS to attend other literary events, including the release of the 7th and final Harry Potter book at the Metrocenter Mall on Friday, July 20, 2007.

For more details about the book club and spoken word events in Pearl, call Subway Restaurant at 601.936.4803 or visit http://subwayconversations.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

OUR TAKE: Conversations Book Club reviews C. J. Domino's SIDELINE HO

Not since Noire's THONG ON FIRE have I read such a tale of love and redemption, payback and betrayal as what is found in C. J. Domino's SIDELINE HO. Set in her hometown of Louisiana, the novel outlines the life of an individual whose past disappointments have shaped her into a callus human being seemingly destined to always be second. There are many themes that run throughout the book, and thought the story moves quickly through the lives of its main characters, it is hard not to read the book and not find at least something you can relate to in your own life. Whether it is the way Domino addresses the issues of infidelity, domestic violence, self-love, self-respect, the consequences of our actions and even unprotected sex--- there is nothing that this book doesn’t seem to address.

At one point in our lives, I think we can either say that we have come across characters like that in Domino’s SIDELINE HO, or we look at them every day in the mirror. How many of us have mirrored the thoughts of the main character Nikole Freeman: ‘I didn’t have a thing to offer but drama’ (p.104).

Intertwined within the main message of the book is an old saying that Nikole finds to be so true: “Keep your friends closer, and your enemies closer.” For her the lesson is learned after underestimating a friend that she herself has betrayed—but who seems to have the last laugh.

Don’t let the title and cover dissuade you from reading what is definitely one of my favorite reads of the Summer.

I will be recommending SIDELINE HO to others, and after you read it, I am sure you will join me in doing the same.

--- C. A. Webb, President of Conversations Book Club

Thursday, July 19, 2007

PROFILE: Bestselling author James Earl Hardy

Early in June 2007 Bestselling author James Earl Hardy sat down with Conversations Book Club for a discussion about his love of words, the acclaimed B-Boy Blues series he created and the future for his characters Mitchell and Raheim. A man who is no stranger to seeing his name in print, Hardy has written for The Washington Post, Essence Magazine and The Advocate, as well as penned non-fiction work that has garnered him national attention. Now 40, his appreciation for where his passion has gotten him.

Hardy was born in Brooklyn, NY and working as a journalist when he pinned his first book B-BOY BLUES in 1993. When talking with him, he describes writing “like breathing”, having written his first poem before he was 8 years old. The book that has now raised a new level of dialogue about the parallels between the relationships of gay and straight couples didn’t seem to have been what the writer expected. “I didn’t think the books would be as groundbreaking as they have proven to be,” he told Conversations. “Same-Gender-Loving relationships sometime mimic straight couples. I think the reading population is just catching up to what has been there for some time.”

When asked about the roles his characters play in their own development, Hardy learned he had to step aside and let them have their say. “I wasn’t initially thinking about their (meaning Raheim and Mitchell’s) voices, but they let me know that they had other stories they wanted to tell.” This led the book to evolve into a series of novels that have changed the face of printing forever.

How did it become such a phenomenon? For Hardy it seemed to literally happen over night. “I owe it all to the way the book was marketed and promoted. The initial print was only 3,000, but those sold out within a month. A lot of its success has come from the grapevine and simple word of mouth.”

Seeing what a runaway hit he penned didn’t make everyone believers in the beginning. “I was told you have to tell either a black story or a gay story. You couldn’t do both in one book.” However, with readership increasing with each new book of the series---and readers of all sexual orientations becoming fans---that advice doesn’t seem to be grounded in fact.

Conversations was curious as to how it felt to see his book in the stores with so many of the authors he had grown to love over the years. Hardy told us that it was “the moment” for him. He related that he would be flooded with emails from those who felt as though he had “finally told their story.”

So what is the B-Boy Blues series all about? ‘Mitchell Crawford, a journalist, falls for a roughneck bike messenger, Raheim Rivers, and they commence a relationship that is at once passionate and abusive. Themes, such as gay pride and prejudice, are smartly worked into the narrative. Hardy explores what motivates Mitchell, who is African-American and homosexual, in a society where, it can be difficult at times to be either, let alone both. (Heather Keets, EW.com)’

Hardy told Conversations that he wanted to tell the story of people like himself, but admitted that the series is not necessarily based on his own personal experiences. Among the issues addressed in the books are self-awareness, self-love, the complexities of relationships and even political and social commentaries. In the book THE DAY EAZY-E DIED he found a way to educate people without being preachy. “I saw Eazy-E’s death as an opportunity. We needed to tap into what caused it (AIDS) and why the prevention efforts seemed to fail. Nobody wants to keep it real with us,” he explained, yet the effect of that time in history for his main characters couldn’t be ignored.

We asked if he expected his work to have the crossover appeal (from Gay to Straight readers) that it did. He answered: “The story is the same no matter who picks it up. It doesn’t change. People may come out of their comfort zone to read something different, but that is just an added benefit. These characters are real and deserve to have their story told.”

Conversations was curious as to which of his books have been his favorite. Hardy confessed that 2ND TIME AROUND was his personal favorite, but the debut novel B-BOY BLUES has been praised more by critics and fans alike.

The final novel in the series A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME may seem bittersweet for readers, but not so much for the author. “I believe this is the end of the road for them, at least in book form,” Hardy explained. “I care about Mitchell and Raheim. They are my muse, and they are real people to me.”

Hardy has been blessed to receive praise not just from his fans, but from those close to him as well. “My family and friends are not surprised by my success. My father is my #1 fan. He’s proud of me and what I have achieved.”

THE DAY EAZY-E DIED is becoming a play, as well as the novel that started it all, B-BOY BLUES.

At the end of the day, Hardy has this to say: “I’m certain that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. One day I got a letter from a young man who wanted to die because he was dealing with his sexuality. After reading B-BOY BLUES he saw it was alright to live. That just shows how words have so much power.”

And with power like that contained in James Earl Hardy, we can look for many more lives to be affected for years to come.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

SPOTLIGHT: Derrick L. Briggs, President of "Books Are Sexy" Book Club

Derrick L. Briggs
26 years old
Began book club in August 2003

Almost four years ago now, Derrick L. Briggs says he began the "Books are Sexy" campaign, because he felt like something was missing. That is a big admission, since in New York there is so much to do.

The name of the group just seemed to fit automatically. When he was deciding what his book discussion group would be called, the answer just kind of fell into place. "I knew it was going to be a fun way to promote the book club," Briggs told the Conversations Book Club recently during one of its regular meetings. "You're competing with so many other projects and activities that you have to make yours stand out if it is going to survive. Then it came to me: Knowledge is sexy, so books are sexy."

Briggs started it all with five guys and a website. Now he has been able to weave together a network that is felt all over the country---and the teasing moniker has done much to turn attention to books.

Where does his drive come from? "I am a leader at heart, " he told us. "I contribute my strength to men like Malcolm X and other influential people in my life like my mother."

The love of books had escaped him for a time, however, when he began to read again he felt the need to share it with his friends.

One way that Briggs has been able to reach people all over the place from New York is through his blog. While talking with the discussion group he said that through blogging, it is so easy to write and convey thoughts and information now.

One interesting fact about Briggs is that he had never attended another book club, but this was a true plus in his opinion because he wasn't influenced by anyone else's ideas. He wanted to be set apart from the way he decorated for the events to the authors that were discussed.

Speaking of authors, they have run the gamut of the entire spectrum. "Books are Sexy" has read books by Toni Morrison, Zane, Barack Obama and others. "We don't want to be put in a box," says Briggs. "We read and discuss all kinds whether it's gay, straight, confused...whatever."

His advice for others when it comes to starting discussion groups about books? "You have to lead by example. You can't force information on people, it has to come naturally. Make sure to get others involved. Ask people what they like. Communicate."

For more information, visit www.derricklbriggs.com or http://thenewderrick.blogspot.com.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bestselling author Lee Hayes prepares to visit with Conversations Book Club

It is with great pride that Conversations Book Club announces that bestselling author Lee Hayes will be visiting with the group later this year! Mark your calendars: Hayes will be joining the group via conference call on Thursday, August 16, 2007 at 6p.m. at Waldenbooks Metrocenter for an hour discussion. He will be visiting in person November 8-11, 2007.

Look for more details to be given as they are confirmed. You can find our more about Lee Hayes by clicking here.

This is part of Conversations Book Club project "JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get Hooked on Books". To get more information, visit the main website of Conversations Book Club today.

Monday, July 02, 2007

JUST IN: Tananarive Due, co-author of the new blockbuster CASANEGRA (with Blair Underwood and Steven Barnes) agrees to "Conversations"

Just a day or so after finishing the sexy mystery CASANEGRA, I was on the computer writing to the authors trying to get an interview. Today I got this reply from Bestselling author Tananarive Due:
"Cyrus, if I may--Wow. The work you're doing sounds more than worthy...I'm sure my husband (Steven Barnes) and I would be happy to phone in, if that can be worked out... Let me know if we can be helpful in any way... Thanks so much for writing!
Best, Tananarive."

So you know what that means: We will be taking with both Due and her husband, Steven Barnes, this year! Mark your calendars: Wednesday, September 5, 2007 @ 6p.m. CST! This will take place exclusively at Waldenbooks Metrocenter.

The novel CASANEGRA is now available in stores and select libraries. "Check it out."