"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.

Get your literary word search ebook for only $5.00

Get your literary word search ebook for only $5.00
Click the cover above to learn more!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Conversations & TRU Proudly Announce Hiphop Literacy Tour

Conversations Book Club Founder Cyrus A. Webb and TRU Publishing President Corey "C-Murder" Miller are pleased to announce another historic event that will bring the worlds of hiphop and literature together: Introducing The "Hiphop & Books Tour" (http://www.hiphopandbooks.com)!
(Conversations Book Club President Cyrus A. Webb & TRU Publishing Founder C-Murder seen seated here.)
"Once I announced (last week) that I would be hosting a "Hiphop & Books" Youth Rally in Mississippi, it became clear from the response that this was something that would have to be duplicated throughout the country," Webb said in a state on his website http://www.thebestbookclub.info. "We have to come to grips with the truth: our world is in trouble, and the more we try to ignore the warning signs when it comes to the apathy towards reading the more we are just burying our heads in the sand."
In the past there have been hiphop recording artists that have written books, but there has never been a nationwide assault on the problem of literacy among lovers of the hiphop community. That is where the "Hiphop & Books" Tour comes in.
This is how the tour will work:
Beginning Saturday, April 26, 2008 Webb will introduce the tour in Jackson, MS with his recording artists Trill and G-Money as participants in the event. The three of them and another representative of the book club will then begin traveling the country duplicating the same type of events. At each stop Trill & G-Money will perform as well as TWO recording artists from the area in which they are visiting. Webb will also invite authors from that area to participate in the event, telling the public about their literary projects. In each city, Conversations & TRU will be donating a total of $500 of BRAND NEW BOOKS to an organization that can use them to encourage reading. This could be a library, Boys & Girls Club or other non-profit organization.
*     Sponsors/Supporters for the "Hiphop & Books" Tour are Shadow Play Entertainment, For The People Productions, Yo!Raps.com, The Hype Magazine, http://www.weneedtostop.com, The Hip-Hop Chronicle, C-Rich & The Independent Nation, C. O. D. Records and Off Da Chain Entertainment.
Dates are being added quickly. If you are interested in being a sponsor or hosting a "Hiphop & Books" event in your city, feel free to contact Cyrus A. Webb at cawebb4@juno.com or 601.896.5616.
For complete details, you are asked to visit this link: http://hiphoploversread.webs.com/hiphopbooksrallies.htm.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Conversations Celebrates Savvy Book Club's 1 Year Anniversary

It was a great pleasure for me to be present for the celebration of our literary partner's, the Savvy Book Club, 1 Year Anniversary! The event was held today, Saturday, March 29, 2008 at the Willie Morris Library in Jackson, MS---and it was a great occasion of good conversation, good food and remembering of great memories.

Under the direction of Rose Wright, the group has done much in promoting reading and the enjoyment of books---and it has been a pleasure to work with them from time-to-time on projects in Mississippi. Also present at the celebration was Mississippi author Voncele Savage (author of A LETTER TO MY SITERS) and members of the Southern Girls Book Club.

Among the discussions after the program among Savvy Members and Conversations was the new release by Mary B. Morrison (SWEETER THAN HONEY) and our Book of the Month GROWN & GANGSTA by Jacki-O. (Look for them to be reading each book in their group very soon!)

Conversations Book Club was also recognized for its work with literacy, and I was glad to receive the award on our behalf.

Congrats again to the ladies of Savvy Book Club. We look forward to being shoulder to shoulder with you for many years to come.

C'mon. What are you waiting for? JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books! http://www.thebestbookclub.info http://readingmylips.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"HipHop & Books" Youth Rally Slated for April 2008 in Mississippi

"Hiphop & Books" Youth Rally slated for
April '08 in Mississippi
Conversations Book Club and TRU Publishing, in connection with their literary partners*, are pleased to announce the 1st "Hiphop & Books" Youth Rally of Mississippi! This will take place on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at the Smith Park in Downtown Jackson beginning at 1p.m. and ending at 5p.m.
 The purpose of the event is to unite and entertain lovers of hiphop music with a family-friendly show as well as bring attention to the problems of illiteracy and school dropouts. Conversations believes that by showing that the hiphop community is about more than just the glitz and glamour portrayed through television and music that it can serve as a wakeup call for young people to still strive for the best possible life they can get through a good education and positive role models.
The days events will feature space jumps for the kids provided by Inflatable Kingdom, concession-style food and performances by Mississippi's own Ondrea Nicole, Trill, G-Money(seen above), Britt, Jacktown Slim and Jack Squad. Our special guest for the rally is Lil Half Ounce aka HollywoodHalf whose album SMALL TOWN HYPE features Fiend, C-Murder, Lil Cali, Pearlie Mac, Savage of Trill Ent and more.
To encourage school participation, Conversations & TRU are presenting this contest: The school that has the most students that attend the rally will receive $1,000 in brand new books for their school library donated by Conversations & TRU! (In 2007, Conversations & The Jackson Advocate donated over $500.00 in brand new books to the Shady Creek Trailer Park in South Jackson.) At the close of the event there will also be a historic, special announcement made that you want to be present to hear!
Admission is free, however, vendors including Krooked Ledda Clothing and others will be on hand with merchandise. For more information, contact Robin Gardner at 601.664.8805, Stanley Clark at 601.559.3463 or Stephanie Mitchell at 601.500.8950. Also visit http://www.hiphopandbooks.com.
*This event is brought to you in part by Shadow Play Entertainment, For The People Productions, S. M. Productions, C. O. D. Records, Off Da Chain Entertainment and Jaia Productions

Monday, March 24, 2008

Conversations Launches BeBop Record Shop/Jacki-O Media Blitz

If you are in the Jackson area of Mississippi, prepare to be fully aware of the new collab between BeBop Record Shop and Jacki-O's debut novel GROWN & GANGSTA. Conversations Book Club will have a new commercial debuting on WRBJ 977 Tuesday, March 25, 2008 with a strong presence on the streets and through the internet---all with the purpose of promoting reading.

Mississippi's own hiphop artist Trill has gotten in on the action, providing his single "Gettin My Airplane On" to the commercial and future promotional material.

Conversations Book Club will be reaching out to all media outlets to latch on to its mission of encouraging reading among all ages.

For more information, visit http://www.thebestbookclub.info.

C'mon. JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Conversations Book Club Reveals What YOU can expect in April 2008!

In the first 3 months of 2008, Conversations Book Club has once again shown why it has been called "the best book club". Already hosting 13 authors this year, it is gearing up for a powerful month of activities and SIX NEW AUTHORS in April 2008.
These are the visits you can look forward to:
Bestselling authors Joy King & L. A. Banks (April 11-12, 2008)
Bestselling author Tina Brooks McKinney (April 18-19, 2008)
Bestselling authors Craig Alexander & Darden North* (April 22, 2008)
Bestselling author Michelle McGriff (April 27-29, 2008)
Also in April 2008, look for interviews with Bestselling authors Treasure Blue, Kwan,
Trice Hickman, Kim Reid, Portia Cosby and Gretchen Craig!
*     NOTE: This event will also involve authors Voncele Savage & V. L. Green.
C'mon. JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books! http://www.thebestbookclub.info

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Looking for your literary fix for the weekend? Watch our video chats!

Looking for your perfect literary fix for this special holiday weekend? Then we have the perfect video chats for you! Simply click on the links below and enjoy our discussions with some of your favorite authors!
Bestselling author Allison Hobbs
Bestselling author C-Murder
Bestselling author Jonathan Richardson
Bestselling authors Shelia E. Lipsey & Daphine Glenn Robinson
Bestselling author Brenda L. Thomas
Bestselling author Voncele Savage
Bestselling author Diane Dorce
Conference call conversation with Bestselling author Andrew Neiderman
C'mon. JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books! http://www.thebestbookclub.info

Jacki-O's "Grown & Gangsta" Book Tour Back on track: April 8-10, 2008

Book lovers and fans of Miami's own recording artist/author Jacki-O can breathe a little easier: TRU Publishing & Conversations Book Club are releasing book tour dates and locations for the debut novel that is taking the world by storm: GROWN & GANGSTA. (See below)
The success of the debut release of Corey "C-Murder" Miller's TRU Publishing is undeniable as the crowds in Mississippi and Louisiana showed in early March 2008. Jacki-O's story of six friends dealing with coming from nothing to having everything is striking a chord with readers of all backgrounds, fulfilling the purpose that both she and the publisher had in mind. Below are the upcoming dates in Mississippi and Tennessee for April 8-10,2008.
4-6:00p.m. --- Booksigning @ Stax (Official Blockwear), 1021 Ellis Ave, 601.949.8489 (MS)
6:30-7:00p.m. --- Booksigning @ 3 Sons Restaurant, 367 W. Northside Dr., 601.982.7383 (MS)
7-8:00p.m. --- Book discussion @ 3 Sons Restaurant, 367 W. Northside Dr., 601.982.7383 (MS)
12-2:00p.m. --- Booksigning @ Be-Bop Record Shop, 3887 Metro--- 601.969.3181 (MS)
4-6:00p.m. --- Booksigning @ Be-Bop Record Shop, Maywood Mart --- 601.981.5000 (MS)
11-1:00p.m. --- Booksigning @ Borders Book & Music (Memphis, TN)---901.754.0770
4-6:00p.m. --- Booksigning @ New Life Record Shop (Nashville, TN) --- 615.504.9579
To see when Jacki-O will be in YOUR city or to schedule interviews, contact Cyrus A. Webb at cawebb4@juno.com or 601.896.5616.
C'mon. What are you waiting for? JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books! http://www.thebestbookclub.info           http://www.truconversations.com

Friday, March 21, 2008

Savvy Book Club Celebrates Its 1 Year Anniversary!

Part of the success of Conversations Book Club is its ability to reach out to other literary organizations and work together with them for the common purpose of promoting books. One of the partnerships we have forged is with Savvy Book Club, headed by my friend Rose Wright. This month they are celebrating their one-year anniversary, and we have been proud to share our authors with them over the past twelve months.

On behalf of Conversations Book Club and our literary partners, we wish nothing but continued success to Rose Wright and Savvy Book. We encourage them to keep sharing, keep loving and keep reading.

BREAKING: Rapper/Author Jacki-O makes history in MS record stores!

"GROWN & GANGSTA" by Jacki-O on sale NOW at Mississippi BeBop Stores!

Once again Conversations Book Club and its partner TRU Publishing are making history in the promotion of Recording artist/author Jacki-O's book GROWN & GANGSTA. Starting Friday, March 21, 2008, Mississippi residents can purchase the book at BeBop Record Stores in Mississippi! This is the first time that the BeBop chain has ever carried books in their retail outlets, however, it was a chance that they were willing to take.

"I just called the store up and asked them if they were interested in helping us promote reading and making history," says Cyrus A. Webb of Conversations Book Club and TRU Publishing. "It was something that I knew could go either way, but they saw the vision and wanted to support our cause."

"This is a win-win for all parties involved," agrees Ann Lampe of BeBop Record Stores. "We are glad to do what we can to promote reading as well as give our customers something they can't find anywhere else."

As part of the new partnership with BeBop Record Stores, Webb has agreed to bypass the larger music stores and will only sign similar agreements with independent stores in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Georgia.

"This is our way of remaining true to the grassroots effort both Conversations and TRU began with," Webb explained. "If we can get to as many people as possible in the neighborhods where they are, it will help us get one step closer to everyone wanting to pick up a book and give it a shot."

Mississippi residents can get the book at BeBop Record Stores in the Maywood Mart Center (601.981.5000) and 3887 Metro Drive near Metrocenter Mall (601.969.3181) for only $12.95.
C'mon. JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books! http://www.thebestbookclub.info http://www.trupublishing.com

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Grown & Gangsta" by Jacki-O: Our "Book of the Month", April 2008

"Grown & Gangsta" by Jacki-O chosen as Conversations Book Club's book of the month for April 2008

Jacki-O's GROWN & GANGSTA has everything you would expect from C-Murder's TRU Publishing: strong alliances, strong sex scenes, major players---both men and women---and lessons that people of all backgrounds can easily relate to.  GROWN & GANGSTA is the story of friendship---REAL friendship---that endures the hurt, highs and lows and success and proves itself time and again. 

The characters dance along the pages in perfect harmony, each lending credence and strength to one another while standing on their own as individuals. All of us will see ourselves or someone we know in one or more of the 6 main characters that we're introduced to, whether we like what we see or not.
Inch is by far one of the strongest of the forces in the book. You find yourself liking his swagger, respecting his confidence and accepting his carelessness as just part of the life he has created for himself. There is a sense of invincibility about Inch that you can't help but take notice of, however, it will take more than a bulletproof vest to protect him from what is coming his way.
Tatiana is just one of many women that have shared Inch's world and his bed. She loves what he represents but believes he will never give her the "real life" that she wants for herself. In Devon she sees the missing piece of the puzzle, but there is no way to be complete without the man who seems to be the only one to make her feel whole.
Monique is the kind of woman that every man wants. She takes care of her business and respects that of her man, Iz. When the chips are down she proves that you can have it all: the money, the career and the love of a man---even if bars and jailtime may separate you.
Iz knows what he wants out of life and goes after it. This has gotten him far in life; but when it is time to reap what he has sown Iz takes the lemons he has been given and makes the lemonade that will keep him and his relationship alive.  
Malcolm is the guy who had something to prove. Once made fun of in school, he was not a respected broker on Wall Street that wanted nothing to do with the ghetto he came from---but was tied to it by the friendships that he wouldn't get away from. Always wanting to prove he could run with the big boys on any streets, he uses his influence in business to bring about a big payday in the underworld. It's not until his best laid plans go astray that he realize that you can't have always have your cake and eat it too.
Quentin is a man that lives a life many long to have: the money, the women, the power. He has managed to create a legitimate business for himself and earn respect, but not from the woman who is the mother of his twin girls. When his back is pushed against the wall with her veiled threats, he pushes back hard in a move that shows who is really the boss. 
GROWN & GANGSTA is for the grown and sexy and reeks of sophisticated fiction that normally takes years to develop. TRU Publishing knocks this one out of the park with its debut release and Jacki-O maintains her sexy, street-cred persona with a novel that people will be talking about long after its closed shut.
Get your copy of "Grown & Gangsta" today at specially selected outlets or online NOW through Amazon.com or http://www.trupublishing.com

Monday, March 17, 2008

More Footage/Pictures from Jacki-O's GROWN & GANGSTA book tour

Conversations Book Club thanks all the fans who have been providing their videos and pictures from the Jacki-O booksignings in Mississippi and Louisiana. Below you will find more footage that you can share with others to remember the historic visit.




Miami's Top Underdog--- Sixshot.com interview with Jacki-O http://www.sixshot.com/interviews/10102/

C'mon. What are you waiting for? JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books! http://www.thebestbookclub.info.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Our Conversation with Bestselling author Rodney Lofton

Conversations Book Club is pleased to introduce you to the living example of the saying "To Thine Own Self Be True": Rodney Lofton, Bestselling author of THE DAY I STOPPED BEING PRETTY. Another literary gem handpicked by the publishing phenom known as Zane, this man shares his life in a way that few would dare.

• Rodney Lofton
• Birthplace: Seaboard, North Carolina
Photos Courtesy of Anthony Cutajar

Rodney, thanks for taking out time to talk with Conversations. I recently finished your autobiography THE DAY I STOPPED BEING PRETTY and found it so raw. You talk alot about your truth and how important it is for you to follow it. What led you to the decision you made to tell your story in written form?
A: Well Cyrus, I wrote The Day I Stopped Being Pretty after a failed suicide attempt. After a lifetime of heartache and disappointments, I was at a very low point in my life. I was dealing with the loss of my father, a horrible breakup of a relationship that meant a lot to me and I felt totally lost. When I was unsuccessful in attempting to kill myself, I knew that I needed to grab hold of my sanity. So I decided to revisit the paths that lead me to wanting to kill myself. What started out as a snapshot of the last year leading up to that moment, became a journey of my life. I felt I needed to address those issues and find me.

How would you describe the person that is Rodney Lofton?
A. Well, that is a good question. I can tell you the person Rodney Lofton once was. He was this scared and scarred insecure little boy and that morphed into his adult life. He carried with him the scars of a distant relationship with his father, which led him to seek that love and validation from others. He allowed others to take advantage of his kind and caring heart for their own selfish wants and needs. He wanted to please everyone he met, and wanted to be liked by all he came in contact with. Now, the Rodney Lofton of 39 years of age, is someone I am truly discovering for the first time. He is discovering his "voice" and establishing his way in the world. He is still a caring and loving man, with a very giving spirit, but his insecurities have been addressed and he continues to learn more about himself with each passing day. To sum it up, he is a good guy.

Your book is a deeply personal account of the life you have lived. Was there a time when you were writing something and you wondered if it was too much information to share with readers?
A. Oh yes, several times. There are moments in the book that are so brutally honest and sometimes frightening when I revisit them. The rape scene was very difficult to relive. I literally stepped away from writing after pouring that out on page. Some of the moments that reveal my total vulnerability as it pertained to my heart; allowing my body to be used and discarded for the pleasure of others was somtimes very hard to reveal. Friends who have known me for years, called me the "Great Pretender," for they didn't know how much pain I was going through. So to open myself up for all whether to embrace or criticize was sometimes very scary, but very necessary to heal.

I have heard people talk about using their bodies to find love and acceptance. For you, what happened in your life that told you that was the way you would be wanted by others?
A. Growing up, I was always called pretty. When you are at an impressionable age, words like that stick. When my father informed me that men were not pretty, men were handsome, I figured I needed something to capture the attention of others, whether it was a smile, a hug or the offering of my body for their love and acceptance. It didn't work out the way I wanted it to. I was hoping that someone special would see that I wanted to be loved just like everyone else, but I felt if I offered my body they would love me more.

You have used the incidents in your life---both good and bad---to now educate others about the importance of loving yourself. Tell our readers when you first realized you didn't have that love for yourself and when you started working back towards that love.
A. I guess the feeling has always been there, but I just never saw it. I knew there was something lacking in my life, but each time I became involved in a failed relationship, I thought I was doing something right. Little did I know that lurking in the background were years and years of insecurities, years of self-loathing and a total lack of love for myself. I only felt love when I sought it in others, only to be left more damaged and empty when those relationships turned sour. It took one of the individual's in the book to show me that I didn't love me. He asked, "How could I love him, when I didn't love myself?" And he was right. Now, I am learning and connecting with the man before you.

Among the things you discuss in the book was the intimacy you enjoyed, not just sex. In the political season that we find ourselves in there is much discussion about same-sex relationships and their acceptance. Do you think it matters whether such relationships are legally recognized or not?
A. As a self-identified gay man, I can honestly say that I could never call another man my husband. I guess because of the way I was raised. My struggles as a black man are for more important to me than living as a gay man. However, I can understand why legalizing same-sex relationships is important. Not for the title of saying he is my husband, but knowing that because of the recognition of our union, he is able to make decisions for me in the event of an accident, that he is recognized as my partner and able to visit me in the hospital without any questions asked, to know that he will receive my social security/death benefits upon my passing. So, I think it really matters that LGBTQ persons have the same rights and responsibilities of heterosexuals.

Along the same vein as the last question, do you think that the world is becoming more accepting or tolerate towards someone who is openly same-gender-loving?
A. In some cases. But we still live in a society that ostracizes us because of who we love. It seems the thoughts of heterosexuals shift to the bedroom of those who are LGBTQ when they find out someone is gay or lesbian, versus getting to know the heart of that person. We don't want to be tolerated, we want to be embraced.

You've been doing a great deal of traveling promoting the causes you support. Why do you think it's importance to be so active?
A. For many reasons. As a first time writer, I have written a book that will make some folks very uncomfortable with its subject matter: growing up black, living as a gay man and loving as an HIV positive man. It is very difficult for some to embrace those subjects, although all of our lives have been impacted by homosexuality and HIV in some way. So, by hitting the road to promote the book, I want to show people the "real me." A nice guy, a good guy, who just happens to be black, who happens to be gay and just happens to live with HIV. I also believe it is important to take an active role in promoting my book. With this being my debut offering, I wanted to show my publishers that I care about the work just as much as they do.

For someone who is just finding out about you or your book through this interview what would you want them to know about your transformation in life?
A. I am happy for the very first time in my life. I take each moment of the last 39 years and embrace both the good and the bad. I can smile when I look in the mirror at the man that stares back at me. He is a little older, shows a few more strands of gray hair, but he is so happy. I am also open to the possibilities that life has to offer now. I am fortunate and blessed to be here and I am taking advantage of every day God grants me.

Thank you Rodney for you time. How can others keep track of you and find out about your book online?
A. Well, the book is available in all bookstores. It can also be ordered from amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com. If your readers are interested in learning more, they can also visit the websites at www.rodneylofton.com or www.myspace.com/rodlofton

And thank you so much for this opportunity to converse with you Cyrus. Peace and Blessings.

Bestselling author Tony Lindsay

Bestselling author Tony Lindsay is a no-nonsense creative that has gotten where he is because of one reason: TALENT. I have devoured three of his books (Chasin' It, Urban Affair and Street Possession)--and each reads like a masterpiece by three distinct voices in the literary voice. To me, this is a testament to the versatility that Lindsay possesses, and as you will see in this interview, receiving his due has been a long time coming.

Tony, Thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. You are one of the most diversified authors on the market today. To what do you contribute your writing style?
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of influences would have to be my education, I was blessed with very good teachers and college professors. I went a culturally aware grammar school, my eight grade teacher read us Stagolee and Bur Rabbit stories and we were blessed constantly by visit from Gwendolyn Brooks; such early literary exposure was a strong influence. My early independent reading was a bit different than what was read in school; Donald Goines, Mad comic books, Players magazine, Penthouse Forum all took up space in my young mind. In college I had the fantastic opportunity to study under Professors Vashti Lewis and Sterling Plumb, I was schooled during an era when Black Studies classes was a must for Black students, we studied our literature and our history. Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Gaines, Ralph Ellison, Chester Himes were my formal influences, contemporary influences would include John A. Williams, Mike Phillips, Walter Mosley, Tananarive Due, Toni Morrison, Diane McKinney-Whetstone, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Dean Phar and Toni Morrison,

Influences not from literary exposure would come from growing up urbane and with an adventurous sprit, I was always looking to get in to something as a kid and that has left with a wealth of material to draw from.

The characters you have created through each novel are both unforgettable and so real to the reader. Are their certain aspects of your own life and those you know that you rely on when writing?

As a writer I rely on my own life experiences and those I have read about and imagined.

Does it surprise you the career you have had?
Yes, I was expecting to rich by now.

If you weren't writing, do you know what other profession you would be a part of?
Some form of sales or another profession that pays you for thinking on your feet.
Tony, how has your family reacted to the success that you have experienced?
They were all surprised except my wife, she expects more.

Are they surprised that you became a writer or is this something that you knew early on that you wanted to do?
It surprised people that I have stuck to it, those that knew me were use to me chasing fast money, few were aware that I had a literary soul or driven by a writer's sprit.

Carl Weber compared your writing style to that of Walter Mosley and even Donald Goines. Does being mentioned in the same realm as these pioneers add any extra pressure to you when you sit down to write each novel?
No, when I sit down to write - my prayer, my hope, is that what is written, is the best I can make it.

To date, what has been your favorite novel to write and why?
I enjoyed Urban Affair because it was a love story of sorts and more of my life is in it than any other book. It's not my favorite but writing it was the most fun.

I have been following your work for the past two years, Tony. As an aspiring author myself I always look for advice from others in the business that are successful. What advice would you give to others who think they have a story in them?
First of all read those that came before you, study the craft, study the market and be able to take it on the chin because you will get punched.

Our Conversation with Bestselling author Caleb Alexander

Never one to mince words---or shy away from a platform to raise awareness of today's social issues--- Bestselling author Caleb Alexander tells it like it is with little no apologies. The first author under Zane's newest venture, STREBOR ON THE STREETZ, he knows the life in which he writes about. There are few in the industry that can give you the raw emotions of this man. His passion for what he believes shines through, and he feels compelled to expose the dangers of the streets---whether you're ready to see it or not.

This Conversation is like none other that you will read on our website, in our magazine or hear over our airwaves. Alexander's narrative grabs hold of your mind and heart and doesn't let go...

Caleb, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations about your book EASTSIDE. Before we get into what inspired it, why don't you tell our readers a little about who Caleb Alexander is.
You’re welcome. I want to thank Conversations for having me. I really want to get over to Mississippi and do a reading and hang out with you. My neighbors are from Mississippi, and they go home regularly, and they are dying to show me their home state. I was actually over in Mississippi a few months ago. I spent the night in Jackson. The state is really beautiful.

To answer your question about who Caleb Alexander is, wow, that’s difficult. I believe, I’m still finding out who I am, little by little, with each passing day. I know the person whom I aspire to be, and I know that I’m not there yet. Right now, I’m a loving husband, a doting father of three, a prolific writer. (I do a lot of ghost writing.) Let’s see. I love my Spurs, and my Dallas Cowboys. I guess one of the things that define me the most, is my love of writing, and my passion for my people. I have combined these two loves into one, and I love to tell stories about my people. James Baldwin once said, “It is the responsibility of the writer, to excavate the experiences of the people who produced him.”
I try to tell stories about our experiences. I try to tell stories about our humanity, and all that that entails.

Do you find that the environment you grew up in did more good to you than harm? What made you so different than the many who have taken the wrong road in life?
Well, actually, I was raised by my grandparents. I had the benefit of a great education. I grew up in probably the last generation where the teachers actually lived in the communities that they taught in. My sixth grade teacher lived across the street, my kinder, first, and fourth grade teachers all lived within a few blocks. We were a close knit community, located just outside of two military bases. The overwhelming majority of the community, was retired military. My neighborhood didn’t get tough, until my generation came of age, and messed it all up. What went wrong with my generation, I have no idea. Different ideas, different mentality, different period. I don’t know if it’s because of our experiences growing up in the eighties or what. I didn’t grow up rich, but I didn’t grow up poor either. I think that my experiences were different from most. I had a younger sister who was born with cerebral palsy, and she was the ambassador for the March of Dimes. I used to go with my mother and grandmother to the giant mansions, where these people were hosting fundraisers for the March of Dimes. In other words, I got to see that there was a whole other world that existed, outside of the hood. I was hooked. I wanted that world.

I wouldn’t say that I was different than the many who have taken the wrong road in life, because I too, have fallen for some of the traps that are out there. But in life, we all stumble, that’s almost a guarantee. Life is about learning. And we learn by living, and making the mistakes that living entails. But in the end, it’s not the falling, it’s what you do after you stumble and fall. Do you give up, or do you get up? I chose to get up. We have to make sure that we all get back up after a fall. We absolutely cannot allow ourselves to become a defeatist society. We absolutely cannot allow ourselves, as individuals, to become dejected, and to give up hope. I see that a lot in the inner cities; Indications of defeatism. Many people walk around like, this is my life, this is my station in life, so be it. There’s more out there. The world is bigger than the hood. I believe it’s just a matter of education and exposure. Primarily education.
I also had the benefit of having some friends from different parts of the world. And it was these friendships that allowed me to gain an international perspective of things. It was through these friendships that I was exposed to Cheikh Anta Diop, Ben Jochannon, Chancellor Williams, GK Osei, Francis Welsing, Anthony T. Broader, J.A. Rogers, and so many others. I started to understand my place in the world, and my responsibilities to that world, and to my people. I wanted to do more, and to be more.

What role did reading and writing play in your growth from a boy to a man?
Wow! It was huge! Especially reading. It was reading on my own, away from college when my learning really began. In primary school, you are never taught about the history of your people, and their contributions to the advancement of humanity. World History books, for the most part, start with the Greeks and the Romans, and then jump over to the civilizations in Asia. The really good books, will glance over the Egyptians, but they won’t portray them as being Africans. And there is absolutely no mention of the civilizations of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, and the numerous other African civilizations. These are important, because they show our accomplishments as a people, as opposed to just individual accomplishments. For me, this knowledge, gave me shoulders to stand on, and the confidence to deal with any people, any time, any where. I knew that I could do anything that I set my mind to, because I came from a people, who did great things. Reading, made me understand that I belong to something greater than myself. That I am a part of a people and a community, that stretches back to the beginning of time. I think that if more of our youth is made to understand that, then they would understand their value and their worth, and the value and worth of others who look like them, and then it would not be so easy to pick up a gun and pull the trigger. When something has value, it’s hard to destroy it. Our young people have to understand their value, their place in the great cosmology of our history, their worth, and then, I believe, their greatness is inevitable. Can you believe I actually learned French at one time, just so I could read the original works of Dr. Diop? LOL.

Do you think you would have even chosen the literary road if your life had been any different?
That’s hard to say. I can easily say no, but then, it would be against my religious beliefs. I believe that God has a path for each of us to walk. If I would not have stumbled into writing in the way that I did, I’m sure that He would have led me to this path in another way. Many times in my life, especially when my path was dark and obfuscated, I would pray to God to use me for something. To make me an instrument. Maybe through my writing this is being done. From what I’m hearing, Eastside is reaching people. Mother’s are passing the book on to their daughters and sons. Hopefully, a difference is being made. If I could save one life, just one, or turn around one teen, then Eastside has done its job.

A lot of times on television we see the street life portrayed as something glamorous. How do you think this view of real life affects the young people who see it?
I think that it’s sad when the street life is portrayed in such a way. And I think that the result of that glamorous portrayal, is a lot of kids in prison, and the cemetery. I don’t have a problem with showing street life, as long as it’s balanced. Don’t just show the millionaire drug lord, show the prison time, and the cemetery filled with all of the ones who didn’t make it. In Eastside, some of the main characters didn’t make it. Lil Fade didn’t make it. Too-Low didn’t make it. Frog, didn’t make it. I think that one of the most interesting aspects of the book, was that these kids didn’t see a future for themselves. In the hospital, Lil Fade told Travon that he wasn’t supposed to live past eighteen. And that’s the thinking with a lot of kids who grow up in these kinds of environments, they can’t see past what they are doing today, and so they don’t plan for tomorrow. Again, it goes back to a sense of despair, and a lack of hope for tomorrow.

I think Eastside giving up the real deal on a lot of things, helps present a balanced side to the whole street life thing. I’ve had so many people tell me how real the story was, or how good the story was, because it was so real. Many people have told me that while reading Eastside, they were transported to another world, and that it’s like they were right there. I sincerely hope that the book gives young people a balanced perspective on street life. Honestly, I hope that it scares the bejeezus out youngsters, and keeps them from wanting to participate in this kind of activity.

I'm sure one of the questions you get a lot is how you were able to team up with Zane. Do you mind telling us?
I contacted Zane. The funny thing is, I would send materials to other publishing companies, who would then buy the books outright for other authors. I had been ghost writing for some time, but doing that, I was never able to build my own name into a brand. I wanted a deal for myself. So, I contacted Zane, and we hit it off well. I sent her a broad sampling of material. She said that she wanted to sign me. I remember asking her which book she wanted to publish, and her reply was, “All of them.” She asked me which books did I want to do first, and since Eastside was the first book I had ever written, I wanted to do it first. I had held Eastside close for several years, and I was determined to not sell it to another author or a publishing company so that they could put it out under another author’s name. I had sunk so much into Eastside, and the book truly meant a lot to me. Zane used Eastside to launch her new line, ‘Strebor On The Streetz’. The rest is history.

* In the book Eastside, the premise of the story seems to be the power of the decisions we make. Would you agree---and how can we go about as individuals and try and show those coming up that we are accountable for what we do in life?
I agree, one of the premises in Eastside, was accountability. These kids made some really bad decisions. But the tragic thing about those decisions, was the rational behind them. Survival, brotherhood, protecting my homies and my family, etc… Almost like the wrong execution, of the right idea. We rationalize away our decisions, instead of standing up, and taking responsibility for them. I think that we as individuals must lead by example. The generations after us, are just getting smarter and smarter. Kids these days are savvy. The PS3s, IPODS, MP3 players, X-Boxes, the movies, music, video games, etc… These kids are exposed to a lot of information at a really young age. And they are developing the ability to process tons of information at younger and younger ages, as time progresses. What I’m trying to say, is that these kids are sharp, and cynical. They have an in-built BS detector. So, just telling them, is not enough. Just going through the motions is not enough. You have to really walk the walk with kids these days. So, I think the best thing that we can do, is lead by example. Be accountable for what we say, what we do, how we react to everyday situations in our own lives. We can’t teach patience, if we shouting and cursing at every car that cuts us off, or cuts in between us on the road. We can’t tell our kids to read, if they don’t see us reading at home. In this day and age, sending kids off to school to learn, is just not enough. There is another level of education that our kids should be getting. School, is not going to teach our kids about violence, about God, about saving and investing, about patience, understanding, forgiveness. School, doesn’t teach our kids to dream, and dream big. Unfortunately, now days, school is about a law of averages. They are trying to herd as many through the system, as painlessly as possibly. Losses, are acceptable to them; even expected. They mentally place some of our children in an acceptable loss category, and write them off. Each of us, must stand up for our children, and make it our holy mission, to make sure that they aren’t written off as part of an acceptable percentage.

I do want to revisit the statement about Eastside being about accountability. I really think that the primary underlying premise in Eastside, was redemption. It was about second chances. Everyone wanted Travon to make it. Everyone was trying to redeem Travon’s life, everyone was trying to give him a second chance. Mr. Chang talked to Tre about getting away, and changing his life, Mrs. Davis wanted to get him into a college, and get him away from there. Even the young man whose life he saved at the concert, didn’t kill him. He told Travon to get out of the game, because he didn’t belong in it. Aunt Chicken, Elmira, and so many others throughout the book, kept trying to redeem Travon. God’s Grace and mercy can be found throughout the book. Even Travon fell down on his knees at that car wash and asked God, why does he keep getting second chances? Taariq, Darius, and finally, Lil Fade himself, brought powerful messages of redemption to Tre. I think the underlying message in Eastside, is that no matter what you’ve done, no matter what sin you’ve committed, the power of God is infinite. God’s grace and mercy is boundless. There is salvation to be found. I want kids to read Eastside and understand, that it’s never to late to turn their lives around.

Caleb, when the book was released recently did you feel in any way anxious as to how it would be received? In your mind, what was the worse case scenerio?
I was extremely anxious as to how it would be received. I wrote Eastside years ago, and gang violence had declined significantly. And so I wondered if the book was still relevant. Well, unfortunately, there has been an upsurge in gang violence of late. But in the end, Eastside is about people. It is a chapter in our long history, and it needed to be told. It needed to be told, if only to serve as a historical record, if only to serve as a memorial to all of those young lives that were senselessly snuffed out, if only to tell the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children of those left behind, that we care. If only to let them know that they are not alone, and that their pain is understood. Eastside says to many people, hey, we survived a national tragedy, and now, it’s okay to go on with our lives. Eastside, is about survival, and that story, the story of survival, is never out of date. In my mind, I really didn’t have a worst case scenario. The book was finally being published, the message would finally be out there in public, so there was nothing that could go wrong in that sense. Maybe the publishing company has fears about books tanking. But me, I’ve been writing for years. It wasn’t my first published book, and it definitely wouldn’t be my last. I have six Essence #1 bestsellers, that I’ve ghostwritten for others. I didn’t approach Eastside with an ego, or any fears about sales. I’m a writer, I have a love for writing, for telling stories about my people. I pay my bills with my ghostwriting. Now with that said, don’t get me wrong, I would like to build my own name into a brand. I feel that I can write good stories about us, and build a base at the same time. I sincerely hope that Simon & Schuster allows me to tell good stories, to grow as an author, and to grow a large fan base.

* And now that the reviews have been coming in, can you give us an example of something a reader has said that stuck by you?
Definitely. I’ve had mothers hug me, and tell me stories about the sons they lost to gang violence. I would love to do a documentary on the subject. Talking to mothers who lost their children to gang violence, and then talking to the kids who pulled the trigger. A lot of what they said to me, was about closure. And about getting the message out there to other kids. I think the definitive statement about the book, or the conversation that I had that resonated the most, was with a young man in his early to mid thirties. He said that it was only after he read Eastside, did he realize the scope of the destruction, that he had participated in. I have people tell me all the time that they cried while reading the book, but that statement about realizing the scope of the destruction that he had participated in, has always stuck with me. I think that Eastside really forces people to think about their actions. And for those who sat idly by while the destruction was taking place, their inaction.

Thank you so much for your time, Caleb. If our readers want to find out more about you, the book and upcoming projects, how can they reach out to you?
Thank you. I want the readers to look out for Two Thin Dimes, a light-hearted, romantic comedy. I wanted to tell a fun story, after Eastside, and so I wrote Two Thin Dimes. It’s a great book, to relax with. That book comes out, Jan 8th, 2008. Also, look out for Big Black Boots. It’s a huge story, with a wonderful message about race relations, about redemption, about survival. It points a glaring light at America’s prison system, and the brutality, racism, and violence that goes on inside. It’s a HUGE book. Also, look out for When Lion’s Dance. I believe that When Lion’s Dance is my greatest work to date. It is literary fiction. The story of an African American woman’s life. It opens with her at her son’s funeral (He was killed in Afghanistan), and then it goes back and spans some fifty years. From her childhood, through the Civil Rights Movement, all the way to present. It’s a big story, and a beautiful story, told in a very lyrically beautiful tone. It is my thank you to African American women. Thank you to my grandmother, my mother, my great grandmother, and to all woman of color. It is my love note to them. A testament to their strength, and perseverance. Look for those books. As for reaching me, you can email me at either caleb@calebalexanderonline.com, or CalebAlexander_1@yahoo.com. You can also reach me at . It been my pleasure to chat with you. We’ll definitely have to do this again sometime. And soon, I hope.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bestselling author Harrine Freeman speaks out on Conversations

Conversations Book Club was pleased to begin the month of March 2008 with our 12th author of the year: Bestselling author Harrine Freeman of Washington D. C.

This was Ms. Freeman's first visit to Mississippi, and we made sure it was one she will not soon forget. Her book HOW TO GET OUT OF DEBT is so timely considering what many are faced with in the day to day struggles of life.  Here is what she had to say about her historic visit to the Magnolia State.
"I had never visited Mississippi before but Cyrus made the trip a wonderful experience. Everyone was so receptive and warm.  Cyrus and Conversations Book Club is a class act.  All book clubs should be modeled after the Conversations Book Club.  I hope every author gets the opportunity to work with them in the future."

Harrine Freeman
CEO/Owner, H.E. Freeman Enterprises   http://www.hefreemanenterprises.com 
Speaker, Columnist, Author of How to Get Out of Debt: Get an "A" Credit Rating for Free

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Conversations gathers new video of C-Murder and Jacki-O on YOUTUBE

Conversations gathers new video of C-Murder & Jacki-O on YOUTUBE

Conversations Book Club President Cyrus A. Webb is making it easy for you to keep up with all the video that is being produced worldwide discussing the literary movement taking place.

(Webb seen here in Louisiana with TRU Publishing Founder/Author Corey "C-Murder" Miller & Rapper/Author Jacki-O on Saturday, March 8, 2008.)

Simply visit him on YOUTUBE here: http://www.youtube.com/cawebb4

You wil find video under his "FAVORITES" that will keep you up to date.
C'mon. What are you waiting for? JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books! http://www.thebestbookclub.info

Sunday, March 09, 2008

CBC Report: Jacki-O's Louisiana Booksigning a success!

CBC Report: Jacki-O's Louisiana Booksigning, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

The people were at one point shoulder to shoulder with conversation flowing freely and two of the biggest names in the hiphop community were in attendance to enjoy the experience. No, we are not talking about the hottest night spot in town. This is what the atmosphere was like on Saturday, March 8, 2008 at the Borders in Metarie, Louisiana for Jacki-O's booksigning!
Joined by TRU Publishing founder, Corey "C-Murder" Miller, she took part in what the bookstore's management called their most successful booksigning to date! Moderated by Conversations Book Club President Cyrus A. Webb, the event began with a meet and greet with the author, followed by the actual booksigning and then a discussion of the book with both Miller and Jacki-O.

Thank you to everyone who made this history-making event possible. Conversations Book Club and TRU Publishing realize that none of this would ever come into existance without all of you.

C'mon. What are you waiting for? JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books! http://www.thebestbookclub.info

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Conversations' President Reviews "Escape" by Carolyn Jessop

It reads like one of the most powerful, emotional novels of our generation. Escape carries all the major themes we hear about today: greed, isolation, self esteem issues and the misuse of trust. You feel the need to celebrate and congratulate the author, Carolyn Jessop - if only you didn't know it was her journey that you had just walked into...
Conversations Book Club founder C. A. Webb is pleased to share with you his review of this powerful read that appears in the Rankin Ledger newspaper on Saturday, March 8, 2008.
Click on the link below to enjoy!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Conversations Announces March '08 features @ RAWSISTAZ.com

Conversations Book Club & http://www.RAWSISTAZ.COM are pleased to announce their    March 2008 features, in recognition of Women's History Month.

"Conversations with C. A. Webb" (http://www.rawsistaz.com/BMR-Conversations.htm) is now a syndicated feature on the http://www.RAWSISTAZ.com websites. It will continue the Conversations Book Club President's mission of introducing readers to authors---but will also give you a rare glimpse into the authors that are being featured.

This month we are paying homage to five women who are chaning the face of the way we read and discuss books: Bestselling authors Brenda L. Thomas, Deatri King-Bey, L. A. Banks, Maria Dowd and Kensington Books Creative Director Kristine Mills Noble.

RAWSISTAZ (Reading and Writing Sistaz) is recognized worldwide for being committed to spreading quality reading among the African-American community. Conversations Book Club has transcended race and gender to form a formidable alliance with some of the biggest names in the industry. Together they will revolutionize the way you read---introducing you to authors you thought you knew and giving you the names of those who should be on your reading list!

Congrats to the powerful women who are featured in the debut of this alliance. In April 2008, we will recognize five influential men who show that blacks not only read by write as well! Who are they? STAY TUNED and find out!

C'mon. What are you waiting for? JOIN THE ADDICTION: Get hooked on books! http://www.thebestbookclub.info

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Conversations Book Club Founder and President, Cyrus A. Webb, begins his new partnership with the state of Mississippi's largest daily newspaper on Saturday, March 1, 2008. Beginning TODAY you can find his review of the books you should be reading every Saturday!
Today's review is of Mississippi native Fon James'  debut novel BACK & FORTH!