Expanded Event for Literature Black Author, Help Tapped for Weekend

Article excerpt

For years, African-American authors have been invited to and taken part in the Library Guild's annual Much Ado About Books event, but for years many blacks were not among the attendees.

"We kind of wanted to know why [people weren't coming]," said Dawn Geer, publicity chairwoman for the event. "We wanted to do some outreach to find out exactly why."

The Much Ado event starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with free discussions and book signings by about 20 authors lasting until 12:15 p.m. A sold-out luncheon allows guests to sit at tables with authors. Also part of Much Ado is an Elizabethan Gala from 7 to 10 p.m. that costs $75 to $200.

The Library Guild, which serves Jacksonville Public Libraries, approached the African-American-oriented book club People Reading for Inspiration, Discussion and Enjoyment and asked for help.

Organizers wanted to broaden the event's appeal this year and reach more of the African-American community, said Greg Miller, a member of PRIDE. The club's founders, Felice Franklin and Wilene Dozier, and Miller told guild representative ways to reach Jacksonville's black community.

One idea was to snag a top-name black author for the event, and another was just to get the word out through new channels.

The name of St. Simons Island author Tina McElroy Ansa came up, and Miller, who received Ansa's contact numbers when she had a book signing in Jacksonville for Ugly Ways five years ago, called her. She agreed to come to Much Ado this year.

"Tina has a bigger name," Franklin said. "There should be a larger draw [because of her]."

"I think having authors that appeal to the African-American reading audience, we concurred with them [the guild] that it was going to be a key to reaching that audience," said Miller, now the first African-American board member of the Library Guild.

A low-budget movie of Ansa's first book, Baby of the Family, was shot last summer, and actress Alfre Woodard is interested in co-producing a film based on Ugly Ways. …