By FELICIA R. LEE
Published: March 22, 2010
The New York Times
The 10th National Black Writers’ Conference begins on Thursday at Medgar Evers College in New York, an anniversary that prompted Walter Mosley to remember his first conference, in the 1980s. He was just one of many unpublished, struggling writers who showed up, he said. An editor had passed on his first novel, about the detective Easy Rawlins, with the rationale that the publishing house already had a black detective novel.
“Terry McMillan said you have to sell books out of the trunk of your car,” Mr. Mosley said.
But in the age of President Obama, when successful black writers can be found across genres and a Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison, can be tapped to be the honorary chairwoman of the event, do black writers still need a conference to call their own?
In interviews, many black writers and editors, and others in the book world said yes. Black authors are part of the broader society’s struggles with the legacy of discrimination and exclusion, they said, and often need a more strategic approach to getting their work promoted, reviewed and sold.
The conference, expected to attract 2,000 people, is a chance for writers to study and celebrate one another and for readers to hear writers presenting their work and dissecting social and literary themes. Over four days of workshops and discussions, the participants can also grapple with issues like the value of black sections in bookstores, the paucity of black editors in publishing and how to expand the list of black writers taught in schools.
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