Joining us for our first group interview is The Pantheon Collective, three writers who met at the fourth Black Writers Reunion & Conference in Dallas, 2006: James Lewis, Omar Luqmaan-Harris, and Stephanie Casher.
What is your most memorable BWRC moment?
James – More than just one: Meeting Tia Ross and other industry leaders (I only knew them online until then); seeing Stephanie Casher for the first time; attending classes led by Mondella Jones, Reshonda Tate Billingsley and Vincent Alexandria; and hitting the club that Saturday night with other BWRC attendees.
Omar – I just remember the kinship and positive vibes more than anything else. But the BWRC was the site of my first of many pitches. This one was to Parker Publishing. BWRC was also the place where me and Stephanie Casher met for the first time.
Steph – Having my full manuscript requested by an editor AND an agent was definitely a highlight for me. It was my first time doing an in-person pitch, and I was excited by the response I received. It really affirmed that I was on the right path with my writing. And meeting James and Omar for the first time ended up being nothing short of life-changing
Have you networked with anyone at the conference and how has that contact continued?
James – I’ve stayed in contact with Mondella Jones and Tia Ross. Mondella is a former agent and has helped tremendously with manuscript preparation; and Tia (along with Kimberly Hines) has helped me with manuscript editing and sound advice on publishing do’s and don’ts. Also, I recently started The Pantheon Collective (TPC), an independent publishing company, with Stephanie Casher and Omar Luqmaan-Harris.
Omar – In addition to the bonds I formed with my current business partners Stephanie and James, I’ve stayed in touch with Tonya M. Evans-Walls, and Michele Chester actually did the first copyedit on my book ONE BLOOD.
Steph – The one thing I appreciate about the BWRC is that many of the connections I made there grew to be deeper than just “networking.” Some of the people I’ve met there have grown to be true friends (and in some cases, more), people that make up my inner literary circle. It is not an understatement for me to say that the BWRC changed my life.
Has the BWRC helped you to accomplish any writing goals?
Steph – Absolutely. After our first meeting at the BWRC, Omar and I became critique partners for our respective manuscripts, and his feedback has been essential in developing my story and strengthening my characters. But more than anything, the validation and support I received from all the authors and industry professionals I met provided me with the encouragement I needed to stay the course and push forward. It can be a cold, cruel world out there for an unpublished author trying to catch a break, and this conference really showed me that I was not alone in this struggle. That sense of community and kinship has been invaluable in my journey to the published land.
James – Definitely. Steph and I talked about our struggles with our personal writing goals and became each other’s pep rally. The BWRC enforced the power of the web and self-promotion, so I was able to learn different ways to get my writing out to the public (online and in print). BWRC also helped me focus more on the business side of writing.
Omar – As my first official writing conference, the BWRC wet my appetite for industry knowledge. And it placed the seed of self-publishing that eventually grew into The Pantheon Collective. BWRC is a major reason my book will be coming out next year!
Tell us about your book and other achievements since joining the BWRC family.
James – My debut novel SELLOUT is about the consequences of dating interracially, narrated by a black woman, black man, and white woman. I’ve also published stories/articles in at least fifteen books and magazines; acquired a literary agent for my second manuscript (the one Kimberly Hines edited); and started TPC.
Steph – My debut novel, WHEN LOVE ISN’T ENOUGH (contemporary women’s fiction), is a tale about what happens when true love and terrible timing collide. It will be released in Fall 2010, and the sequel SOUL MATES is scheduled for release in Jan/Feb 2011. Also, after editing the manuscripts of my partners and receiving extensive praise from them on the quality of my edits, I’ve migrated into the realm of freelance editing (www.stephaniecasher.com).
Omar – My debut novel ONE BLOOD is about a 200-year-old curse from slavery that returns to haunt a contemporary cast of characters. I started a blog (www.qwantuamaru.blogspot.com) chronicling my journey from hobbyist to novelist and founded TPC.
What would you say about BWRC to influence someone who’s thinking about attending?
James – I’d say you’ll never attend another conference that truly feels like coming home to a family reunion while learning the ins and outs of the industry. There’s a reason BWRC has been going strong for ten years.
Steph – BWRC puts you in touch with fellow soldiers in the struggle, a community of authors and publishers, who can provide you with everything from mentorship to a support system. It’s also a great place to get an update on the “state of the industry,” which is always changing. I highly recommend it for anyone who is just starting out because it’s a one-stop shop for a wealth of useful information!
Omar – BWRC helps you hit the ground running as a writer. It helps you sharpen your writing skills, network, and learn about the business of publishing. It’s a must to attend for any aspiring author in any phase of the writing process.
Where can someone get more information about your book or purchase a copy?
You can go to the TPC website ( www.pantheoncollective.com) and look for us at the BWRC!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just a shout-out to Tia and company for hosting this wonderful event. It literally changed our lives, and we will be forever grateful!