Pat Johnson the founder and organizer of the African American Book Expo has worked tirelessly for 4 years producing an annual event celebrating the diversity of the written and spoken word bringing authors and their readers together. Once again this weekend at the Crown Plaza in Timonium Maryland close to 100 authors turned out presenting their literary works to a voracious reading public. This year’s event being the biggest yet appears to be snowballing picking up more authors and attendees. It’s become the mid Atlantic region’s major African American book fair.
At the Friday night red carpet style reception Pat Johnson spoke of her own amazement at the events expansion while recognizing those returning authors and spotlighting new authors providing a platform opportunity to tell a little of their recent releases. The evening’s highlight came with the keynote speaker, Larry Gibson author of the biography "Young Thurgood: The Making of A Supreme Court Justice." which has received glowing praise from the Marshall family. The 413-page book includes interviews and other material that Gibson gathered since the night he met the Supreme Court justice in 1975 when he first pounded on the door of Marshall's home in Northern Virginia. The biography covers Thurgood Marshall early years growing up in Baltimore and the beginning of his legal career.
"He was different than what I'd been led to expect," Gibson told Mary McCauley of The Baltimore Sun. "He was more jovial and had fonder recollections of Maryland. He had a better sense of humor. Over the years, I kept reading things in the media that did not match up with my impressions of him.” Professor Larry Gibson teaches at the University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law. An avid photographer turned writer he spoke of his journey to publication offering tips to aspiring authors. Gibson summed up his approach with what he termed the five “I’s”: Interest for which the author must develop; Information for which the author must research; Insight into the author's chosen topic; Intention, that is the decision to the see project through; and the 5th I is for the Intense focus required to write.
Following the Friday night reception Saturday authors and vendors set up signing tables in the hotel’s spacious pavilion for the day long public meet and greet. With the decline of independent brick and mortar book stores authors are relying more on events like the African American Book Expo. When asked about her expectations for next year Pat Johnson replied, "The 2013 African American Authors Expo provided participating authors and attendees with empowering workshops, information and fellowship. My Vision for the 2014 expo is to reach those readers and authors in other regions, and too continue our education and empowerment workshops."
The field of publishing is changing and visionaries like Pat Johnson are stepping forward to fill the void. As readers increasingly turn to book clubs and book fairs to meet their favorite authors and to discover new ones events like the African American Book Expo have grown in stature and demand.