Robeson Community College hosts the fifth annual Book ‘em NC Writers’ Conference and Book Fair this month on Saturday, Sept. 23.
Since Patricia Terrell initiated the event, hundreds of writers of all sorts have participated by reading, offering lectures and workshops, and interacting with their reading fans. Variety and diversity have been hallmarks of the event. In addition to writers of mysteries, true crime, how-to, romance, travelogues, and other genres, the event has also attracted screenwriters, musicians and chefs. Continuing in that tradition of variety, this year’s event will feature headliner LaJuane Bowens, a poet and spoken word artist from Fayetteville.
Bowens was born in Detroit and raised in Ohio. He came to Fayetteville when he joined the Army right after high school in 2000 and he remained in Fayetteville after serving for seven years.
Bowens is also a motivational speaker, workshop facilitator, and a Comic Con panelist, but it is poetry that has brought him the most acclaim.
He’s the only North Carolina poet to win three major poetry Grand Slam Finals in the same year. He was the 2016 recipient of the Rising Star Award for NC and the southern region of the US at the Gifted Artist Neo Soul and Poetry Awards. He also won the 2014 Southern Fried Poetry Festival with the Bull City Slam Team.
“I always thank God for making these things fall in my lap because they were all unexpected and seeing these accomplishments means that the work has paid off in order to be recognized,” Bowens said. “At the end of the day, there is still more work to be done and more things to build on, not only for myself, but for the community I represent.”
He says poetry gives him the chance “to explore different points of view along with current events that should be spoke about daily.” He adds, “I find comfort in knowing that the creativity that can come from something as complex as poetry can become inspiring.”
Bowens says he was first inspired to write when he read about Langston Hughes in the elementary school.
“I dressed up as him as part of a Black History Month program and after realizing all of the things that he did and what part he played in literature, I became inspired to attempt to do the same thing.”
His third-grade teacher introduced him to writing and he wrote a short story about Super Mario Brothers. That inspiration was further fueled when his 10th-grade English teacher introduced him to poetry.
“Writing is a great escape and at times can be a lifesaver,” he said.
For beginning writers, he likes to share the wisdom of another Fayetteville area poet who once told him, “Remember, if no one else will listen to you, then the page will.”
He encourages beginning writers to strive to become better and put themselves in the mindset that ceilings don’t exist. He admonishes them to remember three words that have become his mantra: “Purpose Over Popularity.”
Bowens plans to continue performing and teaching writing workshops, but says he is open to whatever else comes along on his path that can help better any community.
Bowens is looking forward to meeting other authors and the public in the area.
“I’ll talk about my travels and setbacks as a writer along with a bit of humor and a lot of positive vibes,” he said.
Countless first-time visitors to Book ‘em leave the event excited about the prospect of the next year’s event. In the past some have left inspired to write and publish and have subsequently returned as participating authors. Please make plans to join us for this exciting event and hear LaJuane Bowens and others at the college on Sept. 23.
For more information visit www.bookemnc.com.
Dennis Watts is a Public Relations specialist at Robeson Community College.