Tuesday, March 17, 2009

5 Christian Book Expo No No I want Go Gos

altMore than 200 Christian authors will come together and meet their readership at the first annual Christian Book Expo in Dallas Texas this week. As I said before when I read the through the list of panel discussion, workshops, & book signing opps, I didn't see anything that would make me want to fly out there and come (outside of attending the Christy Book Awards. You know why.)

There is an African American pavilion that I hope I don't offend anyone, but it shouldn't be there.

I believe I received a tweet a month ago from someone working behind the scenes at CBE, who wanted to know why am I not pleased with the lineup at the show and asked for any suggestions. I tried to tweet him back, but can't find the DM. Sorry. He seems nice. Anyway...this is my reason why I have a challenge.

1. The lineup is scant and without reason to be.

Dallas has a nice-size African American Christian population, but only six AA authors available for the four-day event. There's no[one] Christian fiction novelist on the panel(Michelle McKinney Hammond.) However, in Texas three novelists who have very large readerships weren't invited for the forum. Moreover, Sharon Ewell Foster the godmother of African american Christian fiction, who has won Christy Award, Rita Awards and some is not on the panel. Moreover, Bishop TD Jakes who's Potters House Church is in Dallas is not in the place at all. Are you kidding me?

2. Christianity is color blind, so why is CBE.

I strongly don't believe that the Christian marketplace should mirror the secular world as close as it does. On the part of race as a divider, it shouldn't be there. Granted we are culturally different, our stories should become a part of the Christian world conversation not as separate, but equal(obviously not equal in this case,) but as conclusive and representing Lydia Maria Child and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's concept of the Beloved Community.

But perhaps this demarcation is a tell-tell that racism is still an issue in American Christianity.

3. The CBE has a limited invitation for African American readers to enjoy the party.

For the same price as a non AA reader, AA readers have the six hours who have sporadic intervals to see, so where do they go then? Are they welcomed inside?

This may be a weird question to ask, but what's the purpose of the AA pavilion if not to establish a boundary for AA readers. Sure we know the spiel that all are welcome to the other panels, but gosh what are you saying when you set us apart?

5. This expo is like a body that refuses to use a limb.

To me it seems that CBE would rather cut off a link and run without all working members and joints in sync than be whole.

There are little panels with AA authors on them, even the AA pavilion doesn't have enough people to have a decent workshop panel. This looks shady at best.

Tomorrow I want to talk about this topic a little deeper as I get to my sixth issue with the CBE. It's inability to reach out to authors and readers who seek Christian messages but not through CBA publishers anymore.

Now comment, rant or do what ever. Holla,



La Monica said...

It sounds like one of the issues is they didn't have much (if any), AA input in the initial planning stages of the conference who could have made noteworthy suggestions on ways to really reach out to the AA community. It's really their loss, because AA Christian fiction continues to grow and our readers have a healthy appetite. So either a case of they still just don't "get it," or they don't want to...

Mark Kuyper said...

Im Mark, and I am the organizer for Christian Book Expo. From the outside I can understand why you might question the under-representation of the African American author community there. So I thought it might be helpful to address some of your concerns.

When the event was developed we were very purposeful about representing ethnic diversity--particularly in the African American and Hispanic communities. (We were also purposeful to have a balanced theological representation too.) We worked with the Spanish Evangelical Publishers Association for the Spanish Language publishers and authors and Urban Ministries Inc. (their President, Jeff Wright, is on our board) for the African American community.

I traveled with Urban Ministries representatives in Dallas to visit African American Churches to find out which authors they most wanted to have at the event. Urban Ministries also hosted lunch a year ago for African American Pastors to get their input and encourage their participation.

Both groups debated about having a separate area on the exhibit floor or blending in with the rest of the booths. They decided they would like to feature each area to draw attention to breadth of authors in each community.

The Expo is open to any publisher that can agree with our statement of faith (essentially the same one used by the Nation Association of Evangelicals) and can meet some basic general business requirements for membership in our association. They do not have to be members to exhibit, but they are more than welcome to join at any time.

Exhibiting publishers sponsor their authors to have workshops and provide opportunities for book signings etc. We don't decide who will have a workshop unless we run out of space or there are too many workshops submitted on the same subject (neither of which happened this year).

Urban ministries contacted several African American publishers they were familiar with to invite them to participate. (SEPA did the same with the Spanish language publishers.) With a first time show in tough economic times, several publishers decided to have UMI represent their titles in the African American Pavilion rather than exhibit themselves or bring authors.

I know several of our member publishers asked prominent African American authors to participate like T.D Jakes and Tony Evans, but they were not available for various reasons.

We would love to have far more representation from diverse ethnic and theological perspectives under the Christian orthodox umbrella. I certainly hope we will have more next year and maybe blogs like this will help that to happen. I would welcome your help and assistance !!

Your brother in Christ,

Mark Kuyper

Dee S. said...

Hi, La Monica,

This is still an issue.

Hi, Mark. I spoke to Michael Covington this morning. He shared the same info and concerns as you have. Perhaps you two can speak to each other, so that he can share what we discussed. I am aware of why the AA pavilion is there and that UMI is managing it, and the history behind it, as well as the history behind the creation of CBE.

I do believe that you have made an effort to reach the AA Christian audience. However, I firmly believe the plan has challenges. (Not knocking UMI) I do understand their time constraints, but my issue is far beyond the pavilion planning, but the concept and what it suggests.

I appreciate you guys interest in our little blog.

I look forward to speak with you guys in the future my take on those challenges as well as various solutions to them.


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