When Tamika Newhouse started the African Americans on the Move Book Club (AAMBC) in 2008 she had no idea it would eventually lead to her hosting Black Writers Weekend, an annual event that is not to be missed by African American writers and bloggers.
“I stumbled into creating the online community,” Newhouse says. “I wanted to be part of a book club but I was in a new city, I didn’t have any friends, and I thought it would be pretty weird for a grown woman to walk up to other grown women and say ‘Hey, I like to read books. Do you like to read books? Let’s read books together.’”
So she started a MySpace page and created an online book club of her own, one that focused on reading and discussing the work of African American authors. She quickly realized that there were many black writers out there not getting the attention they deserved. So, in 2009 Newhouse launched the AAMBC Literary Awards in San Antonio, Texas to recognize and honor black writers. In the years following awards ceremonies were also held in Chicago and Baltimore. In 2015 the event grew to include a red carpet ceremony and was held in Atlanta. This marked the beginning of Black Writers Weekend.
The 2018 AAMBC Literary Awards and Black Writers Weekend is set for June 8-10 in Atlanta.
The weekend will feature a blogger social meant to connect writers with influencers.
“Many writers and authors do not understand the importance of getting from behind your computer and networking and shaking hands with people who want to talk about your book,” Newhouse says. “I wanted to make it a little bit easier for them and put them in a room with people.”
At Pitch Fest, writers will have the opportunity to pitch ideas for books, screenplays, and more.
“What makes the awards show and Black Writers Weekend unique is it’s not just about book writers,” Newhouse says. “It’s about writers across the board whether you’re writing a play, a screenplay, a song, or a book.”
The weekend will even include an Access to Hollywood panel discussion designed with screenwriters in mind. And songwriters don’t want to miss the BooksxBeats event, which will include a panel discussion with music industry professionals and a spoken word cypher.
Urban Book Bash is a massive book signing and party designed for literature lovers. And another must-attend event is Lit Ish, which will feature what is sure to be a thought-provoking discussion on the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It.
This all leads up to the main event — the AAMBC Literary Awards Ceremony, set for Saturday, June 9. Past ceremonies have honored literary legends like poet Nikki Giovanni. This year Wahida Clark, known for her popular Thug series novels, will be honored with a trailblazer award.
“She birthed an entire genre,” Newhouse says of Clark, who began her writing career while serving time in prison and whose novels have been listed on the New York Times and Essence best-sellers list.
The awards celebrate nominees in a number of genres including Christian fiction, Street Lit, film, romance, self-help, blogging, and more. There are even awards for best magazine, best book club, and literary activism. (There’s still time to cast your vote at aambcawards.com.)
The weekend will close Sunday with brunch and a Books and Cocktails event.
Newhouse is passionate about celebrating black writers because she too is a writer. She has written more than a dozen novels, helped launch the careers of hundreds of writers, and now has her eye on writing for television and film.
Newhouse often says that she feels she didn’t choose writing, but that writing chose her because it’s something she’s been doing since she was a child.
“During recess, that’s what I was doing — writing,” Newhouse says. “I was just different. I did not get along with the other girls. When the girls were talking about something I was like, ‘I don’t want to talk about that.’ The world I created (through writing) was way more interesting than the world that I lived in.”
Despite her days of being a loner on the playground, Newhouse believes in the power community. Though many writers consider themselves shy introverts, Newhouse believes building community is just an extension of what writers already do on the page.
“You just create your own universe and you ask people to come join that,” she says. “That is what an artist does. They create something and say, ‘Hey! Come play with me!'”
In fact, her main piece of advice for women writers is to find a tribe.
“Find people who have the same focus, the same ambition, the same consistency as you and link arms with them and see what work you all can get done together,” Newhouse says. “You can get there together quicker than you can apart.”
Get your tickets to Black Writers Weekend and the AAMBC Awards here. Use the code SJWAcess to get 20% off your ticket. (Code valid through February 28.)
Enter to win a free Silver Pass to Black Writers Weekend. The silver pass will give the winner access to Friday’s Urban Book Bash, Saturday’s Lit Ish- She’s Gotta Have It panel, BooksXBeats, the awards ceremony, and Sunday’s brunch and Books and Cocktails event.
Use the form below to enter.
The winner will be announced Thursday, February 22.
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