This weekend, I traveled to Amelia Island, Florida to attend Mama Fancina's Fancy Hat Literary Luncheon. Simply put, it was a magical event. The host, Jennie Blue (wearing a white hat), explained that the annual event is named for her gradmother who loved reading-- and hats. Once a year, Jennie (aka Jay Bee) invites dozens of women wearing fancy hats to gather at the Ritz Carlton to discuss a new novel and honor the memory of Mama Francina. This year, she chose Silver Sparrow. I was there at the luncheon enjoying the delicious spread, but no one knew that I was the author. We came up with an elaborate cover story to explain my presence. I used the name "Zaria" in honor of my adorable neice.
This was no ordinary book club meeting, This was an extravaganza, full of surprizes for Jennie Blue's guests. She pulled out all the stops! Instead of usual place card, each table setting included a hand-painted goblet with the luncheon logo and their guest's name. There were lots of prizes given away, but the most sought after award was for "fanciest hat." (The winner was a gorgeous woman named Celestial. I love that name, so Morrisonian!) And wait to see you the gift Jennie gave me. *faints* And then after the luncheon, she sent me to the spa! *faints again*
Since I was not identified as the author, I was on pins and needles as the group began discussing Silver Sparrow. The conversation was kicked off with a pageant. Jennie hired actors from Stage Aurora in Jacksonville to act out a crucial scene. They went all out with costumes and everything, totally earning the standing ovation offered when they left the stage. All the guests, including me, were beside ourselves because the stage show was not on the program. It was just the first of Jay Bee's surprize gifts to this very special gathering.
After a rousing conversation, my identity was revealed. Jennie Blue announced that she was holding a raffle for "lunch with Tayari Jones." She then called the names of the women sitting at my table. They approached the stage, looking a little confused. Then, Jennie announced that they had already won and that had, in fact, had dinner with Tayari Jones already. Then I took the stage and removed the black hat which shielded my face.
There were a lot of fun and games that day, but there was a more serious side, too. One invited guests revealed herself to be a silver sparrow daughter. We also talked about the importance of reading and the significance of building community. I know "Mama Francina" would be proud of her descendants.
I was incredibly honored to be invited by the members of Mama Fancina's Literary G.U.I.L.D (Gifted, Uplifted, Inseparable, Literary, Descendents). The GUILD members and the invited guests embody the core values that we all hold dear-- family, community, reading, and joy.
Tell me SheWriters, what's your best bookclub story?