WHEN CURTIS BUNN STEPPED out on faith and founded the National Book Club Conference (NBCC) three years ago, he honestly did not know what to expect. What he hoped for was that other authors would experience the feeling he had every time he attended a book club meeting--that warm burst of camaraderie and fellowship.
"Almost spiritual," is how Bunn, an Atlanta journalist and author of Baggage Check (A&B Distributors, 2001) and Book Club: Books Are Their Life and Their Life Is a Book (Upstream, 2003), describes the sensation. He set out to replicate that feeling by convening a national book club conference.
What started as a fanciful notion is now an unparalleled success. The 200 book lovers who registered for the conference in 2003 rubbed elbows with such best-selling authors as Walter Mosley. In turn, the authors connected on a personal level with their readers in a more intimate environment. Mosley, no stranger to literary gatherings, called the NBCC the best book event he had ever attended.
"There's something very honest and pure about it," says Mosley, whose most recent books are Fortunate Son (Little, Brown and Company, April 2006), The Wave (Aspect, January 2006) and Cinnamon Kiss (Little, Brown and Company, 2005).
More than 500 people, representing 70 book clubs nationwide, as well as more than 50 authors, attended the 2005 NBCC. As Bunn makes plans for the 2006 National Book Club Conference--to be held, as it is every year, at the plush Intercontinental Hotel in Atlanta's ritzy Buckhead section, August 4 through 6--he is faced with a dilemma that a less-earnest organizer probably wouldn't consider much of a dilemma at all.
Word of mouth has created such demand for the conference that it is in danger of losing what made it so unique in the first place-- its intimacy. So Bunn has decided to cut off the number of registrants at 550, and he will accept them on a first-come-first-served basis.
"What has separated the conference from everything else is the access you have to the authors" says Bunn. "I don't want this to become a flea-market environment. That would be a disservice to the people who spend their money to come to Atlanta.
"I got into this for one reason: to put together people who love to read, with authors in a place that is calm, peaceful and relaxed, not helter-skelter," he adds.
The Comfort Factor
Bunn's decision is good news to book club members who savor the intimacy of the NBCC.
"The whole conference made everyone feel...