Inaugural Tampa Bay Black Authors Expo

Tonisha Mitchell (above) and Jeffrey White organized the Tampa Bay Black Authors Expo

BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer

CLEARWATER – Both sides of the bay and beyond were represented at the inaugural Tampa Bay Black Authors Expo Saturday, April 20 at Moore Eventful Event Hall in Clearwater.

The expo was the brainchild of bookstore owner Tonisha Mitchell of Zephyrhills and author and lifestyle coach Jeffrey White of Tampa.

White, who offered a workshop on the steps to self-publishing and making money doing it, is the author of more than a dozen books, as well as being a personal trainer and life coach.

“Write, write, write, write, write,” he advised his workshop attendees. “One book is cool, but the more books you have, the greater probability you have of making money.”

Mitchell’s online store, Wonders of the World Book and Toy Store, sells products for multicultural children, as well as handmade stationery, bookmarks, journals, notebooks, memo pads and softcover books. The site sells self-published books.

Mitchell’s dream to establish the expo was sown by her journey as a vendor, as well as the journey of the talented writers whose determination to see their book published drove them to DIY-it.

“As a vendor, I’m searching for opportunities all the time. Why not create an opportunity for myself? Why don’t I do something and bring everybody on? That was the whole goal behind this – to create opportunities for us,” Mitchell acknowledged.

The bookseller and expo-creator said Tiffany Moore, owner of Moore Eventful Event Hall, opened her doors to the expo during the planning stage last fall. Mitchell was pleased with the working relationship, stating Moore was “great throughout” in the expo’s development and ultimate result.

Participating authors included Merrie Allmon Allen, Dwain Awai, Ty Loyd Calhoun, Darcel Craft, Adrienne Michelle Horn, Malik Ismail, Veronica James, Natalie Kennedy, Lady Dee, Lauren & Lailah Lord, Stephanie Outten, Alfred Paige, Calvin Reynolds, She Nell and Cheryl Lawson Young.

Atlanta resident Malik Ismail was selling his memoir “From Old Guard to Vanguard: A Second Generation of Panther,” and traveled to the expo along with his wife and business partner, Kathy Robinson.

“My husband was doing an event in St. Pete, and we got tagged while we were there at that event about the Tampa Bay Black Authors Expo they were having…so we’re back again!” explained Robinson. Along with his memoir, Ismail was selling reprints of the Black Panther newspaper from the 90s.

Author Cheryl Lawson-Young of Tampa shared, “I saw Jeff [White] at a sickle cell anemia walk, and he talked about this vision that he had for this event. Later I read about it on Facebook, contacted Tonisha, and we just started planning.”

Lawson-Young was thoroughly excited to be part of the book expo, where she was selling her book, “Caviar to Chitterlings with Chicken in the Middle,” which discusses how the choices and mindsets we make along the road of life impact us.

Comic book author Alfred Paige had the whole collection of five books in the “PINPOINT” series about a rough and tumble “black ops operative” from Brooklyn, and a children’s series on the same character, “CHESS,” on sale. (Visit their page on Facebook at Apogee Comics.)

“I’ve been writing comic books since ’97, ’98,” said the Tampa resident and Brooklyn native. Paige said his childhood love of comic books led to him writing stories and joining up with a team of artists. He stays busy doing national comic book conventions, including the recent “AfroCon, A Celebration of Diverse Superheroes” at the Robert Saunders Library this past March where he met Mitchell.

Mitchell’s vision is to do the Tampa Bay Black Authors Expo annually.

“You hear a lot about black book festivals like in Houston, Atlanta, all the big ones, and I just want people to recognize the talent here in the Bay area, celebrate our black authors and see us come together — we are stronger together.”

You can follow Wonders of the World Book and Toy Store on Facebook.

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com

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