On Friday, October 29th, representatives from WNBA chapters across the country gathered in New York for libations and literary conversation at the National Reading Group Month tenth anniversary panel. In addition to the discussion, which featured debut authors from NRGM’s Great Group Reads recommendations list, WNBA members were eager to meet representatives from other chapters and to kick off the Centennial weekend.
For Jolene Jaquays, incoming president of the Greater Lansing chapter, meeting other chapter presidents and board members was a unique opportunity to develop her own chapter, which is under a year old. “I’m looking forward to meeting some people who know what they’re doing and can help us grow our chapter,” Jaquays said.
The Greater Lansing chapter held its own NRGM panel earlier this month. Though Jaquays was unfamiliar with the NYC panelists, she looked forward to their comments on the industry and their experiences as debut authors.
At its tenth anniversary NRGM panel, the Atlanta chapter showcased accomplishments of women in publishing through the last year. Chapter President Joyce Hyndamn was proud that the panel featured representatives from several facets of the industry, including writers, editors, and publishers.
For Hyndamn, the wealth of potential panelists to choose from in Atlanta demonstrated how far women have come in the publishing industry since the WNBA was founded in 1917.
“In 1917, there was no right to vote,” she said. “Women couldn’t be head of a company, they couldn’t be an agent. And I can tell you that even 20 years ago there weren’t as many female-written books.”
For Pamela Milam, member of the New York City chapter and the Great Group Reads pre-selection committee, the NRGM event was the culmination of almost a year’s work. Beginning in February every year, Milam and other pre-selection committee members sift through between 25 to 100 newly-published books sent to them by publishers. From these titles, the committees select the annual Great Group Reads lists of recommended reading material.
Milam, who has been a New York chapter member and a reader for Great Group Reads since 2013, shared that discussing the submissions every year has strengthened her connection to the organization. “That’s what got me involved [in the WNBA] – the reading and getting to know the women,” she said. “That’s what hooked me. I wouldn’t have found the WNBA without it.”
Welcoming lovers of literature and collaborative reading is the ultimate goal of NRGM and, by extension, the WNBA. According to Sheila Lewis, Recording Secretary for the New York City board, a kick off to the weekend that welcomed members from across the country to the NRGM panel – and the Centennial weekend – was the evening’s highlight.
“This panel will give us the opportunity to celebrate the best things about the WNBA,” Lewis said. “The history, the legacy of support for women of the book industry, and the celebration of our high standards for literature.”