As an author and a first-time vendor at this event, I must say I enjoyed myself immensely. One thing I enjoy slightly more than writing is conversing with lovers of literature and like-minded individuals about the things that matter most to them. Circle of Sisters at Jacob Javits provided that platform, allowing for this exchange of ideas and beliefs. So much so that at the end of the first day of this two-day event, my voice sounded much like sandpaper — coarse and gritty. Surely tea and a few hours of sleep would remedy this, right? Absolutely not. With one more day of this level of talking ahead of me, I was certain any and everything I uttered would be unintelligible and the sisters would give me the side-eye as I tried to answer their questions. I managed with the help of my incredible team: my daughter, Nia and my dear sisterfriends Nicole and Stephanie. On the first day, the husband and son also came out to lend their support. Love them! Of note, no matter how many events I attend, Tia Maddison and the cover photography of It's Simple are of primary interest. At Circle of Sisters this was no different. Not only was Tia her fabulous self, but this time she was rocking her one-of-a-kind Moetleh bag thanks to booth mate and bag creator, Winnie Burch.

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"Are you an interior designer?" I can't tell you how many times women and men thought It's Simple was about interior design or that I, myself, was an interior designer because, as they shared, the cover art was so "stunning", "beautiful" and "elegant." Incorporate the table presentation and the 5' x 8' banner, one could easily understand how that assumption could be made. However, after sharing that the cover art was a welcome into the lives of Chase and Tia and a taste of what's possible in their own homes as well as relationships, the women readily agreed that we need to associate positive self portrayal and beauty of our surroundings in the pages of literature and other forms of media when it comes to people of color. Each time I heard women or men, regardless of race, affirm this, I was refreshed.

The ensuing conversations were insightful, encouraging and filled with personal examples of the beauty in their lives. Some boasted years of happy married life; others years of struggle and therapy before the marriage became something each respected, wanted and finally cherished. I loved listening to others share their experiences and how those experiences shaped how they handled subsequent relationships. One such lively discussion took place minutes before the doors opened to the public on Sunday with vendors, male and female, passionately sharing their views on what each partner should bring to the onset of the relationship and what was needed to maintain it.

For every three positive exchanges, there was one negative. Belief in the possibility of better did not exist because their experience(s) had been filled with heartache, betrayal and pain. Hope for them wasn't an option nor a viable choice. Those exchanges saddened me, yet still I could not help but want more for them ... for us. But is it possible to experience better if you don't believe better is available? How can individuals exist without hope or a belief in something better? The reality and hard truth is, many live in that realm of disbelief and hopelessness. That is their universe and the orbiting stars, moons and planets align daily sending and sharing the same sentiment to its human creator. My reality is to write for both the believer and non-believer in hopes that some day, one day, some thing will awaken a seed of newness in their spirits and they will shift their outlook to reach for more.

Saturday and Sunday were filled with many of those exchanges, stories, dancing, lots of laughter and a whole lot of love and fun with participating vendors and those in attendance. The team even managed to take in the sights on the convention floor and the daughter, accompanied by her Auntie Nicole, met and posed with Nicole Ari Parker and Olympic swim team silver medalists. Lucky her.

Congratulations to the winners! Tina Billie and Charmaine Parker are the winners of the It's Simple Saturday and Sunday raffles. The lovely centerpieces featuring the sequel to It's Simple, Never Said It Was Easy now belongs to them. Enjoy!

As of this evening, Sunday, October 14th, my voice is still not a 100%. Yet in spite of this unfortunate occurrence, I look forward to attending Circle of Sisters 2013. Hope to see you there!

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